A Guest Blog Post By Sheena Zawacki
After years of dedication, focused preparation, and challenging course work, you have successfully matriculated from being a student, intern, or trainee into the role of a full-fledged young professional. Will you enter and transition through this role with overconfidence (you did just land the job you’ve been working towards, after all), or will you feel nervous and question your preparedness? This blog post briefly discusses the opposite ends of the confidence spectrum for young professionals facing new crossroads as they define themselves as leaders in the workplace.
To be a leader in your organization, you do not necessarily have to be the staff member with the highest number of years in the profession or gray hairs on your head. Sure, as a twenty-something-year-old, you may not have the knowledge base or diversified experiences as your seasoned colleagues have, but you still have a realm of influence that surrounds you. In your professional role, you likely serve as a leader to one or many people every single day, whether you realize it or not.
As a young professional myself, I believe it is important to understand and define my own leadership realm within my organization. Who am I influencing on a day-to-day basis? Who influences me within my organization? I am among the Millennial Generation of new professionals, and I speculate that my fellow Millennials and I tend to adopt one or both of the following leadership tendencies in our professional roles:
1) Over-confident Oscar: a leader who oversteps his seasoned colleagues’ decisions and boundaries; he/she does not respectfully learn from others’ strengths
2) Inadequate Isaac: a leader who does not have the confidence to lead with their strengths and skills, or one who is not aware of his/her potential or realm of influence
Over-confident Oscar tends to have a sense of entitlement and overconfidence, and he may wish to become the President of the organization with minimal years and effort. He views his lack of experience as irrelevant and tends to make ego-driven mistakes. It is important for Oscar to recognize that, although he has strengths and confidence, there may be other individuals in his organization who are more capable of making certain decisions and completing specific tasks. He can become a more effective leader by leveraging relationships appropriately rather than potentially overstepping his boundaries.
On the contrary, Inadequate Isaac views his lack of experience as a shortcoming and he may not realize that his contributions to the organization could be useful, fresh, and/or unique. He can be rather complacent and less apt to share opinions or ideas without prior validation. I had personally adopted this approach as a new professional, and I was fortunate enough to have a supervisor who not only encouraged me to contribute thoughts and ideas, but she also helped me hone in on my biggest strengths and skills which ultimately helped me gain confidence in my profession.
Notably among Millennial and young professionals, it is important to find a middle ground between these two different leadership approaches: having enough confidence in one’s strengths and skills, but having the modesty to realize that other professionals have valuable experiences and contributions as well. Workplace and self-awareness are crucial in balancing these tendencies: identifying one’s greatest strengths and skills to effectively lead and impact others, no matter the age or experience level.
Ms. Sheena Zimmermann, M.Ed., is the Associate Director of Orientation & Family Relations at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She has a special interest in leadership development. You can contact Sheena at firstname.lastname@example.org.