It’s Okay Not to Know

When we interview for a job we spend a lot of time trying to convince people we’re the right person  for the job. The right fit. We spend time perfecting our resume. Then we get a job and think we have to be right. You have to prove to your employer that they made the right choice — that you know your stuff. That you have the answers. But you are not supposed to know it all in your twenties. Most employers want you because you don’t know. Not to say you shouldn’t learn, prepare, work hard and push yourself to  think creatively, but don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be right. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A lot of women say when they first graduated and started working they felt like they were  “pretending to be an adult.”  There is this big shift  from guidance counselors, teachers and parents asking what you want to do to being on the ground doing. Suddenly you are “live”. There is a sense that you’re supposed to know exactly what you’re doing. Trying to fill that gap between not knowing and supposed to know…created a lot of stress and failed confidence for some of these women. Their advice…be  confident in how you presnet yourself and how you ask questions…and know that not knowing can sometimes be an asset.

On not knowing….

“The thing I really wish I had known was not to be afraid. I was just talking about this to a friend of mine from my first job. We were driven by panic and fear the entire time. We were so nervous because we never felt like we were really our resumés. We were like, ‘Yes, I can do this. I know what I’m doing’, but then we never really felt confident.  We producing videos and companies hired us because we were young and in the music scene but we felt completely overwhelmed and afraid. We had this pretense of knowing what we were doing, which I am sure everybody feels, but I wish I had known that nobody really knows what they’re doing.

You don’t realize that they’re not hiring you for your experience. You feel like “I’m supposed to have this experience because my boss does and everyone around me does”.  You don’t realize that your instincts are valuable and that it’s okay to trust them. You’re working double time to show that you can do what they can do… instead of what you’re really hired to do which is kind of not knowing.

The older you get the more you know it’s about asking the questions and not having all the knowledge yourself. It’s knowing the right questions to ask. In your twenties you think you’re supposed to have the answers and you’re so driven by the fear of being found out as a fraud. Then when you’re older you sit back and ask. I do that now.  The more information I find out, the more intelligent my side of the conversation is going to be.” — 40-something, producer

On how to ask…

It’s okay to not know. Obviously not on the interview but when you get into a job be a sponge. You can do it in a way that shows you in the best light. For example you can say: My skill sets are this and this is how I approached it, but walk me through how you just did it because I liked the way you did it versus the way I would do it. That’s a way to say, ‘I don’t really know what it is that I need to know but I can get there.’  Seeing how they do it will help you process what you would do and find some happy middle ground. – 40-something, sales executive, responsible for hiring and training new hires

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