For the last five years, I’ve worked multiple offices. It’s never an easy environment to navigate, much less as a young intern. The struggle of being the youngest in the office is bittersweet. It’s flattering to be chosen to work alongside industry veterans. But, undoubtedly, you always feel unprepared, under dressed, under qualified and (quite often) stupid.
How do you properly respond to passive aggressive e-mails? How do you talk to your boss appropriately? When is it okay to ask for a permanent job? How do you act around the head of the company when you are both washing their hands in the bathroom?
These are all questions that are normal and understandable, but somehow, high schools and colleges never offer courses on how to manage your first job. (Take notes, people.) But, if there is anything I have learned in these five years, is that, no matter how much you think you are winging it, everyone else is as clueless as you are. Some are just better at pretending they don’t. Become one with these five rules of fake-it-til-you make it magic.
Remember why you are there. I’ve resolved to keep a folder titled #WINS where I keep all the pictures of my past accomplishments that I know have counted for my current position. Whenever I feel like out-of-place, I go through them to understand how I got where I am.
Absorb every lesson you receive. Being an intern since 15 has its perks, but working for free is certainly not one. So, when my supervisor gave me a course in How to Ask for a Raise 101 the other day, I listened carefully. Bosses can be teachers, too.
Be open to constructive criticism. The truth of the matter is that in our 20s we are green. As much as we think that we know everything, experience speaks louder than entitlement. So, benefit from a bit of criticism to change your patterns and adapt.
But don’t stand for being treated like a child. When an older colleague acts condescendingly toward you for your age, ignore it. According to labor laws, you have a right to be there as much as any other qualified individual. And if you can’t get it out of your mind, go back to rule #1.
Do not be afraid to speak your mind. You are only as valuable as what you bring to the table. Be confident enough to share ideas and collaborate with others. It’s important to show dedication and passion for what you are doing, not just do what you are told.
Undoubtedly, one will never feel as prepared. There is always something we will be ignorant to, but if there is one great thing about being 20 is that you can use the young card to justify your mistakes. But be sure to learn from them and leave the card out of the game gradually.