The first time I ever (legally) bought alcohol was a week after I got home from studying abroad in Italy. In Italy, 12-year-olds can drink fairly openly, so presenting an ID was never a problem. But coming back to America was a different story. After I had spent 30 minutes picking out champagne at a local liquor store (I had no idea what I was looking for) I approached the courter. I shakily gave the cashier my ID and although I was 21 years, 2 months and 13 days old you could see the nervous sweats coming off me from a mile away. I didn’t feel like I belonged there and I most definitely didn’t feel like I was old enough to be buying alcohol.
This feeling of not belonging in a situation you deserve to be in is called the imposter syndrome. It is a phenomenon that happens to a lot of people, from 23 year olds to CEO of companies. Imposter syndrome is the feeling of being inadequate even when there is evidence of your success. It’s a form of self doubt that overpowers feelings of competence and achievement.
In most cases, this feeling occurs when you move up in your company. You wonder, “did I deserve this promotion?, “Am I smart enough to be making these discussions?” But for me, this feeling has manifested differently, as I’m less than two years into the workforce. Many 20 some-year-olds have not been promoted out of their entry level job, yet they still feel a underlying pressure of, “am I taken seriously here?”
I think when you are young you are seen in two ways. Either you’re a prodigy, destined to climb the corporate ladder with your charm and intelligence. You are a master networker and negotiator. You have your sights set high and everyone takes you seriously because, to be frank, you’ve got some big dick energy. OR you’re an observer, eager to learn and ready to be taken under someone’s wing. The problem with this situation is oftentimes you aren’t taken seriously. You are seen as young, malleable and nieve, even if you just want to learn before you pursue ambitious career moves.
I believe I am the latter of the two. I absorb everything and am a good worker yet I still feel like I don’t understand my industry enough to present good ideas or I’m powerless in the decisions that affect my day to day job. And the worst thought of them all: “I’ll never be good enough in this job to be at the level I want to be.”
Damn that is depressing. Here’s the good news. I don’t think anyone truly knows what they are doing. It’s like parenthood. You’re never truly ready but then that brat comes and you just gotta roll with the punches. A lot of people who get promoted are in the right place at the right time and raise their hand when new opportunities arise. You don’t need to be the smartest person in your company to achieve your goals, but there are things you can do to be noticed…
- Always add value! In theater, there is a saying, “there are no small parts, only small actors.” Meaning even if you have a tiny background role you can play that part so well that people will notice. I believe the same is true in business. You can be an assistant or intern and if you are adding value you will be noticed. But how can you add value you say? Easy, find something people appreciate and keep doing that. In my internship I got positively recognized by the VP of sales because once after a meeting I sent out recap notes. To this day it is a practice that has been positively rewarded time and time again. It’s so simple, yet so effective.
- Ask for opportunities! My friend has been vying for a manager position since the day she started at her company. The conversation she had with her manager to ask for this opportunity was not pushy in any way. She simply asked her manager, “where do you see me long term in this company?” You can get a good idea of how you can move up in your company from the answer they give you. And if what they say doesn’t align with your goals you can either state where you would like to be long term or find another job that does align with your goals. Then, send your manager a follow up email highlighting your growth plan. You can pull this email back up when you’re ready for a promotion to help build your case.
- In the words of queen Hannah Brown, stay in your lane. It’s important to do your job and do it well before you start to look for promotions or other opportunities. The best way to get noticed is to give 110% in the position you have now.
- Remember you are exactly where you belong, everyone takes time to learn. Give yourself the grace and time to grow into the professional person you are meant to be.