From the Archives: The Mind of a “Young Professional” Feb 23, 2006

The following entry was written February 23, 2006 for Juice.  The talk of the growing number of young professionals in Des Moines became a trending topic back then.  I started to ask what is a “YP”, as we refer to it as.

Four years after writing this, the term “young professional” continues to evolve, with no real definition other than the range of age that society has labeled it as.

What is a “young professional”?

It’s amazing how Des Moines is has started to embrace the growing number of “young professionals” that has made the Golden Circle their home. Young professionals are looked at as “up and comers,” “the ones to watch,” and “the new leaders.”

There are several well-known organizations that are targeted to young professionals: Young Professionals Connection, Young Des Moines Social Club, Young Variety, to name a few. These organizations are phenomenal resources and places to go to network with other peers, as well as establish friendships.

Over the last few weeks, I have been battling a case of “Impostor Syndrome.” Impostor Syndrome is when, even with all the accomplishments, you feel like a “fraud.” Questions abound like “Was I lucky to get that job?” or “am I fooling everyone” become stuck in your head. You don’t feel that you don’t belong. Do I fit with in with everyone else or am I a fake? If no one likes me for some reason, then I feel like a loner. Thoughts of self-doubt creeps in like crude oil from Yemen.

Here is an example: I worked as an administrative assistant for an insurance brokerage agency. I did work in a professional setting for a professional business, but in my head, I don’t feel that I am a “professional.” I describe myself as a “crack” assistant who does most of the leg work. I don’t beg for adulation or a celebration for myself. I do my job and feel satisfied if I get the job done. A professional in my office is someone who works in marketing, underwriting, or is an executive.

What I perceive as a professional, I think of attorneys, teachers, real estate brokers, advertising, and executives. Places like Principal, Wells Fargo, Drake, and Knapp Properties also comes to mind. However, because I work in an administrative position, I don’t feel that I am a professional. I should be a ‘professional,’ but how do I get to be where they are at?

This is no way for me to think like that, and yet I do.

The “Impostor” in me has this perception: in order to be “considered” as a young professional, do I have:

-a high-profile job
-make over $35,000
-drive an upscale SUV
-own a condo/townhouse, or a house in the suburbs
-dating, engaged, married, or just playing the field

Bling Bling.

In contrast, I live a modest apartment, with no girlfriend, or significant other, and make a decent enough salary to get by to pay for the necessities and for medicine, for which I am a type 2 diabetic.

What defines a young professional in Des Moines?

Do you have to be involved in so many organizations that people will notice you as an emerging leader? Have the nicest things that life offers? Be in tune with the arts (music, paintings, and cultural events)? Is it necessary to wear the latest fashions, knows the recent trends and get into the best clubs? Do you or I need to have all of the professional connections to be a mover and a shaker in this town?

Is accomplishing all of this too much for me? Or should I do several of these things to feel that I’m doing something not only to help others, but to make me feel better about my place in life?

I do feel like an imposter at times. I go to social functions to network with my peers, attend and support the arts, volunteer in the community, so I can blend into the social fabric of the young professional community of Des Moines.

Internally, I admit I have a bad habit of putting myself down because I tend to compare myself to others. Please don’t compare yourself. It’s an unhealthy attitude. I am working on breaking this habit and learning how to be what I should be: myself.

“We like to be the strangers at the party, two rebels in a shell.” lyric from the song “Say It Isn’t So” by Hall and Oates

Do I consider myself as an young professional if I don’t live in the ‘burbs or a downtown loft, work downtown, or have a nice suit or go to Centro with my lovely girlfriend (I don’t have one for the record)? That’s a question I can only find within myself. I don’t think I’m an ‘impostor,’ but the self-doubt in my head is unwilling to let it go.

What would you describe as an young professional in Des Moines? What qualities does this person need to have? Are there a different faction (the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’) of young professionals in Des Moines that no one knows?

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