I’ve gone legit.
I was asked to speak on a panel a few weeks ago. I was. I shit you not. With the Managing Directors and everything.
“What? You want me? Little old me? You want me to speak on this panel of incredible super serious business people?” I gushed.
I am a millennial. It goes with the territory that I am somewhat egotistical (feel free to check out my Instagram to see the top, highly edited, highlights of my existence). Like the majority of people my age, I use social media as a vehicle to publicise my own identity. So as you can imagine, being asked to speak on a panel about my generations online behaviors was exciting to me.
I know about this stuff you know? It’s sort of my life. I’ve been Facebook status-ing the fuck out of shit since 2009. I’m getting those retweets from D list celebs. My superzoom game is up there with the best of them. My life is out there, Valencia filtered, for the world to see.
The big day arrives, I have not felt nervous even once. Then I’m there, in the room and suddenly become very aware of the caliber of the people around me. It really began to set in just how senior and established these people are in their vocations.
What the hell was I doing here? One year ago I was a recruiter that had never worked in Social Media. I hadn’t even worked in the marketing industry. I’m standing next to a Director of the Discovery Channel. She has at least 10 years on me. She has a presentation. Was I supposed to do a presentation?! She has notes. NOTES. EXTENSIVE NOTES.
“Don’t be anxious, you’ll be completely fine,” said the nice lady who had organized the whole thing.
OH THANKS, HUN I’M CURED CHEERS. (I know it’s not her fault but FYI telling someone not to be nervous is a complete waste of words. Better to say nothing.)
Panic sets in. I’ve got this weird nervous jerk thing going on which looks like some sort of abstract dance. I’m throwing tea all over myself by accident. Bad day to wear a white blouse though in fairness I don’t have any tea colored ones. I’m gifted a slice of cake that momentarily distracts me (as it often does) but I then chuck this all down my front as well like some uncontrollable moron.
Managing Director of an international events company is looking at me like I’ve completely lost my shit. I couldn’t blame him to be fair. I start blabbering about some other nonsense, the journey down maybe, which was so uneventful it didn’t even deserve acknowledgment.
We start. I am silent. For the first 10 minutes, I just listen.
And then I realize something.
Everyone on this panel is guessing. Everyone is uncertain. Every sentence begins with the words “We think” or “In our opinion” or “the research suggests.” I relax.
I realize that everyone in the room is reading from a piece of paper, a pre-prepared document on what to say. I have finally worked out what I am doing here. Yes, the individuals I was sitting next to are incredible, they are outstanding in their field, they do have years of work experience on me and I could learn so much from them. But right now, on this subject, when we are talking about my generation and how we behave and see the world – I have the upper hand. Where they are just guessing, I have the answers. I don’t just think, I know.
I find my voice and not only that but I find myself speaking passionately about the subject we are discussing. I don’t have notes, I didn’t need notes, does anyone when they are talking about their own life and their experience of the world? I deserve a place in this room, I do have something to offer.
The panel finishes and I find myself in a bar in Shoreditch with the rest of the participants, drinking margaritas and having a good old chat about veganism and how we all hate the gym. We are just four people who live in the same world but have experienced life completely differently, and we are trying to understand each other.
I won’t doubt myself again and you shouldn’t either. Here’s why.
Your opinion has value. No one has experienced this world the same way that you have. Every moment, every memory, every meeting will have a lasting impression on you that will shape the way you view the world. So for every problem you are given to solve or situation you are asked an opinion on – you will have something different to offer, something no one else could possibly suggest. That is your power.
I learned this lesson through work but you can apply this to anything. In this life, we all have a specialist subject. We are driven by our passions, whatever they may be. We are constantly learning, constantly shaping our own understanding of the world around us. We have thoughts and we have feelings and no matter what they may be they still have value.
So whether it’s your CEO, a teacher or a wise and knowledgeable friend, never walk into a room feeling lesser.
A job title, higher education or skills training only mean so much. It is your experience of life and the knowledge you have gained living it that will drive you forward. What’s that saying? Life is all about understanding how the world moves and learning how to dance with it.
So throw those shapes. Be perceptive to what’s around you. Understand your value. Be confident, because you can do anything you want, you just have to do it.