by Ericka Gordon
Being the newbie at work is intimidating. Fresh out of school, you really don’t know anything about how things actually work in your field. There’s a huge gap between education and the workforce, but that’s a massive topic that I wont get into today. So yes, as I was saying, you have no clue what you’re doing. You wake up earlier than you did for those dreadful 8 a.m. classes, you dress up like an adult hoping no one will notice you’re an imposter, you sit in that awful traffic your parents used to complain so much about and spend eight hours trying not to leave the entire office with the impression that you’re a complete idiot. That’s a lot of pressure.
I’m the type of person who likes to feel out a situation or environment before I fully engage with it. I like to observe and take mental notes of the dynamic so that when I do engage I can do so with confidence. In other words, I’m not as likely to put my foot in my mouth. I remember sitting in my first work meeting, a brainstorming session with me and four other people. I don’t think I’ve ever been so quiet. Everyone was throwing out ideas, good and bad, except me. I had ideas, some that I thought were pretty good, but I was too nervous to say them. I just wrote them down in my notes and observed. I really wanted to get out of there without saying anything, but my still-pending adulthood was pushing me to speak up. I wanted to prove myself valuable, so I threw out some of what I had scribbled down. I don’t think we went with any of my ideas, but at least I had made my voice heard.
I realized I couldn’t let my childlike fear get the best of me. I viewed it as a defining moment in my career. I told myself you can’t expect to move up the ladder and be successful if you aren’t doing anything worth paying attention to. That’s not to say in that moment I overcame all my anxieties and never felt intimidated at work again, but it was one small step for me and one giant step for newbies around the world!
Here are a few things I’ve picked up along the way to keep from feeling intimidated:
Be a sponge.
This is some of the best advice I’ve ever received. You really do learn something new every day and that’s without any effort, usually. When you’re being proactive about honing your craft, the amount of knowledge you absorb is endless. It’s hard to feel intimidated when you know what you’re talking about.
Don’t let fear minimize your voice.
Closed mouths don’t get fed. If you want to learn you have to ask questions. People aren’t mind readers. They don’t know what you know or don’t know.
Find someone to ask your questions of.
Mentors are the BEST! Mentors are all knowing and if they don’t know something you can bet they know someone who does. Plus, when you have someone from the inner circle vouching for you everyone else starts approaching you as if you’re one of them, which news flash: you are!