You Don’t Need To Win An Award To Be A “Hall-of-Famer”

You Don’t Need To Win An Award To Be A “Hall-of-Famer”

Dan Marino and Charles Barkley are considered the best athletes in their respective sports, football and basketball. Both of them are hall-of-famers despite the fact that they didn’t win a NBA title or a Super Bowl.

There are critics who feel that Marino, Barkley, and others should not be in the hall of fame, because they didn’t win the “big one.” According to conventional wisdom, winning a championship validates your legacy and punches your ticket into the hall of fame.

As the case, many great athletes have been inducted into their hall of fames without ever winning a championship.

The greatest athletes are enshrined into a hall of fame.  Does this apply to regular people and regular life?
The greatest athletes are enshrined into a hall of fame.
Does this apply to regular people and regular life?

There is a sense in local young professional circles that if you haven’t receive an award for making a difference in your community, then your accomplishments have no value.

Last October, at a YP event, a facilitator gave a group an assignment to write their dreams and what goals they wanted to achieve individually. On a majority of “dream” lists, YPs listed a plethora of dreams, but the majority theme on their lists is being named to “important lists” such as the Business Record’s Forty Under 40 and Juice’s YP of the Year Award.

After the event, several of us YPs read what was written on each list. A few of us found it troubling to read that the “end all be all” dream of many is “winning an award”. The question we asked was whether an award, being named to a board, or being recognized as an “up and comer” should validate a young professional’s status in the Des Moines business community.

Juice and YPC will announce the 2014 winner of the YP of the Year award in early February.
Juice and YPC will announce the 2014 winner of the YP of the Year award in early February.

As someone who have won two awards for community service, there is an harsh truth about winning awards: it doesn’t always validate your status and presence in the eyes of the community.

It doesn’t raise your profile as much as you think it should. For some, it does, which is why many YPs feel that Forty Under 40, the Business Record’s yearly honor list of 40 individuals under 40 who are making great strides in Central Iowa, is such a big deal.

None of those distinctions have landed me a permanent (or better) job and a higher profile. I’ve gotten a pat on the head for being a great volunteer, but nothing else. In 2011, there wasn’t much fanfare

The “checkbox “ that YPs are using to measure each other in the area of life and career is disturbing. If we’re not obsessively networking, gathering up as mentors, and taking leadership classes, then we must be failing and not living up to the standards of “being successful”.

Have Gen Xers and Millennials fallen into the "checkbox mentality" of trying to be noticed and admired?
Have Gen Xers and Millennials fallen into the “checkbox mentality” of trying to be noticed and admired?

It’s the Gen X/Millennial version of the “rat race.”

Last July, Juice’s Josh Hafner asked “do YPs do more than network, find mentors, and learning about leadership?” It was a great question because he was seeing a trend that I didn’t notice. When I look back at my experience as a YP over the past decade, I have struggled more than I have achieved. I didn’t get that big promotion, lofty job title, or the things that everyone I know already has: family, house/condo, significant other, et cetera.

Hafner’s column resonated to me. Being a young professional should be more than networking for your career, being mentored by great leaders, and learning how to succeed as a leader.

You are starting to learn how to live life: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Not many YPs are going to have mentors. Either we can’t find the right mentor for the right fit, or a mentor may have no interest in mentoring you.

Many of us may be unable to sign up for leadership classes, if time permits us. There are leadership classes that will not be the best fit. Would it be better for me to take a Leadership Iowa class than GDMLI, because I’m interested in how leadership is done on a statewide basis, plus my interest level goes beyond what goes on here in Des Moines.

Despite those challenges, the list of finalists for the 2014 YP of the Year do not just sit on a bunch of boards, have a Rolodex of networks, have great jobs, and have mentors. Their interests include building houses for low-income families, encouraging women to run for elected office, raising money for children with serious illnesses, among other activities.

YPs understand that we have lives outside of the professional world and cultivating our individual lives is paramount for our sanity.

rat-race
Gen X and Millennials are now experiencing their own “rat race” to success.

I have accepted that I will never be named to the Forty Under 40 list. I’ve never had the career or job that I could advance up the ladder in and have it linked to the activities I have done or doing in the community.

There are too many factors going against me for this honor. I’m at peace with never getting it. That’s one less thing I have to worry about.

I never sought out to win the YPC Ashley Okland Community Service award or receive the Iowa Governor’s Volunteer award. It was never a goal. Individuals nominated me because they felt that a person who is dedicated to what they love and believed in should be honored.

I never bring those awards up to brag or remind people about. Nobody cares.

It’s 2015, not 2011.

It’s nice to have them, but how many people remember that I received them?

I volunteer and network because I enjoy staying busy and giving back in a small way. Personally, it takes my mind off of feeling lonely and dealing with my own personal battles (health, lack of work). If volunteering and connecting people make a difference in one person’s life, I consider that a victory.

YP of the Year Award finalists (from left) Josh Dryer, Andrea Woodard, LaVerne Greenfield, Megan Ruble, Brianne Sanchez, Emilee Richardson, and Tyler DeHaan, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, at the YPC 2015 Kick Off event at Jasper Winery in Des Moines. (Juice)
YP of the Year Award finalists (from left) Josh Dryer, Andrea Woodard, LaVerne Greenfield, Megan Ruble, Brianne Sanchez, Emilee Richardson, and Tyler DeHaan, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, at the YPC 2015 Kick Off event at Jasper Winery in Des Moines. (Juice)

In her blog “BS in the Midwest”, Brianne Sanchez wrote about being fortunate in living in a city that let’s her do her job, pursue her passions and hobbies, spend time with her family, friends, and colleagues. Also, she never feel stressed out to hit those “self-made benchmarks” that most of us YP’s have unconsciously set for ourselves.

“Whether or not I “win” the YP award in February, the fact the I get to go to work in a job I love and live in a community that lets me pursue and explore so many ideas (and embraces me when all I want is to hang out in my sweatpants), is a huge reward in itself.”

Is an athlete a Hall-of-Famer, if they never won a championship?  The answer is yes.

Is someone a “Hall-of-Famer” if they don’t receive an honor or award, based on their accomplishments?

That answer should always be “yes.”

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A Look Back: The Mind of a Young Professional

A Look Back: The Mind of a Young Professional
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Des Moines skyline at night.

NOTE: I’m introducing a series of old posts I wrote for Juice from 2006 until 2008. This post was written on February 23, 2006, during my first week blogging. The topic for this entry is about what is a young professional in Des Moines.

The uptick of young professionals in Des Moines started to become the “buzz” in 2006. Companies, business leaders, and others started to take notice of YPs, and YPs saw opportunities to have “a seat at the table” in the community. I wondered if I fit the prototype of a “young professional” and what exactly a YP is to symbolize? The definition of a YP has evolved significantly from 2006, as this post from 2012 examined.

The Mind of a Young Professional

It’s amazing how Des Moines is embracing 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 Variety, and Impact Downtown, to name a few. These organizations are phenomenal resources and places to go to network with other peers, as well as establish friendships.

However, in the back of my mind, I don’t feel that I am a “professional”, a “leader”.  I don’t work in a corner office, don’t have a mentor, or is looked at as a rising star. I don’t beg for adulation or a celebration for myself. I do my job and feel satisfied when the job is done. 

When I think of a young professional, I think of attorneys, teachers, real estate brokers, advertising, and executives. Places like Principal, CBRE, Drake, and Bankers Trust, also comes to mind. Since I work in an administrative assistant 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? Do those who work in blue-collar jobs considered to be young professionals? Artists? 

2014 candidates for Juice Young Professional of the Year. (From Left to Right) Sunni Swarbrick, Lincoln Dix, Liz Lidgett, and Gabe Glynn. Juice Editor Sarah Day Owen on the far right. (Juice)

What constitutes a young professional in Des Moines?

Do I have to be involved in so many organizations that people will notice me as an emerging leader? Do I have to live downtown? Should I be in tune with the arts (music, paintings, and cultural events)? Do 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 to handle? Or should I do several of these to feel that I’m doing something not only to help others, but to make me feel better about myself?

At times, I feel like an impostor. I go to social functions to network with my peers, attend and support the arts, volunteer in community projects, and as Cavan (Reagan Reichmann) noted I’m involved in the social fabric of the young sector of Des Moines. But, when I look around, it feels like it’s not enough. If I don’t stay in the public eye, I become irrelevant and of little value. 

Which begs the question: what value do I offer by networking, being involved in the community, doing good things? To build and enhance my profile so I can have the chance to move up in the world, or does it really matter?

That’s a question I can only find for myself. 

The Stranger At The Party

My Pandora radio has to have Hall and Oates in it. (Courtesy of Vivoscene.com)

“We like to be the strangers at the party, two rebels in a shell.”

Hall and Oates

We’ve all been there before.  The feeling of being the stranger at a party you were invited to, and yet don’t feel like you belong.  The feeling that you’re in the middle…of nowhere, when it comes to being accepted or welcomed in the social world.

There is a quote that Mary Bontrager at the Greater Des Moines Partnership always uses when it comes to networking;  “it’s not who you know, but who knows you.”

Boy is that true, especially for introverts.

Not too long ago, I attended a charity gala to support an acquaintance of mine and what her organization does.  I was getting over a flu bug which plugged up my ears to the point where I had to ask them repeat what they said louder.

Being the quiet observer that I am, I usually pick up on characterisitcs and behavior of people.  That’s what listeners and introverts do.  We pick our spots.

What I found may not be of interest to you, but I find it to be intriguing to me.

What I’ve noticed is a good number of social circles in Des Moines need to work on being more welcoming to people who are feeling out of place, and who could benefit from a smile, a handshake, and a some small talk at cocktail parties, galas, and other events.

I’m not going to lie.  I felt invisible at the gala.  It’s a deflating feeling when CEOs brush past you to say hello to your friend and ignore you, movers and shakers hanging out with their own kind, up-and-comers chatting it up, and you’re the one person that is trying to make inroads and connections, and coming up empty.

"Alone in a Crowd" by Hank Weber (Aurora Gallery of Vancouver, Washington)

I felt like a fish out of water…a cup of water.

Most introverts are not going to bum-rush a group and introduce themselves in order to get attention.  Nor are we going to do outrageous things to get eyeballs.  But it would be nice if the socialites, the VIPs, and the social circles of Des Moines do a better job of making outsiders feel comfortable, rather than pulling the “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” on them.

People love to be the life of the party, but many of them would prefer to feel welcomed and not be invisible.

Catching Up

Liz Lidgett...a rising star in the Des Moines community, and a valued friend. (Rodney White/Des Moines Register)

A few days ago, several friends were interviewed for a cover story about Millennials and the perception of their generation

They shot down the notion that their generation are selfish and disconnected.  I agree with them.  Maybe because we live here in Iowa, but I’ve seen more Millennials active in organizations, being creative, starting their own companies, and doing other things that I wouldn’t imagine nearly 15 years ago when I left campus life, Des Moines-bound, with a Bachelor’s Degree in tow.  

I’m a late bloomer. 

I was late to the young professional movement in Des Moines, late to the tech startup movement, pretty much late to anything.  I couldn’t help but to think to myself while sitting during the Business Record’s Forty Under 40 event on Tuesday, just how lost, or behind, this Generation X-er feels.  

I’m trying to catch up.

When you grow up in an environment where the script is “finish high school, don’t knock any girls up, go to college, get a job (any job), get married, have kids…”, it is drilled into you not to deviate from that list.  So, imagine how behind I was when I finally joined a young professional organization, elected to a non-profit board, and writing up agendas and minutes for another organization…at age 29. 

Today, at age 36, I feel somewhat conflicted…and missing in action.  Just as people are starting to see and take notice of what I’m doing in the community as an Xer, I feel that I started too late.  Generation X‘s time in the spotlight is dimming and Millennials are now the new superstars.  Don’t get me wrong, I received two community service awards last year.  I’m appreciative of both awards, but I don’t spend time doing the “glory days” circuit, reminding people of my past accomplishments. 

Millennials are trending and they are, rightfully so, receiving the attention.   

Mad Men opening montage. (Courtesy of TV Worth Watching)

The maddening part is that the more I try to catch up with the Joneses (Boomers and Millennials), the further behind I fall.  If I’m not creating a startup, working as an executive VP at a bank, or cajoling a business executive to have coffee with me and invite him or her to be my mentor, I’m falling from the sky, like the figure in the opening of “Mad Men.”  

I was taught to keep my mouth shut, figure it out yourself, and grind for everything.  Deconstructing that mindset has been the most difficult.  People tell you how great you are as an individual and volunteer, but internally you feel that there’s no one to throw you a life-preserver when you’re drowning inside. 

Especially when it comes to a career or work.  If you haven’t achieved something in the business or work world, then the perception is that no one will give you the time of day, unless you do something phenomenal or rise up the ladder. 

That lack of achievement and accomplishment in the business world is what might be holding me back from being fully accepted and welcomed in the business community, especially in Des Moines. 

This despite being a rockstar in community service. 

I don’t feel “washed up” at 36, but as someone who is between Millennials and Baby Boomers, being lost in the shuffle is pretty common.

I’m still catching up to get to that place.  If I finally get there, as a late bloomer, will anyone notice? 

Earn a Place at the Table

A few years ago, I overheard a statement someone said.  The person said that young professionals “want” a place at “the table.”  “The table” was probably referring to sitting next to very important/high level individuals like CEOs, business leaders, and elected leaders on boards and commissions.

If I win a major award, I want to win this! (“A Christmas Story” website)

I was struck by that statement.  I am from the old school philosophy that you have work and earn respect from leaders if you want to be considered as one.

ESPN’s Colin Cowherd echoed a similar opinion this morning on his show.  Some young professionals are under the impression that if they do or accomplish one big thing, they feel they deserve an award or to “have a seat at the table”.

It takes more than volunteering at a booth for two hours and not do anything else all year.  If young professionals, such as myself, want to be taken seriously and sit at “the table”, we have to earn it.

By working or contributing every day.

I haven’t received a “40 Under 40” Award, named Juice YP of the Year, or received a “major award.”  And yet, I volunteer to several organizations for a little over 5 years now. I know that I may never be nominated or acknowledged by the heavy hitters in this town.

And it’s okay.

I have to work hard to earn it.

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?

Lack of Empathy for the Unemployed from the Employed?

The Mighty and Proud Wall Street Journal
The Mighty and Proud Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal has been following unemployed professionals in their journey to gain employment or to pursue their own dreams.

Today’s column by Gregory Lynn struck me as compelling because it’s feel like my voice is saying what he writes.  Are the employed empathetic to the unemployed and the employed who in jeopardy of losing their jobs?  I think some are, but not too much, because they do not want to imagine themselves out of the job.  It’s a natural fear.

I attend networking stuff a lot because I’m interested to learn more about people and their careers they have.  I’ve never had a career.  The career I had was one that I was never comfortable in.  As a result, I feel that I’m stereotyped in that career and my chances to explore a new career is severely limited. To add, I always get the vibe that we, as Young Professionals, don’t know how to relate and offer support.

We don't have bread lines like we did during the Great Depression, but the sentiment and the fear of being on the unemployment line still looms.

For Young Professionals, the zeal to shoot up the “ladder” is  good, but do we really help each other when one of us falls and has to pick up the pieces of what we lost?  Our jobs or careers is our identity.  They help others know who we are.  That philosophy is changing at a rapid growth and many of us are trying to catch up, but falling back every minute.

Here is Lynn’s column, as he expresses is concern that employed people do not show empathy or understand what unemployed people are going through.