Young professional: It would be an immediate shift, I imagined. College student turned alumna turned YP. And with it I would somehow innately arrive at a series of epiphanies: how to properly network (without flailing about Roger Federer or Istanbul, for instance). How to express plans for the next five years without abandoning that quintessential “in the moment” Millennial attitude. How to achieve that ever-elusive “work/life balance.
Being a YP, though, is less about the big A-ha! moments and more, I’ve learned, about little moments of listening, peppered with little moments of speaking up. As a really young YP (December grad life), I often feel too young, too new to the working world, to jump in and talk about, say, economic development. Yeah, me, the one who nearly wrote her last rent check in neon-green crayon because she couldn’t find a pen.
For now, then, I’m happy to listen most of the time. I’m sharing news on Des Moines’ latest accolade, I’m reading about growth in the metro and I’m learning to appreciate local attractions in new ways.
And slowly, I’m learning to speak up and contribute to the conversation. No, I can’t talk about job promotions, I still don’t have a “five-year plan” and economic development is not my go-to talking point. For now, my go-to phrase is something along the lines of, “Oh, that’s really cool. Can you tell more about it?” As a YP I’ve learned, the most powerful thing to say isn’t always a statement. Often, it’s a question. Or even a phrase I once avoided: “I didn’t know that.”
It’s funny how finding my voice as a Des Moines YP and a writer sometimes stems from listening and more importantly, admitting what I don’t know. That realization is equally comforting and challenging; it gives me permission to question, to be vulnerable, but it likewise inspires me to be a lifelong learner.
Along the way, I’m striving to make my invisible thinking visible, to borrow an education term, taking little notes. Whether it’s a mental note, a new entry in my journal or an idea scrawled on a Post-It in neon-green crayon, embracing my role as a YP is a process, one that’s all about little moments of listening, learning and maybe even some tennis-fueled flailing.