Self Advocate

I am always taken aback by the new things that upset me.  I am fully aware of my personal set of issues, but when something new pops up which stirs up feelings of inadequacy on my part, I have to have tough love pep talks with myself.

My new issue?

In short, I am feeling old.

I’m the youngest of three girls and am the youngest grandchild on one side of the family. I’ve also enjoyed a long run of being youngest or on the younger side in my work place. I enjoy people who are older than I am, as I always did growing up. I did deal with feelings of inadequacy due to feeling too young, but now I am on the other side of the equation.

My concern was brought about by the fact that in my new job, I am a bit on the mature side. There are members of my department who are senior to me and substantially younger than I am. It feels like I have been in a career coma and now that I am waking up, my peers are people who weren’t even in college when I graduated college.

I really, really like my colleagues. I enjoy talking to them and getting to know them. I know we’re going to work well together and have some fun times together.  I am sensing a huge shift in who I am in my work setting. I am becoming a bit of a mother hen, which I actually enjoy.  Because I am a little older and have been through some more things than some of my colleagues, I feel like I can offer big sisterly advice. I’ve only been a big sister in my sorority, and that is definitely not the same, because in school, you’re supposed to keep getting older with your classmates who are your year. In school, you are used to there being students older than you and, over time, slightly younger.

Trust me, I do not actually want to be hung up on this topic. I think its novelty is pressing on me, and I will eventually get over it to a certain extent. No matter what I am in a better work situation than I was for the last six years. I did wake up from that coma, so to speak, that I was in a dead end situation and no was advocating for me.

Last night we had dinner with some friends and the topic of self-advocation came up. We were trying to convince one of our dinner party hosts that it has been five years since he started his job, and because he works in a place where he can advance without surpassing his supervisor – in other words, get a promotion that still would keep the relationship essentially the same between him and his supervisor – that perhaps it’s time to have that conversation with his boss.  He looked terrified.  I told him that if I learned anything from the last six months of my life, it’s that you have to learn how to advocate for yourself.

I hope he does gain the strength to advocate for himself.  I advised him that the conversation has to be about him and that he has to let his supervisor know he needs her help to get where he wants. Furthermore, it will make her look good if she is helping him advance in his career. All this from someone who would have trembled at the thought of having this type of conversation myself in the past.

It’s a tricky and daunting scenario to consider, of course, but by not advocating for what you want out of your career, you essentially give folks in leadership the excuse to keep you where you are.  It was only when I started advocating for myself at my old company that I saw that they had very little motivation to help me grow to where I wanted to be.  I was frustrated that no matter what, I was never included in discussions concerning my employment, which really doesn’t make sense.  In the words of someone close to me who also recently had to advocate for herself, I had trusted that I had been treated fairly in the past, only to discover I had actually been treated badly.

In short, I would much rather work in a lively environment surrounded by my new young go-getter colleagues where I have an actual prayer of advancement within the next few years than stuck in a role that wasn’t going to change because everyone who could have helped me with my goals were more interested in keeping things as they were. I will get over this age difference thing and figure out ways to lend my mature, calm nature to the overall success of my new work team. All I can do is my best, of course!

I do really like my new job. I have been there for three weeks and am looking forward to learning new things in the coming weeks.  I work with a lot of really nice and interesting people, and they’re fun to be around.  It’s a whole new world to me in a lot of ways, but it’s been exciting to learn a new job and think of things I can be doing to better myself within this context.

Still I remain baffled by the changes in my life and that work, family, neighborhood, and church are the only things really going on in my life, as opposed to adding on a weekly (plus) singing commitment, coaching, and my other work roles. It feels like a leisurely pace for me as I face this fall. Not knowing how crazy this year will be, I feel good that I am really available to work really hard, as I don’t have other commitments competing for my attention as I have in the past.  Before I become a mother, I know I want a solid career under my belt, so that I can have more options when we do become parents.

I just hope I can be patient with myself as I daydream about what else I want to do with my life. 🙂

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts!

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