As a junior in the workplace your opinions rarely count: you are in a special organisation if you are listened to and an even more forward thinking place if your ideas are actually taken forward.
Innovation is one of the buzzwords of the world of work today – every organisation wants to be seen as innovative. We want employees who drive innovation, we want systems that support innovation and we want everything to be shiny, sparkling and new: what organisations often fail to understand is how innovation really happens.
Our workplaces are becoming more technological every day. The junior folk in organisations have more technological knowledge than most, and yet their plump, ripe, peachy ideas are pushed into banana shaped holes.
I worked in junior positions for many years, mainly because I changed careers in my mid 20’s, but by age 30 I got to the point where I felt my growth was being stifled and I wasn’t prepared to spend the next 10 years ticking boxes to climb the corporate ladder. That was when I decided to start out on my own. Back in my ‘junior’ days – I put this in inverted commas because I believe title is everything - I wasn’t junior. I had many more years of experience and knowledge than someone fresh out of university but because I was placed in junior positions due to my ‘lack of experience’ in the industry, I did not have the chance to speak up. On the contrary, I was instructed to do what needed to be done. Even if I did think outside of my little ‘role box’ I rarely gained the credit for my ideas and more senior (not necessarily more knowledgeable) individuals, would often reshape them and steal them for their own.
Setting up on my own has allowed me the opportunity to learn fast; I am more passionate about my work than I have ever been and I put more into it than ever before. I am not left doing the tasks that no one else wants to do, I am now in the hot seat and I am fully responsible for whether my career is successful or not. As a junior it’s all too easy to shift responsibility for our career to someone or something else; a manager, the organisation, the unfairness of the appraisal process – I now make my own luck.
The impact that can be had on confidence and drive of more junior individuals by ensuring they stay in their ‘role box’ can have lasting effects and can lead people to stop trying to get past the invisible boundaries. Before I started out on my own, I often came across as lacking confidence in the workplace – now I work for myself (only 6 months later) confidence is one of the traits I am most commended on. Any nervousness I used to have at talking to the senior folk in organisations has disappeared – I am now seen as their equal and I feel like one.
We all have it in us to be great at what we do, my passion for my field never waned. Even when I was treated as though my knowledge was not of value, I knew I had an eye and the gut to work in the field I’d chosen. No one could take that from me. Being stifled into specific roles did not allow me to spread my wings; only when I went at it alone could I truly deliver my expertise.
My view: Juniors - if you have the knowledge and expertise, don't be afraid to shout about it! Managers - take the risk and let the juniors have their say; you never know what you might learn.