Without tooting my own horn here, I look slightly younger than my age.
This is mainly due to a combination of my ridiculously tiny body, the fact that I wear braces, and of course my overall juvenile behaviour.
As a result, it is not unusual for people to think I’m less experienced or knowledgeable than I actually am. Sure, it’s nice to be asked for ID when you buy a beer, and we can all pretend I don’t have almost two decades worth of beer guzzling experience. It makes me feel less disgusting.
But because they think that, I think that too. This is especially true professionally speaking. Not too long ago, I walked into a financial consultancy where two men in suits greeted me. They had a visibly puzzled look when “Zozan” from those emails turned out to be a tiny female in a floral dress. They kept checking the empty corridor behind me, perhaps waiting for my dad to show up and do the talking for me.
Those sorts of reactions immediately make me feel out of place and unqualified to be there. Although I was confident walking in, I quickly found myself regretting it. While they explained stock options, I thought to myself: You shouldn’t be here. Getting financial advice. You should be eating caramel popcorn at a fun fair and go ride a unicorn.
Last week I found myself in a training exercise on my first day at a new job, and I was paired up with Grumpy Lady. She was visibly older than me – I’m going to say she was approaching 60. She was clearly disappointed that she had to work with me. As mentioned previously, I tend to adopt juvenile behaviour, so I decided to make matters worse and told her it was my first day.
Instead of focusing on the exercise, she bitchily interrogated me on my work experience. I slowly started to feel inadequate again, imagining unicorns coming to my rescue, until I realised I don’t really have to take it.
Grumpy Lady: Have you worked in PR?
Me: Yes, but I didn’t like it. I guess I’m just not the corporate kind.
Grumpy Lady: Maybe you need to work in a different corporation.
Me: I have worked in different corporations.
Grumpy Lady: Maybe not long enough.
Me: I’ve worked in corporations for 7 years, in 4 different corporations, in 2 different countries, I believe I know.
Grumpy Lady: Oh. Sorry, you look very young.
Me: I am young, but I’ve been working since I was 19.
BAM! Then she finally launched into friendly banter.
I felt proud for having stood my ground. It shouldn’t take a stranger to tell me what I know and what I can do.
But then again, it’s nice when it does happen. Later that day, the company newsletter went around, introducing me to the team:
– Zozan Balci is teaching Public Relations in the Diploma of Communication in Semester 3. She has experience in public relations, corporate communications and media relations and as a freelance journalist (news and consumer). Zozan is also conducting doctoral research for the School of Communications at UTS in the area of socio-linguistics and is also a trained ESL teacher.