I manage the internship program that I was once a student of at the office I work. I put a lot of effort into the program and invest a lot of time in my interns – often who are older than me.
“I thought you’d be older,” were the first words uttered by one of my previous interns when they first met me in person (we ran the interviews over the phone because she was coming from out of state for the summer).
I shrugged it off with a laugh and a handshake, but the interaction has stuck with me now months later. What I should have responded with was, “nope, I’m just more driven than you thought.”
Since I was accepted into the Journalism school at CU Boulder, a career that allowed me to write and communicate complex messages was my objective. Now that I have the career, my focus has not changed – It’s still on my career.
I do well at work and move up the ladder quickly because I work my ass off. I work my ass off because I care about what I do and take pride in improving myself and impressing my bosses and clients. Working hard is fun for me
and trying new things is a passion – My success is just the side effect of doing both of those things at the same time.
I tell all my interns who ask about how I landed a job at my small PR agency the same thing: “Solve a problem we didn’t know exist.”
If you have extra time, or 15 minutes till the clock strikes 5 p.m. and nothing to do, don’t waste that opportunity to look beyond what you are asked to do. You see things in a unique way, apply that insight to a solution.
When I was an intern I was constantly sharing ideas and potential solutions to the roadblocks and challenges I saw my supervisors facing. When I became a PR assistant, I did the work of an account coordinator whenever possible. When I was an account coordinator, I volunteered to take on account executive tasks. Now as a junior account executive, I reflect the actions of senior executives but with my own insights and twist for process improvement.
Always be looking for ways to streamline and improve not only your processes but also those of your coworkers. You should want everyone and everything to be performing as best possible. Every idea doesn’t always work out, but an attitude like that gets noticed.
I hope that intern, who is just two years older than me, left my internship program with enough experience, intellect and inspiration that she is also greeted with surprise by potential employers who expected someone somehow more “aged” based off the competence she displayed.
Being ahead of the game means you’re one step closer to winning it.
That’s not to say that standing out from the pack doesn’t put a target on your back or sometimes put you in positions you’re unfamiliar with and alone in. I often suffer the infamous “imposter syndrome,” or find myself thinking, “I can’t do that.”
But, it is when you are faced with those feelings of self-doubt that you know you are doing exactly what you should be in that instance. If you think you can or cannot do something shouldn’t matter, know that you are going to give it your all and do your best best. Instead of focusing on the doubts of those who’s expectations of you are low, like my intern was of me, ground yourself on the expectations you have for yourself and deliver noteworthy results.
On the flip side, I’ve also learned to carry myself in the manner correct to my position. While slightly patronizing, I recently heard from a female CEO I respect and had worked with in the past, that I’ve “really grown up.”
By filling the roles you take, you grow into them. Take risks, see holes you can fill and always search for opportunity. Fear is a sign that you’re doing it right.