Posted December 26, 2009on:
I had been intending to write about joining professional organizations this week, but something happened to me that changed my mind: I attended my first on-the-job meeting as an actual participant.
I don’t mean to say that I’ve never been in meetings, before. I’ve presented marketing plans, worked in teams, the whole nine yards. But this time was different: I was a key player explaining situations to leaders from a different department. I am no longer a student, someone’s meager assistant whose main purpose is to tote bags. I wasn’t dealing with volunteers, either. We were all there to accomplish a purpose and I was on relatively equal footing.
I remember sitting there, looking at my boss explaining the main points of the process, thinking, “Oh my God, how do I behave?” After all, I actually had the right to participate in this discussion. It was a novel experience for me since as a student I was rarely invited to participate. How much talking was too much? How much exitement was too much? I’m very interested in the topic we were discussing, so how would I show that?
So here’s a bit of how the meeting went. We were discussing future plans, and I thought I saw a snag. However, I didn’t want to derail the idea exchange, so I didn’t say anything. Besides, there would be time to hammer out the snags later. There always is. But one of the others in the meeting asked me what I thought. I was on the spot. I wasn’t explaining anything, and I was still dealing with people who had more experience with the company, if not with the subject matter. But I had been asked what I thought, so I said it. As a student, I would have been hesitant. But as a professional, I was confident, and that got approval.
Yes, it is a difficult and weird transition. But it’s a bit of fun, too. There’s more at stake, of course. When you put yourself out there, you put yourself more at risk. But as any finance professor would say, the more risk, the higher the available returns.
This week’s post is short. It’s not really an explanation of anything so much as an observation this week. When I originally thought of creating a blog about what it meant to be a “professional” I thought I would be dealing with professionalism and finding a job. But there’s also a personal, self-identity conundrum. Psychology shows us that we are what other people see us as. Individuals take how they believe others perceive them and interweave these perceptions into how the individuals view themselves. So as others see me as someone who has something to say, a valued and informed opinion that should be heared, my self-perception changes as well. This is part of the reason why job searches are difficult. A lot of people saying “no” gives the impression that they perceive you as worthless, which affects how you perceive yourself.