One of the hardest parts about being a young professional in the world of 8-5 corporate life is finding your own identity, and even further, being comfortable in that identity. I spent 6 long years in undergrad..(yes, you read that correctly…) mostly because I had no idea what in the world I wanted to do when I “grew up”. I bounced back and forth between two schools, took a variety of classes in different majors, and finally decided on one that was interesting and had good career prospects (so I thought!)
What they don’t tell you about transitioning from college to the full time, coffee drinking, non-sweatpants wearing, working grind is that it’s no longer about you. In college, YOU get to control your schedule. YOU decide if you want to put in the work on that assignment or study for that test. YOU control when and where you take your breaks, whether that be at the coffee shop, the gym, or the library. You get into a mentality that you get to explore and do all of these cool things and the world is right at your fingertips.
Then, you get into the grind of finding a full-time job. It’s no longer about you as an individual. It’s about you, the employee, and how you can pitch in to help your organization. This doesn’t mean you’re just a number or you’re just expected to live, eat, breathe, and sleep your job, but it does mean that you no longer have the freedom, thought process, and flexibility that your Tuesday/Thursday classes used to offer you. You are no longer on your own time, but have to work with deadlines that you may not understand and that seem, quite frankly, impossible.
I struggled a lot with this in my first few months of full time work. I wasn’t sure what to think about myself. I thought I was capable, ready, and eager to learn, but I knew I wasn’t quite an expert yet. The best advice I heard was that you should never consider any task either below you or above you. You should pitch in every way you can to make your boss’s job easier, and work with the people around you to create a cohesive environment.
So, I don’t know what kind of industry you work in, but that doesn’t really matter when it comes to being an newbie. I was thrown into the world of Geospatial Intelligence, Government Relations, Federal Proposal Writing, Security Clearances, and other things that my Communication degree never touched upon. I didn’t have the confidence to take on larger projects, but I did them anyway. I tried not to base my self-worth on the outcome of the project, however, as that is just a recipe for disaster. There’s too many variables at play to be disappointed when every sale/ proposal/ etc doesn’t turn out as a win.
I still sometimes struggle with my self-worth, but I’m trying not to tie it only to work. I know I am very capable. I see that with the projects I’m given at work that are challenging. I also see that with how most of what I do is self-directed.. We have all, at least once, had a micro-managing boss, and that situation is a horrible one to be in. It makes you question your worth, your ability to give to a company, and your ability to do things on your own. Thankfully, I’m not in that situation, so I see it as I am surely capable of what I am given.
So, for what it’s worth, at work, you are NEVER too much, and you are ALWAYS enough. You got this. Ask for help when you need it. The other thing about working in an office/ career that differs from being in college is that there is a variety of individuals with all different skillsets, backgrounds, levels of expertise, and thoughtful ideas. Lean on those co-workers and seek out a work mentor. Your mentor doesn’t have to be someone necessarily “older” or “more experienced” either. It can be someone who knows the ins and outs of the industry, of the company, or just plain is cool to work with. Just know, you can do this. Don’t sell yourself short and don’t let yourself get too down in the dumps. Tomorrow is a new day.