Impostor

So I haven’t blogged in over two months. I’d get into the specifics (job-search related anxiety and depressive states, freelance work, moving anxiety, new-job anxiety, oh-my-God-I-haven’t-posted-in-months anxiety, and general life getting in the way), but really what’s important is that I’m back now.

I have good news!

Since my last post, which unfortunately remains just as relevant now as it was in July (again, come on guys. We can and must do better), I accepted my first big-kid job offer! I’m now working as the Marketing and Communication Specialist with my local Community Foundation, which means the following are now things I’m getting paid to do:

  • Write meaningful things
  • Design beautiful things
  • Plan cool events
  • Work with our COO to showcase a kick-ass organizational brand
  • Analyze social media
  • (Eventually) post on social media
  • Design and implement communication and marketing strategies
  • Manage web content
  • Regularly meet with cool people who do cool things
  • Be creative!!
  • About 500 other things, I’m sure……

officesmallAlso, I get to do these things in an office that has my name on the door. Add on the fact that I’m doing all these things that I love for the betterment of my community and this may actually be as close as you get to landing your dream job right out of college. Take that, everyone who said my English major didn’t prepare me for viable career options!

Granted, I had to have the right kind of experience to back up that English major, and luckily I did. Earlier in the summer, I was so frustrated that the work I’d put over the past four years didn’t seem to matter. But the experiences I cultivated did matter, I just hadn’t found the right fit for them yet (yes, I’m getting a little “things happens for a reason,” but in my experience, roughly 90% of the time that appears to be true).

Enter the Community Foundation.

I remember asking my academic adviser if I should apply, because I questioned my qualifications, to which he said something akin to “Uh… what? Of course you should apply!” So I did. And then it was about a week later, and I was being called for a phone interview. And then that same day, I was scheduling an in-person interview. And then, the day after that, I was laying on my parents’ couch with food poisoning when I got the call. The call.

“We’d like to offer you the position.”
graduationsmallAnd then it was the day after that, and I was signing an employment agreement while being told that my professionalism and experience made me the clear choice. That I knocked it out of the park. Me. Okay, so maybe all those nights I stayed home from the bar to just make one more change to this month’s bulletin were worth it. Prioritizing my professional experiences in college wasn’t easy, and at times I really struggled to find balance while also taking time to enjoy myself. My point isn’t that my college experience was better or worse than anyone else’s, just that it worked for me to get to where I wanted to be after I threw my mortar board in the air (forgive me, that was cliché).

Despite many of my social identities being on the side of power (college-educated, middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, etc.), I am also intersectional in identity, just like everyone else, and today’s post will be discussing my experiences through the lens of a young woman in her first job–a job that isn’t what they classify as “entry-level.” I remember attending a conference after my third week or so in the office, and being the youngest person there by probably about a decade. On the one hand, that was really exciting–on the other, absolutely terrifying. What were they thinking?

“Does she even know what she’s doing?”

“I remember when I was her age….”

“Is she even old enough to drink?”

She doesn’t belong.”

If I got asked “Oh! You’re the new so-and-so?” one more time, I’m pretty sure I was going to explode. My predecessor was incredibly successful and well-connected, established in her career and seemingly a household name in the world of nonprofit communications. Me? I’m still “Katlyn who?” It’s hard to fill someone else’s shoes when they appear to be at least size 25.

I’ve always worried that my successes are somehow false and that I am one step away from being “found out” and exposed for the fraud I supposedly am–and being especially young in a mid-level job is no exception to that. I’m the youngest person in my office by at least ten years, and on one hand that’s fantastic–I am surrounded by a community of seasoned professionals who can mentor and support me as I begin my professional journey. They’re all wonderful and supportive, and I feel as if I’m part of a workplace family and not just an office. But there’s also this other voice in the back of my head, questioning me and working hard to convince me that I don’t fit in like I’m supposed to, and that eventually they’ll “find out” they’ve made a devastating mistake.

Keep in mind, this is all going on among consistent reinforcement that I am indeed doing a good job from my coworkers and home support system. They couldn’t possibly be right, could they? Ha, I have them fooled good! Ever since I can remember, I have gone through this cycle of self-doubt: perform task well, receive positive reinforcement, get reward, convince myself that I am a fraud who didn’t deserve it in the first place–whether it was a good grade in high school, scholarship in college, or job that actually lets me do what I trained four years to do. I almost always convince myself that I don’t belong in the position I’m in.

14195491_10101703855432051_4793027349989356591_oBut then, a few weeks ago, I learned about this thing called impostor syndrome. According to the American Psychological Association, “impostor [syndrome] occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success. They often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.” The phenomenon is more prevalent among minorities (because when you think about it, our unequally balanced society tends to insist that minorities who get ahead have done so with the help of “handouts” or coddling, rather than the fact that they’re just as capable of achievement as everyone else to achieve when given the same resources). Focusing on the fact that I’m a young woman… hi, yup, that sounds about right.

Again, emphasizing the issues of my youth and womanhood (because we get into a whole other conversation when we start talking about systematic social privilege and oppression, which I will most likely try to tackle in another 1000+ word post…), it is absolutely terrifying as a young woman to allow yourself to take ownership of your success. We’re told that young people are lazy and entitled, and to be a “good” woman is to be humble and seen-but-not-heard. Who am I to believe in myself? To be confident in my achievements?

Who am I? I am Katlyn.

Questioning whether I “deserve” the success of having a job that I love and that is what I want to be doing is exhausting. It’s exhausting to worry about how my youth or my womanhood is perceived by others around me (like when I showed up to a meeting of executives where almost all the people in the room were older white men in black suits, and suddenly became aware of the fact that my day planner is purple with floral print on the pages)…and you know what? I’m learning to be comfortable not being able to control of whether I am judged for being a 22-year-old woman in my position. Ultimately, I can’t do anything about someone who thinks a certain way about me because of my age or my gender identity–all I can do is show up and put forth the caliber of work that earned me the position in the first place.

Because I do belong here. I am capable. I worked my butt off in school, and seized as many opportunities as I could hold in my hands (sometimes more because hashtag-overachiever). I belong here because I have put in the work to be here, and I am capable because I have developed the skillset I need to be successful. I am where I am because of who I am, not in spite of that, and being young or being a woman is not something that diminishes my success at all. If anything, it makes them all the better.

I am not a fraud. 

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