Owning Your Ignorance: 3 Steps to “I Got This”

When I started my shiny new job as a social media consultant and strategist at iostudio, I was more than a little terrified (as I should have been – cocky isn’t a good color on anyone). In addition to the normal new job jitters, I was also tackling the social media world as a professional (read: paid), rather than a hobbyist, for the first time. NBD.

But as I started to learn the ropes of agency world and delved into my new tasks, I kept experiencing a jarring (but not at all unpleasant) realization:

I actually know what I’m talking about.

It was my first true moment of professional self-assurance. (Well, in the office world, at least – have NO doubts about my skills as a bartender, y’all.) Whenever a client or colleague asked me a question, I knew the answer! Or at least, where I would go to find it. Of course some aspects of it have been entirely new – who wrote their first white paper last week? This girl!! – but at the end of the day, it’s becoming increasingly obvious to me that I’m actually extremely competent in my position. And it feels good.

Now, despite appearances, this whole diatribe is actually not to toot my own horn. It was during one of these “man, I really get this” moments that I realized I’d entered into a new phase in my professional life. Let’s break it down:

Phase I: Blissful Ignorance

When we first start out in the working world, we are appallingly, impossibly ignorant of all that we don’t know. We CC when we should BCC, we dress inappropriately, we get a little sloppy at the office happy hour. We make blunders and snafus without even realizing we did something wrong, while colleagues shake their heads at the silly intern and tell themselves they were never that dumb. (Hint: Yes, you were.)

Phase II: “Fake It Til You Make It”

At some point, having experienced a rude awakening or two, it begins to dawn on us that maybe we don’t know everything in the whole world ever for all time. I feel like this is a crossroads for a lot of people; you can either shrink into a protective shell, never saying more than you need to out of fear, and get left behind on the road to success. Or, you can (wo)man up, OWN your ignorance, and attack it from a place of refreshing self-awareness.

Phase III: Trusting Yourself

If you choose the second option above, which results in asking questions, seeking mentors, and consuming books, articles, and blogs about your industry or focus at an alarming rate… you will eventually wake up one morning, and realize that you legitimately, innately, and completely know your stuff. You’re no longer bumbling around in the dark, figuring it all out as you go along. It dawns on you that you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, Stuart Smalley would be proud.

At the end of the day, I truly think half of growing up is simply learning to trust yourself. I don’t think this just applies to your professional life, either – I find myself much more assured when making decisions in my personal life than I used to be, too. I’m sure some of it is being older and wiser, but a big fat chunk of it just comes from listening to instincts and trusting that they’re right.

My instincts are also telling me that these three phases aren’t the only ones. I’m sure more will make themselves apparent as I continue down this road… Anyone feel they’ve already been there, and care to share what’s next?


About the Author: Rachael King graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in Spring 2006. She is currently a Social Media Account Executive at iostudio, a full-service ad agency with offices in DC and Nashville. Currently Rachael is traveling the country, speaking to and teaching the 54 states and territories of the National Guard how to use social media as a marketing/recruitment tool. She is also President of Social Media Club – DC, Events Manager for 20SB, and a co-organizer of the annual meet up Bloggers in Sin City. Follow Rachael on Twitter.

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