This is a guest post by Marina Cilona, who writes her own fabulous blog, Connecting Ideas.
When I was younger, at high school or university, I had this concept of a successful person as someone who knew a lot about what they were doing. The successful person I dreamed up in my head had a lot of information and used it to stay in control, move through their day with confidence and ease and solve problems with well-thought about solutions. So for me the key to success has always been knowledge you see, you have to know what you’re doing in order to be successful at it.
I’m not going to lie to you – the successful person I always pictured was me. That was my goal for my job: to have all of the knowledge I needed in order to be confident and strong on a day to day basis. In the past year that I’ve been working I’ve realized that my idea of success was dependent on the assumption that there is a protocol, an established way of doing things, that I would need to learn and become really good at in order to be successful.
Then I got a job in a ‘write your own ticket’ sort of company like so many other new, online media companies are. It’s a company that doesn’t have any age or experience prerequisites for success. It’s a company without an established protocol. Your success in the company I work for depends on how well you understand the fact that anyone can publish and access information on the web. Everyone’s a publisher, a mini media mogul and everyone has control of their attention when it comes to their online viewing. So anything my company publishes online is subject to rapidly changing trends, trends that every single person who uses the net shapes. My boss never lied to me when I started. He said it wouldn’t be easy. It’s supposed to be hard to grasp, evasive even, because online media is not a long established industry. It’s still rapidly developing and that can be hard for someone who had such a simple and static definition of success. How the hell am I supposed to feel successful when there is no established protocol for me to dare I say rote learn and then excel at?
I’ll have days where control will feel too far out of my reach to even connect myself with my original idea of a successful person. My confidence, which is so rooted in my intellectual abilities, my power to actually understand things, will rapidly dwindle and I’ll start to feel that I have no capability. On those days I won’t feel productive or, well, competent and I’ll wonder when someone is going to notice and fire me.
For me these bad days happen when I’m reminded of just how much I don’t understand yet. I work for an innovations company. By its very nature its job is to ‘light up the edges’ by conceptualizing new ways for people to communicate with each other that just don’t exist yet. This means that when I started a year ago I needed to get really comfortable really quickly with not knowing, with just trying and moving forward without clarity. You may say that at 23 I’m still stuck in some adolescent hell where I’ll never build up the confidence to feel successful or truly understand my own capabilities. But it all comes down to learning which makes it worthwhile for me. Even though I’m not learning things that have been tried and tested, I still feel like I’m learning on crack. My fear over how much I don’t know, even on it’s worst days, never makes me want to quit and find a job with more direct tasks and clearly defined project and outcomes. I’m learning too much this way and hey, brick walls are put in place to make sure we understand and prove how badly we want things. So if I want to be successful I need to work harder to understand what that means given the challenges and the unknowns of online media.
The thing is I don’t think I’m alone in this battle. So many jobs that are filled by smart, well-educated and driven Gen Yers are new. They were invented along with new technologies and new ways of doing things that need to be managed and communicated.
If you think this isn’t you, if you think these days never happen to you and you never descend to this level of doubt well I don’t believe you. You may deal with it differently or understand it differently but NO ONE and I say this with complete confidence, spends 100 percent of their time riding the top of the wave. You have to struggle through the current sometimes. Those are the times when you actually learn something and those are the days that I think you’ll feel like you’re working towards your own success.
The point I want to make is that it’s supposed to be hard. But that’s what makes us interesting. Be proud of that. This may not seem like the most profound thing you’ve read but it needs to be written and sometimes, on the bad days, it needs to be reread to remind you of the wall and of why you’re trying to push through it.
Marina writes a blog, Connecting Ideas, about work and relationships (and what happens when you work with your partner). She writes about her thoughts which run the gamut of equal pay, writing, love, intimacy, friendship and generally being in her twenties.