There is a secret no college student wants to admit to themselves or their employers. COVID-19 has stunted our professional development and confidence in the workplace.
You may share a college town or favorite dive bar with your company’s new intern. You may exchange filtered stories of fun nights out and extraordinary (or nightmare) professors. But one thing is certain; we did not have the same experience.
Higher education’s role as a professional training ground is equally as valuable as the academic accomplishment a diploma signifies. Zoom cannot teach you to shake hands, sit down with a group of strangers confident in what you bring to the table or collaborate with people of higher stature.
When I returned to campus after 17 months of learning from my childhood bedroom, my goal was to break the introverted habits COVID had gifted me and practice holding space in new environments. I joined the Delta Nu chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma to make my intentions reality.
I recently attended our 74th biennial convention as my chapter’s delegate. I traveled across the country alone to represent my chapter, vote on our national bylaws, attend education events, and network with alumni and peers.
The experience taught me to share my ideas openly and have more confidence in professional settings. Here are some of my biggest takeaways:
Tips To Manage Young Professional Nerves
- Join an organization or club where you can work with professionals
- Guest speaker events are beneficial, but you can not put their advice into practice without interpersonal skills. Seek opportunities to work with people in your dream position and practice collaborative confidence.
- Practice at a small scale
- Within my chapter’s executive council, I hold the position of Panhellenic Delegate and attend weekly meetings with the other sororities at my school to vote on behalf of my chapter. This role has helped me practice speaking in front of a large audience without the pressure of a professional setting. Community forums are one accessible way to practice these skills.
- Know yourself
- When applying for internships, I wanted to work at a small agency for the opportunity to learn at a one-on-one level. I thought making personal connections with my coworkers would help me feel comfortable sharing my ideas in more extensive settings. If you’re nervous about taking up space in a professional environment, I recommend seeking an internship with a small team.
Years of social isolation made professional environments intimidating, but my internship with Momentum Communications Group has converted my angst into excitement. From day one, I’ve been appreciated as an equal team member, encouraged to share my ideas and provided endless opportunities to grow. Momentum’s collaborative culture has taught me that everyone has something to learn and that all perspectives are valuable, including my own.
I credit my sorority with the confidence that led me to Momentum – and my internship with growing my skills to a place where I’m excited about my future in public relations (or whatever I ultimately pursue). Confidence, creativity and communication thrive in supportive environments. I encourage college students to seek opportunities that challenge their comfort zones and champion learning.