I started working this summer at a hedge fund as a tech intern. It is my first 9-5 office job, so of course I was pretty nervous when I started. On the first day, I had no idea what to bring to work- what do people generally put in a briefcase? Should I even bring a briefcase? (I ended up putting my lip balm and some gum in my briefcase) More importantly, when I went to my interview, I was worried that I was massively underqualified, when I got the job I was even more worried that I was massively underqualified, and on the first day, when I went in to work, I was worried that everyone else would figure out that I was massively underqualified. After all, what the hell was I going to do with TWO monitors, and what would I be doing every day for 8 hours? Should I really be paid for twiddling my thumbs, and how many poop breaks are you allowed to take before people worry about your seemingly cripplingly frequent bowel movements?
I am now reaching the end of my first month of work, and I'm starting to realize that all of my fears were unfounded. This is not to say they were not grounded in some serious and real concerns. After all, it is true that I knew almost nothing practical walking into the job, and if four weeks ago I had to do the work I am doing now I would probably just stare at my computer screen(S) desolately for a few hours and google frantically before asking for help.
But during lunch break on my second week of work someone asked me how I had already learned all this stuff, and how come I already seemed to know what was going on and what I was doing. When he asked me that, I wanted to laugh- me? Know what I was doing? At that point I was still busy drowning in a sea of financial acronyms, SQL queries, and obscure software.
But over the course of these few weeks, I seem to somehow actually sort of kind of just a little bit figured out what the hell I am doing, and I no longer harbor the fear of having to manage twiddling my thumbs and looking busy simultaneously.
It is true that I am just one intern in one company in one space in one sector, but I think my experience is pretty analogous to most others. No one ever really starts out knowing what they're doing, and not many continue knowing exactly what they're doing. I think it's important when trying new things to remember to not be scared- after all, everyone was once new and the people that know more are not likely to be smarter- they've just worked longer and accrued a greater accumulated advantage.
That's a tough concept to grasp, especially because as young adults, for the entirety of our lives we've passively watched the world run around us, led by adults who were seemingly organized and in control, adults who seemed to know exactly what was going on and exactly what they were doing. But because of that, even though now that we are (nearly) grown up, even though now that we are (young) adults, we feel like we aren't ready to join the organized and in control world. We feel like we aren't ready to pay the bills, sit in an office for 8 hours, and worry about taxes (what is a W-2 form anyways?) But the thing is, the world is not organized. The world is not run by adults who are in control 24/7. The world is chaotic, and run by people who often have no idea what the hell they are doing.
I am reminded of this lovely comic:
As a college student, you probably have no idea what an adult does, day to day. But remember, as a high school student, you probably also had no idea what a college student does day to day, as a middle school student about a high school student, and a lower school student about a middle school student, etc. etc. The transition between these stages are not soft- and they often happen without you noticing. One day, you still have no idea what you're doing, and the next day, you've figured something new out.
So I've learned to not worry so much, even though I still know very little- after all, knowledge is accrued through experience, opportunity, and luck.