When You're the Youngest Manager in the Office
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In May, I graduated college with two degrees. In June, I was awarded a freelance marketing contract worth tens of thousands. By July, I was the full-time head of marketing and communications for a company of 5,000—all before my 22nd birthday.
This all may sound like a #humblebrag, but my college career was jam-packed: my senior year consisted of three jobs, two internships, the lead role in a play, and an award-winning senior thesis. I walked the graduation stage with two degrees in my hand. And when I finally landed my corporate job in downtown Seattle, with a successful side business already brewing, there was an added element of intense responsibility I could never have expected.
Not only am I the youngest manager, I am the youngest person period. I still contend with—and now embrace—those “she’s so young” jokes (one of my now-closest work friends called me “‘90s” for my first two months). Daily, I learn something new about corporate culture, marketing or life.
Anyone will tell you the pressure they felt to prove themselves at their first job. But I have the interesting dilemma most recent grads didn’t: the entire online content and reputation of our company (as well as much of the public perception) is in my hands. There is literally no other PR, communications, or marketing employee. I call the shots of what we post on social, write in our blog, and what marketing tools we use to achieve metrics.
I have more responsibility and autonomy than I thought I’d have at age 30, and with that came the overwhelming idea that one misstep could be the loss of my job and potentially lost revenue for our company. And at a male-dominated company full of veterans and ex-cops, I feel even more reason to prove that a woman belongs at the table.
I report directly to our co-presidents. I have a work phone that sometimes buzzes at 9:00 pm (with the expectation I handle the request.) When we get a scathing Glassdoor review, when someone goes off on Twitter, I’m the sole employee responsible for smoothing over the situation.
When you’re just starting out, you want to make mistakes. It’s expected you’re going to. And while I definitely had some room to try new things (even if they didn’t fully succeed), starting in a position with such high stakes was terrifying (and is still terrifying at times.)
This situation would absolutely reek of Imposter Syndrome. I’m a skilled employee: I create good content, interact well with co-workers, have confidence in myself. But I have days (sometimes weeks) where I don’t know if I can handle it, not sure if I’m supposed to be there.
What if more senior employees hate me? What if they think I’m fulfilling the millennial stereotype? What if I can’t ask for a raise I deserve because I’ll be considered ungrateful and untenured? What do I really know anyway? What do I have to offer?
If you’re a woman, you already feel the pressure. If you’re a young woman, you feel it tenfold. And with every mistake or misstep, you feel like a failure—how could I let this happen?
So here is my battle cry for every 20-something woman out there who finds themselves in the (grateful) position I am: don’t doubt yourself for a second. You landed there. You worked hard. Someone saw serious potential in you. Whether your blog or Instagram post is taking off, you just landed a killer job, got that raise, or did anything that feels like a victory, relish it. Live in gratefulness and the opportunity that victory offers—then go conquer it.
This world is already too jam-packed with hard-working people who don’t feel like they deserve success. If you’re a young 20-something like me, let’s talk—drop me a line and we’ll figure this out work thing out… together.
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