In early February, members of the National Millennial and Gen Z Community met in Los Angeles to meet with executives at multiple companies. NMC/GenZ includes representatives from universities in nearly every state and a few international universities. It was the first trip that I attended with NMC/GenZ, so you could say I was a little nervous.
Saying I was nervous would be an understatement. In the days leading up to the trip, I found myself faced with imposter syndrome. If you're not familiar with the term, the Oxford Dictionary defines it as “the persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's efforts or skills.” I didn’t think I had any reason to be attending this trip because I felt I wasn’t qualified enough. I thought I wouldn’t contribute anything meaningful to the conversation and I was worried about being an outsider.
I put myself through all that anxiousness for what? An experience I’ll never forget and some of the best friends I’ve ever made.
I wasn’t alone in experiencing imposter syndrome, feeling underqualified, and worrying about being an outsider. Everyone I came to know experienced at least one of those worries too. Throughout the trip, I learned that other people saw value in me that I didn’t see in myself. My fellow NMC/GenZ members saw me as an equal who contributed meaningful points to the conversation. At the end of this trip, I realized the value my voice had in this setting.
The more I learned about those around me, the more I learned about myself. In our first few meetings, I stayed quiet because I didn’t think my opinion mattered to the business executives. The more others spoke up, the more I realized that their views mirrored mine or differed from mine - but they weren’t afraid to speak their mind.
You see, companies don’t want to meet with us to hear the same information they can find in their research reports. Everyone brought a unique perspective to the conversation based on their experiences. I realized that for companies to understand how people like me think, I had to speak up. Through these meetings, I found that when I offered my opinion, people would agree with it, or the conversation deepened to a topic we hadn’t discussed. This is when it finally clicked with me that I deserved my place at the table.
But, I also owed that place to someone very important to NMC/GenZ: Mr. Bill Imada. You see, Bill wants to help people. By starting this community, he has helped hundreds of students, and I’m sure he’ll help hundreds, if not thousands, more. He answers all of our questions, helps us connect with industry contacts, and is always there when we send late-night emails. Before leaving for Los Angeles, I didn’t think I deserved a spot at the table. Bill did. He saw something of value within me that not only decided I deserved a place in the community he built but also that I deserved to meet with contacts he’s spent a career building. Not many business executives would do that for a group of college students. Bill sees the value in all of us. He sees the value that we bring to the table through our voices and opinions. If he can see it in us, then why do we have trouble seeing it in ourselves?
As Millennials and GenZers - we’re too hard on ourselves. We always expect more from ourselves. We’re our harshest critics. The value we see in ourselves can get lost when we get too caught up in everything we’re not accomplishing, and others are. We measure our worth by comparing it to someone else, and we really should stop doing that.
I’m probably not qualified to give life advice seeing as I’m only 22 but hear me out. Anytime something good happens, or you’ve accomplished something - write it down. Now, whenever you’ve lost sight of your value, look back at that list and see how much you bring to the table.