Age. It’s just a number, but it’s a number that can lead to a lot of insecurity. I’m 33 years old and I’ve been working in Human Resources for over 10 years. I first became an HR Director when I was 22. I know what you are thinking, “Who in the heck hires a 22-year-old HR Director?!” Well someone did, and I’m extremely thankful for that. I’m hoping I was hired because I had my bachelor’s degree, was working towards my master’s degree and was extremely passionate about the position. I’m hoping it was because I researched the company, dominated my interview and they felt I was the right fit. Do I know for sure? No, but I can tell you all that confidence was quickly drained on the first day of the job.
I drove up to Day #1 in Adultville in my 1992 Geo Prism feeling completely inept. I felt like I was a fraud, like I had tricked them into hiring me. What did I really know anyway? What was I going to be able to offer them? How in the heck did this even happen? I legitimately wanted to run and hide.
I remember my first official meeting with other HR managers in various other industries. I walked in, and they asked if I was a student. The dreaded icebreaker games came next. Pick a penny and say something meaningful that happened during the year on your penny. I got 1984. Great, just great. Everyone went around the room talking about getting married, graduating from college or having their first child. Me? I was just being born.
During lunch, I had a great conversation with many of the professionals in the room. They weren’t nearly as scary as I thought they would be. They weren’t judgmental or doubting why I was there, and some even asked my opinion on things. Me! They actually wanted my opinion.
I feel like it’s a common theme for younger people to be filled with self doubt or feelings of inadequacy. Feelings that someone somewhere is doing a much better job than we could ever dream of. If we somehow get past the self doubt, then come the feelings of comparison. I bet they are better than me. I bet they are smarter than me. I bet this is easier for them.
I want you to know that is all nonsense.
Now, as a seasoned 33-year-old (okay so “seasoned” is a probably bit strong), I’m starting to see the next wave of people entering adulthood. Regardless of the path you choose–working outside the home, working inside the home or doing both–you, my friend, are enough. Do not doubt yourself. Do not shortchange yourself. Do not minimize the accomplishments you have worked so hard to achieve. You rock–and you need to tell yourself that, over and over again.
I have had several conversations with people younger than me and many were nervous about saying their ages for fear that people wouldn’t take them seriously. It’s like we all feel there is some unwritten rule that you can’t be successful until you are at least 40. I read the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg recently; it’s life changing. It will alter the things you let yourself tell yourself. She encourages us to lean in when opportunities come our way, lean in when it’s tough, lean in when a challenge presents itself, and lean in when we are going after something we really want. So often we take a step back because we are filled with fear. By leaning in and doing something that probably scares us a little bit–that’s where the change happens and you define who you are. And that’s when people will clearly see the person you are meant to be.