Tag Archives: young professionals

On finding my voice as a young professional

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.

Bubble BayFor 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.

On seeing Des Moines in a new light

Travel: When you venture beyond the routine, beyond the everyday, you find yourself, right? I long believed that concept, upholding the plane ticket the ultimate symbol and source of discovery.

Des MoinesYet here I am, rooted for a good, long while. I live in Des Moines by choice, and I love it. But for a long time — too long, really — I wondered how I could “find myself” in my familiar world. The same web of skywalks I weave every morning, stopping in the same spot to snap a quick photo of the blinding light, swearing it looks a little different, a little hipper than the last time my iPhone lens gave it the limelight.

In familiarity, though, there is subtlety. Beautiful subtlety. Like the minute shifts in the shadows of my morning photo op.

This city charms me in subtler ways these days. The height of 801 Grand no longer dizzies me as it did during those magical, maze-worthy childhood waltzes through the skywalk to the most glamorous place on Earth: the Younkers Tea Room, of course (well before I realized my love of tea).

At 22, I’m captivated by the bright light of the Financial Center, racing to my window every evening to enjoy the color. I’m captivated by the community-oriented nonprofit work in the city, including that of my own wonderful workplace at the Science Center of Iowa. I’m captivated by the ornate, whirling staircases at the Law Library at the Capitol.

Downtown Des MoinesMy Des Moines love list includes the sensible logistics of living, too. I like that I can pay my rent. I like that a trip to my grandparents’ house in the suburbs takes only 10 minutes.

Finding myself, it seems, isn’t determined by my next plane ticket but by a lifelong commitment to pause and capture the beautiful subtlety in shifting shadows. Somewhere in the daily mosaic of skywalk shadows, I’m seeing Des Moines in a whole new light.