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Learning to Acknowledge Your Professional Worth

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Northwestern chapter.

Entering the workforce for the first time can be daunting and unfamiliar. Among learning the actual skills and daily expectations of a given role, working at any new job for the first time ultimately leads to a period of transition and learning regarding social expectations and the cultural environment of the workplace. It can also teach you a lot about yourself, including the best way to present yourself and communicate with others so that you are treated with the highest regard of respect that you deserve, no matter the position.

The first step in ensuring that your coworkers, superiors, clients, or any others you interact with in your work environment respect you, is finding ways to practice self-respect and self-worth development. You should be contributing your best work, but you want to be careful of two things that could happen: people could take advantage of your strong work ethic by unfairly raising expectations and work load, or they could continuously brush off your contributions without taking the time to realize their actual worth. In an ideal world, neither of these things would happen, but here are a few steps that can help resolve as well as a few preventative measures to ensure that you are properly valued as a member of your work team.

1. Learn to say no

Too often, people who go above and beyond in their work ethic and daily accomplishments become the “go-to” for extra work, simply because they have developed a reputation for accomplishing things efficiently and with quality. Don’t get me wrong – this is a great reputation to have! However, if people begin to take advantage of your skills by overloading you with things that extend outside of your typical responsibilities, it is important to take a step back and realize that it is okay to say no, as well as the specific circumstances in which you should do so. For example, if anyone (a peer, a superior, anyone) asks for your help with something that is outside of your scope of work and is more of a favor to them, always know that while it’s great if you can help, you are not required to. Think about whether you have the time or capabilities to help that person, and if not, consider turning them down respectfully and gently using something along the lines of:

“I am not able to help you at this time, but perhaps you can try (insert resource or person).”

“I am busy the rest of this week, but if you’re able to wait on this project we can schedule a meeting for next week.”

Explaining your reasoning for being unable to help will ensure that your coworker understands you are busy, and are not simply turning them down because you don’t feel like helping them.

2. Proactively seek assignments

On the opposite spectrum, it’s also great to seek out extra work when you have the time. Especially when a job first begins, there can often be downtime while you are waiting for assignments to come in from a coworker, superior, or client – during this downtime, it can be a great time to take a trip around the office to see if there are other things you can help with. This will help to make an impression on your coworkers that you are a reliable, hardworking source that they can come to for help (when you have the time, of course). It can also be a great way to get yourself on the top of the list for any upcoming promotions.

3. Treat everything as though it is the most important thing

Some projects seem small and insignificant, but it’s still important to treat them like they are as important as the bigger and more exciting projects. Putting in a strong effort into everything you do will eventually become a habit, and will make you a better worker in the long run and someone that others always know they can rely on.

4. Offer support to your team members, but also learn when to step back

Everything in life, including in the workplace, is about finding a proper balance. So, on the flipside of seeking out extra work, also know when to step back and let your coworkers shine. Sometimes, important projects happen in the office that your position simply isn’t needed for – and that’s fine! Make your mark on the projects you can, but also understand when it’s proper to take a step back and let others have their moment. Supporting each other is an important aspect to a pleasant, healthy work environment.

Images Courtesy of GIPHY

Katrina Hicks

Northwestern '19