Starting out in a new career can be tough. Being the new kid on the block is never easy. Plus, when you are new to the gig, it’s hard to even know what the heck you are suppose to be doing. You want to fit in…without blending in. You want to stand out…but not in a bad way. Do you speak up? Or stay quiet until you figure things out?
If you’re like me, everyone can tell that you’re new. I have been out of school and practicing PT for a little over a year now. While it’s nice to have a year’s experience under my belt, I have one thing working against me (well, sort of…). I look really young. I get asked frequently “How long have you been doing this?”. I can’t hate on “looking young” too much, obviously. I really don’t want to look older either. But it’s frustrating to climb the battle of skepticism of my patients, because they think/know I’m new….which comes along with skepticism of my ability.
Because of this, I work REALLY hard to overcome my inexperience. I am the poster-child for professionalism. I make believers out of my patients because I act experienced. I act like a professional. I act like this isn’t my first year practicing. How do I do this?
- Look the part. Dress professionally. There’s a fine line between style and professional dress. Make it a point to be wearing clothes that are clean, modest and appropriate for your job. I have to wear clothes that are not only professional, but that I can move easily in. While it’s nice to dress to your personal style, remember that the last thing your clothes should do is distract your co-workers or clients from paying attention to what you have to say. Do you want people to remember you by your cute new bracelet or your incredible contribution to the last meeting?
- Be on time. You could be doing everything right in your job, but if you show up late to work consistently, it will all be for naught. Being on time is something that millennials are constantly being knocked for. And for good reason, there is no excuse for constant tardiness. It shows laziness, disrespect and is downright unprofessional. This is such a small thing, but like I said. You could be doing all the big things right…but doing the small things wrong could make your effort futile.
- Lead by example. Sometimes being a leader doesn’t mean fancy titles or responsibilities. On the most basic level, being a leader is someone who others look to for guidance and example. By doing your best work, and exemplifying professionalism in all tasks, you can be a leader too.
- Think before you speak. This may be an obvious one, but I am a firm believer in active listening. It’s difficult to learn anything new when you are talking. Listening on the other hand, is the gateway to new knowledge. So take a step back from talking, truly listen in conversations. Don’t just think about what you are going to say next.
- Take feedback. Again, something that a lot of millennials struggle with is taking feedback without being defensive. Going to physical therapy school helped me tremendously in this category. Getting constructive (and sometimes downright mean) feedback constantly had something to do with that. Also, I was evaluated on my acceptance of feedback. Yes, I was given feedback on my ability to take feedback. PT school is weird. When you stop being defensive, whether the criticism is warranted or not, it opens doors to improvement. Being a young professional means I don’t know all the answers, so the more feedback the better. Hearing that you need improvement in areas isn’t the easiest, but mentorship is so important to career growth.
What other tips do you have for young professionals?