One of the biggest challenges I faced as a young professional was feeling inexperienced, feeling too young and constant bouts of self-doubt. And it isn't just a feeling. Older co-workers can be quite condescending when dealing with a young professional woman.
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The feelings of self-doubt particularly in your early career are very self-sabotaging. Everyone else looks established and self assured. This isn't helped by the comments you get from mostly well-meaning friends, family and even older co-workers. You get comments like, wait until life happens. You don't have kids yet? You don't know anything yet. So you go around feeling like if I could just get more experience, so I can operate at the same level as more senior colleagues I will stop doubting myself.
Truth is, being a young professional has a lot of perks. Here is how to leverage your youth as a professional:
1. Your opinion is valuable
If you've worked with colleagues who are counting down to retirement or who have been in the "system" far too long, you can be bogged down by their pessimism and frustrations with bureaucracy and "the system". As a young(er) person approach your work with hope that you can make a change so you approach projects with a can-do mentality rather than a bogged-down this-is-never-going-to-work kinda attitude. Dont let the fact that you are a young professional hold you back from giving your feedback. Your perspective is valuable and your ideas are valuable. You bring a fresh perspective to those who have been in the system for too long. Don't let self-doubt stop you from speaking up during meetings.
2. Be ready to learn
Acknowledge that you have a lot to learn and be teachable. Rather than let self-doubt paralyze you or make you really conscious of what you think you don't know, focus on gaining that valuable experience by demonstrating your willingness to learn something new. Just because you are quick with instagram and Tiktok doesn't mean that there aren't foundational things to learn. There is nothing more off-putting than an arrogant young professional who thinks they know it all. As long as you are willing to learn there are often so many colleagues who were once where you are and who would love to help. Try to get under the wings of a good mentor and be willing to say "Can you coach me?" so you can learn something new.
If there is something that is changing at a crazy pace it is technology and one of the advantages of being young is the ability to adapt easily. Leverage that adaptability by being adept at figuring out how to best use technology as thisea can be a great help for your career. Particularly during these COVID19 times where entire teams have been thrown into the technology deep-end, volunteer to help old(er) colleagues who may be struggling with technology by reverse-mentoring them. Volunteer to figure out what may be time-consuming and hold a brown-bag virtual session to share tips and tricks that would facilite your colleagues work particularly senior management.
4. Be selective and intentional: learn to say no
When I was younger, I never thought twice about jumping into things. This often meant I was over committed and overwhelmed. I read once that Jesus could have done it all but He focussed on His ministry and when His time was up He was out. Explore all your talents BUT allow yourself to not burn out and not be involved in everything. Just because you have time doesn't mean you have to fill it all with commitments. There is a lot of value in being still and not constantly on the move. In that stillness, give yourself time to figure out who you are from the inside out and then align that with organizations that embody those values that you hold dear.
5. It is never too early
There are several opportunities that I wish I had jumped on earlier in my career either because of lack of knowledge or lack of resources or just plain old self-dout. It is never too early to think of yourself as a CEO. It is never too early to save, it is never too early to think of buying your first property, it is never too early to start saving for retirement, it is never too early to take on life insurance - in fact the earlier you buy life insurance the lower your premiums will be. It is never too early to start putting money into RRSPs - even $25 per month or paycheque will grow over time. It is never too early to get out of debt. It is never too early to get into government. It is never too early to have a permament job. IT. IS. NEVER. TOO. EARLY!
6. Trust the process
The only way past it is through it. Trust the process and believe in yourself. Don't let fear and doubt get the better part of you. It is easier said than done, but you are not where you were yesterday and in a short while you will be past the current season. At the end of the day, my faith has been the cornerstone of having peace in the storms of uncertainty. I may not know what the future holds, but I know the One who holds my future. Learn to depend on God instead of the circumstances that change everyday!
7. Learn to be comfortable with uncertainty
I wish that I learned to be comfortable with uncertainty. I struggled most in my 20s because it seemed like there was transition after transition: during undergrad I'd move out of residence every school year so I was constantly starting over. And then theres graduating and not knowing what comes next. Then there was the whole debate of whether to do more school, grad school or get professional experience and then who to marry. I thought that once that was figured out then you're done - no more transitions. While you probably have more stability as you get older, with time you also realize that that stability is fickle - you can easily lose a job, succumb to illness or face a life changing situation. Even looking at motherhood: what a rollercoaster of uncertainty.
Learn to be comfortable with the discomfort of uncertainty - Career Slay Mama.
I am learning to manage the seasons of uncertainty better and some days are better than others.
How are YOU going to apply this to your current journey? Drop me a line.
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