Being an entrepreneur is hard work. Being a young entrepreneur is even harder. In fact, being in any workplace as a young person can be extremely challenging when working alongside professionals older than you. A simple lack of experience can contribute to miscommunications, highlighted generational differences and barriers between collaborative projects. As a young female business owner, there are several things I realized over time that were holding me back in the workplace. I strongly believe these lessons learned apply to any gender and also to any workplace type of careerist.
1. I spoke too fast. I felt the need to word vomit all of my great ideas as quickly as possible. I realized I did this because I was afraid people would lose interest and turn away from me, not hearing the full scope of my thoughts. Keep in mind that actions begin with thoughts and how you want to be treated and respected begins with how you treat and respect yourself. Crazy idea right? Slow down, speak easy and accentuate what it is that you want to say. If people aren’t giving you the time of day, maybe your thoughts aren’t organized in the best way possible. It’s also possible that those around you feel threatened by your great ideas, and yes, this happens, especially in environments that may be competitive in nature. Pull them aside separately and let them know how you’re feeling, reiterating that your interest is in the success of the company.
2. I didn’t stand up for myself. I was finding myself in situations where clients were overstepping the scope of our agreed work and assigning me tasks that I was not being properly compensated for. With fear of losing them as a client and sounding lazy, I accepted. I quickly found myself overwhelmed and overworked. Clients, fellow employees and even upper management can abuse the relationship they have with you. Every single relationship in your professional life should be tended to with respect and reverence. If you find yourself in situations where your work isn’t being valued, your time is being taken advantage of (not to be confused with putting in extra time and effort to get ahead, this is a great thing) and you are not being treated with the overall level of respect you feel you deserve, it’s time to do something about it. Not speaking up in a professional way leaves you feeling resentful and unhappy and opens the door for your abuser to continue with no boundaries in sight.
3. I never said no. This is a biggie. I was so hyper focused on growing my business and keeping my clients happy, I was terrified of saying no and upsetting them. What did this mean for me in the long-term? My clients felt it was acceptable to pile work on me that wasn’t included in our original agreement, I was bombarded with extra tasks that consumed my day and I no longer had time to work on my real responsibilities, creating exciting campaigns for clients. Saying no doesn’t have to be a negative dialogue for either side of the team and it doesn’t have to be a make or break for a client or co-worker relationship. If you feel compelled to say no, there’s generally a great reason why. Maybe the task doesn’t fall within your area of expertise and you don’t think you can do as great of a job as someone else. Maybe you have other more important projects on your plate that will be negatively affected by taking this particular task on. Whatever your reason is, express that to the proper person with a confident conversation and offer a solution. This works out better for both parties every time.
4. I apologized when it wasn’t necessary. I’m really nice…Too nice maybe? I found myself apologizing for things that were not my fault in any way and also for things that blatantly fell into the lap of others on the team. This not only opened up doors for me to continually be a scapegoat, but it made me look weak and unsure. My piece of advice here: Ask yourself if you also apologize when it’s not necessary. If the answer is yes, just stop. Sometimes, small errors don’t necessarily require an apology, just a simple correction. Don’t sweat the small stuff right?
5. I was afraid to ask for more money. This is a tricky one. It requires you to be confident not only in your own value and worth, but of course to make sure that your requests were within reason and are competitive in the marketplace. Even after I was confident in my pricing, I felt very uncomfortable bringing it up and talking about. While I tried to convince myself of my confidence, I soon learned that it was an exact lack of that made me feel uneasy. I wasn’t really sure about my work and what I was capable of. Of course, this leads into deeper issues on self-esteem and self-worth but ones that deserve your time and attention. Tend to them.
6. I didn’t choose the best team members. As a young business owner, I felt new to the arena of hiring and team building. As a result of my inability to jump in 100% with high standards, I faced a lot of issues. It took me a long time and lots of average employees to find the best people to compliment the business and my own efforts. I wasn’t strict enough, I wasn’t firm enough and at times, I wasn’t even sure what I really wanted in someone. You can’t expect others to deliver when you don’t know what you want from them. Decide exactly what you want in a teammate or employee and stick to it 100%. If you don’t feel great about it on paper and in your gut, it’s not going to be the best possible fit. Of course, if you’re not responsible for hiring, this may not be within your reach. I encourage you to surround yourself with people in the workplace who do make you feel supported and progressive.
Paper pusher, admin or CEO, I encourage you to keep the idea of self-improvement in the workplace in mind. We are constantly evolving into the best possible versions of ourselves both in and out of the workplace. Needless to say, improving upon these things not only brought me more success, but also brought me happiness and satisfaction.