Challenges of Proving Yourself as a Young Professional

As a new professional, I’ve noticed how challenging navigating the workplace can be. If I’m honest, a class really can’t prepare you for that transition. I recently read an article by Andy Kolinsky and Jake Newfield in the Harvard Business Review titled “How to Gain Credibility When You Have Little Experience”. The authors recommend five steps to improve your credibility.

  1. Leverage your research skills
  2. Identify (and embrace) your specific contribution
  3. Volunteer willingly
  4. Manage your workload and communicate proactively
  5. Work to build a network of close relationships

This lead me to reflect on some of the challenges and opportunities I’ve had as a new professional. I quickly realized that I had utilized many of these steps to create more training opportunities. The below reflection is an example of my experience as new employee in the workforce.

As a college graduate, I started a position with a nonprofit that hired mostly consultants. I was the youngest employee and it really impacted how I was viewed. I took a position with IT and quickly found that our employees lacked some necessary skills to perform their jobs. Though my position wasn’t in training, I offered to create a training for our employees to address the gap. I saw this as a growth opportunity and I was lucky my boss approved it. Of course, as an hourly employee I had to dedicate some of my time to training, which left some of my other responsibilities in the air. Due to my close relationships with my coworkers, they were happy to help. I met with experts, both in the training arena and the IT arena, I tracked some common concerns, and I met with management to understand the expectations of our employees.

It was challenging. As a 21 year old, I was training consultants in their late 40s and 50s. I had to become a subject matter expert and present the information well. Fast forward a few weeks and I was sent to all of our regional offices to present the training due to such high reviews and strong recommendations. This lead to greater opportunities with training. I was able to dedicate more of my time to training and working on integration projects with the IT team because I was able to showcase my passion for training and work ethic. I’m a firm believer that following the above steps will help any young professional prove their voice is worth hearing.

Click here to access the article.

Why Creating an Online Portfolio can be Refreshing

Creating an online portfolio is challenging, but it can also offer many benefits. Here are the top two questions that I had when I started on this journey:

  • What do you feature in your website or portfolio?
  • Why is this beneficial?

I decided to use WordPress as my platform. Though I am decent with technology, I am not a programmer and I do not understand code. WordPress, offers many features and customizations to its users. You can select a pre-made theme, or start from scratch. I like simple sites, so I chose a simple theme and went to work. Portfolios should display the work that you are most proud of. In many ways, creating this provides you with the opportunity to reflect on your past projects, their successes, and their areas of opportunity. Personally, I decided to include my work experience, or resume, a section that offered more insight into my personal and professional life, my favorite projects, and even some thoughts on the latest trends in my industry. I linked some of my social media accounts to my blog to create a more unified and connected feel for my users. Including personal images also bridged a connection with my audience. If you are unsure if you can share your work online, ask! We all know that it never hurts to ask.

There are many benefits to creating a site, such as showcasing your talents and prior work. Though you may not be currently looking for a new position, updating your work experience will help you reflect on your personal and professional growth and development. Did you forget about that project you spent hours perfecting months ago? Me too! Displaying this information within one site will help you find your strengths and advocate for yourself. If you are unable to post your projects online due to confidentially, create a private site or folder to remind yourself of the work you’ve accomplished.

Another benefit to creating a website or portfolio includes connecting and engaging with some of the thought leaders in your industry. Posting about and reviewing their information will help keep you engaged with the latest and greatest trends. This site allows you to process through some of this information and is a platform for you to express your opinions. In other words, it provides you with a voice you may not have otherwise been comfortable sharing.

You’ll have to find what you are comfortable with, but you should also find a way to take this opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone. Portfolios and websites can be edited and revised, so if you try something and decide it’s not for you, it doesn’t always have to be public. I’d give it a shot. It’s always refreshing and rewarding to take a step back and look at how far you’ve come.

Attempting to Use Snapchat as an Educational Tool

I was given a challenge to explore a new social networking tool to help determine how such tools can serve us as educators and learners. With the ongoing accessibility of social media and networking, anyone can have voice. However, filtering through those millions of voices to find ones that are credible and relevant to your interests and field can be challenging.

I decided to dig a little deeper into Snapchat. I’ve come to the conclusion that some sites, or social media platforms, are designed to be used socially and have many limitations to be used professionally. Snapchat, in itself, is very personal. Communication mostly relies on photos, with the optional filter, videos, and sometimes standard messaging.

You can subscribe or view featured stories as a user of Snapchat. Organizations and communities such as National Geographic, MTV, People, and BuzzFeed have been intentional about maintaining their social media presence. However, most of what I found for “Stories”, Snapchat’s way to allow individuals or groups to update a large following, revolved around celebrities, gossip, or similar ideas. I can’t imagine going to Snapchat to find credible, well-written, information. The two just don’t seem to align. Plus, aren’t we used to exploring books or research studies to find the most relevant information? The other thing to note is Snapchat’s anticipated audience. Users don’t expect to use this platform for networking, expanding ideas, etc. For the younger generation, Snapchat has actually replaced your standard messaging and phone calls. Snapchat can be used almost anywhere and is compatible with multiple devices and operating systems.

I’ve discovered that it is really difficult to find professionally advantageous users and resources on social media platforms. It is much easier to begin using these accounts for professional development when the users are recommended. For example, my instructor offered a list of users to follow on Twitter, which was highly useful in the beginning to make connections on what to expect and what to look for when following an account for professional reasons. It can be overwhelming to find useful accounts. Overall, it is difficult to have the discipline to use social media that is productive professionally. It is even more difficult when it feels that the platform itself is not designed to be used for professional development.

The Ongoing Discussion of How Technology Alters our Brains

Connectivism emphasizes the importance of networks and connections. In general, George Siemens and other advocates state that seeing connections between fields is a core concept and that learning involves the ability to navigate these complex networks. In many ways, Siemens argues that technology is altering out brains.

When reflecting on this topic, I noticed that I have become lazy! Social media and technology has made finding information easy and efficient. Search engines have been programed to provide you with the most relevant information. Though many argue that social media was created to spark active and engaging discussion, I’ve noticed that many users chose not to participant in this way. I hardly ever search for opinions or debatable topics, and I’m positive I’m not the only one. I’d say 90% of what I search is factual, like how many ounces in a cup, or how many kilometers in a mile. In fact, because I know I can just look up the information later, I hardly make an effort to remember these facts. On another note, I think I seriously lack the self-discipline to actually use my social media resources productively. It can be challenging to find relevant and useful thought leaders in your field. Not only this, but I enjoy “checking-out” when I scroll through these platforms.

If there is one educational benefit to these platforms, it’s that they have sparked my curiosity on credibility. I’ve become rather critical and I’ve learned to question whether the information I am reading is credible. With the accessibility of these resources, anyone can really post anything. There are hardly consequences to if that information is accurate. Perhaps a next step involves educating users of ways to use these platforms productively.