By Emily Otteson
The last six months of my life have been, more or less, a whirlwind. With juggling fourteen vocal students, recording a little EP, moving three times in three months (and thus feeling like I’m living out of my car), while also working with my lovely mother here at ETC, there have been moments (days, weeks) where I have felt completely scatterbrained and haphazard. These may be normal feelings for a young twenty-something who is figuring out how to organize her personal life in the professional world, in which case, I can give myself some grace and take a breather. Yet, in the whirl of sitting in early-morning meetings bi-weekly with clients 40 years my senior, there are a few things I have found to be very important in being a young and quickly-learning professional in a world of older, wiser folks.
1. Come Prepared. Always carry a notepad and a pen. I know that with iphones and ipads, taking a quick note on your phone can be easy. But alas–can you draw an abstract diagram or a brainstirring chart with a moment’s notice on those little handhelds? Perhaps there’s an app for that, which is fine. But from my own experience, there ain’t nothing like pen and ink and paper!
2. Take Notes On Everything. That’s right–everything! It’s part of my job to take notes, but as a young professional, it is also my personal goal to learn as much as I can from the folks I am surrounded by, in and out of the meetings. Take a look at the people you look up to and study them. What kind of habits do they have? What are some traits in them you want to copy in your own life, or throw out? Go Harriet The Spy on everyone. Boom.
3. Buy A Blazer and Look the Part! It’s amazing what can happen in how we see ourselves when we see ourselves differently. So simple, right? Haha! But really, when my older and wiser business partner (Elizabeth, my mother) first brought me into a consultation meeting with a client months ago, I initially felt like a scared little kid. I was sitting in on a business planning deal that friends of mine who have slaved away in college for four years only wish they could be sitting in on. I had about five minutes of internal insecurity and struggle when I glanced at my reflection in the boardroom window. My hair was back, braided and coiffed, I had my nerd glasses on, and alas, a blazer. And with that silly, little glance at myself in the window, I was reminded that I did have the experience and expertise to be in that meeting, and I had all the brain energy I needed for that very day. Age aside, I knew that I had a lot to learn (and always will), but I also knew what I was doing and knew that I should be there. That confidence I allowed myself. Outward appearance is not the end-all, yet it does show respect to the folks you surround yourself with and can be even more important to how you value and view yourself.
I still have so much to learn, and I pray that I always stay aware of that fact! But until I “arrive” (which will, ehem, last my whole life), I am going to keep staying as prepared as I can be, going to keep taking notes on everything, and hold my head high as I rock them professional blazers. Holla!