Series on Assertiveness: Put yourself out there

To be able to move out of your comfort zone and behave differently requires an ability to think assertively and be positive regardless of the outcome.

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Jigar Parikh was working as an attorney at a New York law firm, and hated his job so he hired a personal coach to help him find a new profession. He soon, however, realized that the problem wasn’t his field; it was his firm. His coach encouraged him to build his network and secure enough clients to quit his job and start his own law practice. But Jigar was shy and uncomfortable reaching out to people he didn’t know. “I was someone who really held back,” he says.

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So Jigar started small. He made a commitment to talk about his budding law practice with one or two people each day. This proved to be harder than he thought. “I didn’t want my current employer to find out, so I had to be especially careful,” he says. And he struggled at the networking events he attended three or four times a week. But he didn’t want to fall down on his pledge so he soon found himself talking to strangers on the subway or in a restaurant. “I once talked to a doctor who was an entrepreneur himself and he gave me some great advice,” he says. “I had some amazing conversations.”

This all gave him the confidence he needed to leave the firm. “When you’re not assertive, you settle for things and I had a high tolerance for being in places where I was unhappy,” he says. Now he feels like a very different person. “Anyone who knows me now is shocked to find out that I was shy. But it’s not always easy. I still have to remind myself to get out there,” he says.