We can agree that part of being professional means being competent in your field, yes? But riddle me this: if you don’t know what you don’t know, how should you go about getting to know it? Put another way, at what point are you competent enough?
Part of what inspired me to create Stories Change Power was repeatedly hearing from new professionals seeking experience in order to secure a job to gain more experience. That sounds circular because it is; new professionals often don't know where to get experience in the first place if no one will hire them until they have it.
Some say the solution to these dilemmas is: “fake it till you make it.”
To which I say “fake” is a four-letter word and answer with two letters: NO. (On saltier days, those letters might be “B.S.”)
If we’ve learned anything since 2020, let it be to embrace vulnerability and value authenticity. As humans, we’re many wonderful and beautiful things, but omniscient and perfect are not among them. Even the smartest, most experienced professionals don’t know everything, and even the most practiced and accomplished among us makes mistakes now and then... so why would we ever think we know it all? Why would we expect perfection, particularly when we are new in our field?
And yet individual expectations, team norms, and work environments can create a culture – whether subtle or overt – that frowns at questions and discourages mistakes, and thus smothers the learning both can beget. Or to be more succinct, such cultures prompt memes like the one here about imposter syndrome.
At Stories Change Power, we know that with time and support, capacities can broaden and talents can improve. That’s why we actively embrace a growth mindset, meaning we create space to make mistakes and learn from them, and encourage questions and ongoing learning.
Just a few weeks ago, a widely respected leader told me and one of her colleagues about the freedom she feels in her 50s to ask questions and seek clarification without a whiff of concern anyone will doubt her expertise. For me, it took the risk of being pummeled by a ship’s boom to see the freedom of three little words:
Our professional development programming encourages combining those words with curiosity: "I don't know - yet." We want participants to recognize where they are in their journey and learn together, both from successes and mistakes. Furthermore, by focusing on ensuring personal well-being alongside professional growth, we hope to inspire people to enjoy the process of reaching their goals, not just the destination.
How about you? When did you feel comfortable saying those three little words: "I don't know?" Or do you still feel pressure to know everything all at once? If you have or are trying to form a growth mindset, connect with us through the form below. I'd love to hear from you.
- Piper Hendricks, Executive Director