Awkward & Professional: Feeling 13 in the Job World

Puberty is an awkward, awkward thing. Not only does your body suddenly have a mind of it’s own (hello, boobs!) but your brain also decides to go haywire. People you used to hate suddenly become attractive out of nowhere, and you begin to entertain thoughts that never entered your mind before. Everyone around you becomes more attractive, more mature, even more intelligent than you. You’re struck down with this overwhelming sense of self-doubt, and bit by bit you start to lose yourself in this crazy world of teenage angst and awkwardness. Everything just starts to feel different.

It sucks.

Luckily, I emerged from my formerly awkward years unscathed, except for some terribly embarrassing memories that will live on in the backends of Xanga posts. Now, at 21, I have an better idea of who I’ve become as a person and I’m okay with what I’ve done in the past.

That is, I felt this way until I became employed. I’m here to tell you that those sweaty palms and same feelings of doubt come back again, years after the crippling pain of puberty.

This summer, for instance, while I was going through the whole resume writing/job interview/begging for an internship thing, I felt completely out of my element. Nothing made sense and somehow everything was going wrong. No matter what I did, I felt like I emerged from every situation defeated. I was angry and mad and tired of interviews, but somehow I did manage to snag an internship that I actually love. I don’t know if it was my great sense of style, my hilarious yet killer resume, or my ability to pretend like I knew what I was doing, but I faked it ‘till I made it and my supervisor hired me on the spot. But even with that itty bitty confidence boost of knowing I had the job, I was a total basket case my first day.

When you enter the so-called “job force”, you get admitted into a super secret club, much like what happens when mother nature comes a-knockin’ at your door to let you know that you’ve officially entered the teenage years. You ditch Barbies and tutus for eyeliner and mini skirts. Well, instead of makeup and a questionable fashion sense, the job world grants you business cards and a coffee addiction. Suddenly, you are back on the bottom of the food chain once again. You’re over in the corner sweating profusely in your brand new business suit while everyone around you seems utterly perfect and untouchable, not an ounce of fear on their face. Flashbacks to your freshman year of high school bounce around in your head. You’re afraid to speak in case you say something wrong.

It’s almost the same as when the whole world is watching you grow from an awkward little duckling into a majestic peacock. Your bosses will watch on with pride as you transform from a nervous intern into a company expert.

Throughout this whole terrifying ordeal, just remember one thing: they need you. You are the future of the business world, my friends, and you are the creative force behind the workplace. Social media wouldn’t exist without us. We bring the coffee and the ideas. You just have to remember that you are cool, you are special, and you are not 13, contrary to what your brain might be telling you.

You are allowed to make mistakes sometimes. The first time my parents left me alone in the house, I set popcorn on fire in the microwave. Smoke was everywhere, the microwave wouldn’t stop beeping, and I was a wreck. I have no doubt in my mind that this will happen again. The first time I’m left alone in the office, I’ll more than likely mess something up. I might send the wrong file through the copy machine or leave awkward phone messages, or I might even set the office microwave on fire. Who knows. Somewhere along the way, I’ll forget about an important deadline or I’ll wear the wrong shoes and I will make a mistake, but that’s okay because mistakes are human. Think about it like this- the first time any girl wears makeup is a disaster. Blue eyeshadow up to our brows, glitter everywhere- it’s like that scene in Full House when DJ and Kimmy try to leave their house looking like clowns. However, after one (or a few) times, we learn how to do it properly. Soon, it becomes second nature. The same thing will happen at the office. You’ll mess up, get a little lipstick on your teeth, but the next day you’ll be back in business. You’ll learn who to avoid, the quickest routes in and out of the office, and who to talk to when the going gets tough. Life is one giant learning process, and the only way to gain knowledge about a field or job you’re really interested in is to start from the bottom.

I know it’s scary. The job force is a whole different ball park than the high school cafeteria, but it’ll be a-ok, kids. Your employers want you to take it all in and they want to be the ones that teach you. Nobody is expecting you to know everything right out of the gate, just like nobody expected you to know how to handle your first crush or how to deal with the crippling embarrassment that came with being a teenager. But look at you now. You’ve handled that transition perfectly. You know so much more about life now than you did when you were 13 and hopefully, you’ve gained confidence in yourself. It may seem like you’re back in high school again, hiding underneath a baggy hoodie afraid to raise your hand, but you are not.  The real world is bigger and way more open than any school hallway make it seems, but it’s okay. You can handle it.

Photo provided by Marius Boatca via Flickr 

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