There I was, 24 years old and in my first big time job of my career. I was so excited and thrilled at the chance to finally work for a real company, in a real office, with a real job! I dressed and acted the part – hair in a low ponytail, button down shirts, skirt that was below the knees…properly accessorized so that I wasn’t too flashy, but just enough to let everyone know that I was smart and trendy. Oh, don’t forget the glasses too, that helped finish the look and made people know I was intelligent. I was finally getting my chance to fulfill my dream as a marketer, so I was eager to show this company just what I was capable of.
The first few weeks I spent doing the typical new hire stuff – knowing where my desk was, the bathroom, filling out HR papers, getting my email to work. I kept begging my boss to give me a real assignment, I couldn’t wait to show them how capable, dedicated, and talented I was and how I was going to take charge one day, being the youngest CEO in history! As a marketing assistant, I was responsible for looking at sales and consumer data and finding strategic insights to hand over to the brand marketing team, who would then take this information and make smart business decisions.
The only thing was that I had no idea what I was doing. Zip. Nada. I was really good at faking it though, I would just start throwing out words like “strategic” and googling things I didn’t understand in meetings so that I wouldn’t show anyone that I had no clue what I was doing. In my mind, this was working like a charm and I was easily slipping by. Everything was running smoothly until the day I was asked to attend a meeting to present to the room my very first, important insights about an upcoming marketing plan. While it sounded like no big deal, there I was, all alone in my cubicle, a spreadsheet in front of me, and I was scared and stressed out of my mind. What am I going to come up with to say? How am I going to do this? What if they don’t like me? What if I mess up when I am talking, stumble over my words, or make a fool of myself? It was like my self-confidence had left the building.
As my boss swung by my desk to walk with me to this meeting, she asked repeatedly if I was ready to speak, which then of course only made me even more nervous. Couldn’t she see I was sweating through this stupid uncomfortable button down shirt? I remember I kept touching my hair and adjusting my glasses to make sure I looked okay. As we sit down in the meeting and it begins, my hands start to visibly shake as the nervousness took over. Everyone else was making small talk, getting through the agenda, but here I was completely fixated on what I was going to say. I had the lines ready, there were 5 key points, to be exact, and I kept repeating them over and over and over again in my head. When my turn finally came up, my boss looks at me, I open my mouth….and nothing. I couldn’t say a word. I actually could not make anything come out of my mouth. I literally wasn’t able to speak. My boss, thank goodness, quickly started talking and made the awkward situation less awkward.
After about 10 minutes, as the meeting continued all around me, something deep in my soul starting coming to life as I sat there. My intuition and self talk kicked in, and I started to remind myself that I did deserve to be here, that I was capable, and I know this stuff better than anyone else! I can do this, I am going to say what I need to say! So there I was, now confident and strong, but the moment had passed. I missed my chance to give my talking points. I was too late, it was over.
The lesson? Don’t opt out of speaking out! You do have a voice that people do need to hear, and Speak up and Command Joy while you have the chance today!