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How to Gain Confidence by Putting Yourself Forward for Opportunities: Don't Self-Select Yourself Out

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

When you're calm it's easier to consider the possibility of creative input

1. Break through the "negative reasoning" barrier

Many people self-select themselves OUT of an opportunity for an academic award such as a grant, fellowship, or scholarship even before they begin engaging in an application process. They might give many reasons for not applying, such as: “it’s too difficult,” or “too time-consuming,” or “the funding is too little reward compared with the great effort needed to apply.”

In contrast, those few who break through this “reasoning barrier,” learn to subscribe to the opposite logical formulation: if you are a qualified candidate, you do stand a chance of being awarded, or shortlisted, or at least recognized for your efforts.

I have worked hard on overcoming my own limiting beliefs, transcending the “reasoning barrier” and the “self-selection” process. I have spent the many hours of inner work to apply for support for my research projects at the national level and international level. Make no mistake, no one is awarded funds for everything to which they apply. Some grants I was awarded only on the second or third attempt, or I have not been awarded yet.

2. Remember those left behind (if you do not apply)

More serious is the fact that in the absence of your effort, all those who would stand to benefit by your completing this project will be left behind if you do not apply. All the people who potentially be better off from you conducting your project will be left without such benefit, just because you self-selected yourself out of the running.

3. The reason some applications are so complex

The folks I'm referring to who usually self-select themselves OUT, meaning that they do not even apply because the application process seems too daunting and arduous, have to know one key piece of information. So, if you're one of these people, and this sounds familiar, then I've got some news for you. And this is really important news you need to hear. Many applications are designed to weed-out those faint-hearted ones who might be disheartened by the amount and type of information required.

Why is it designed to be so complex? Sometimes, the adjudicators need to ensure that you, a prospective awardee, are the type of person who can be counted on to be responsible for completing a multi-step process within a culture of compliance. After all, once you are awarded, you will become a representative of the funding body, and they may want you to be able to serve in different capacities as a former recipient. The legacy of the fund is part of the calculus here.

4. Schedule time for planning, writing, editing and review

A grant proposal and multi-page application usually cannot be written effectively overnight. It requires time to craft a professional narrative (story) around priorities important both to you and the granting agency.

If you have found a mentor and/or editor, or both, a mentor-editor, who can guide you through a multi-stage application, know that you and your mentor should plan ahead together to set up a timeline for consultation on the approach to writing, review, and editing, with you writing the first draft.

So you need to build a schedule and time frame to build the application, just like a filmmaker director and producer get together to make sure that the whole shoot is scheduled and all the people are present on set at the right moment on the right day.

5. Plan your approach together with a mentor

There are editing services you can hire to make sure the story you have written sound better on the page. But what you might need is mentoring through the process of applying for this opportunity, someone who can help guide you through a process that identifies a strategy for applying. A process like the "Mind-Map Makeover" of mentoring2success can help clarify your rationale for applying for this opportunity.

With clarity and self-knowledge, you will be able to better articulate your motivations for accomplishing the tasks involved in your project, as well as the skills and experience you bring to the table.


Jeffrey W. Cupchik is founder and director of mentoring2success. Contact to discuss your application for a scholarship, grant, or fellowship.

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