Discovering Confidence

I walk in, dressed like Spring would if it had a job interview. I’m wearing a multi-coloured floral jumpsuit and my blazer is bright orange. My 6 inch pumps are wine red and my earrings are rainbow tassels.

As I dressed myself that morning in preparation for this moment, all caution flew out of the window. I distinctly remember my community college professor saying; “when you go for an interview, you must not wear bright colours. Dress professionally and don’t draw attention to yourself.” I followed that rule my entire life and for the few interviews I had before this moment, I only wore a combination of black and white, with boring stud earrings. Not my style. In retrospect, it’s no doubt that none of these interviews ever resulted in a job offer (not the serious ones at least). How could they have, when I wasn’t being my true self?

This time, I’m determined not to hide myself under the cloak of norms or standards. If I don’t get hired because of my fabulous orange blazer and colourful jumpsuit, then that will be that. I feel empowered and it radiates through my smile.

“Hi, my name is Tongwa”, I say, extending my hand as my future colleague walks up to me. We sit to wait for the boss, as he tells me about the recent move into the new Discovery office in Silver Spring. “We’re all still trying to figure everything out”, he says, “It’s been an interesting few weeks”. I nod in affirmation. Before long, we are all sitting in a room exchanging stories, and I’m nailing the best interview of my life!

A few days later, I get the call. “Hi Tongwa, we’d like to extend you the offer to come on as a Production Intern for the Science Channel this Summer”. To say I am elated would be a gross understatement.

“I used to bite my tongue because I believed no one wanted to hear what I had to say. I would hold back when I had an idea. That was a crippling feeling of self doubt that hindered my personal and professional growth. ” – Akanji

In the time that I’ve been here, my confidence has exponentially grown. Not only am I chasing every opportunity to make new connections with others, I am learning a lot and applying myself as I go. As I type this blog post, I’m sitting at a desk in our NYC office, because I asked. Getting crash courses on the different facets of Cable TV Network has been an interesting journey. I’m definitely overflowing with new knowledge.

Surprisingly, I have barely felt intimidated or out of place. It’s easy to feel those things when you work for a large corporation such as Discovery, and you’re just the inconsequential intern. Yet, I hold my head high when I walk the halls because I know I belong in a space as good as this, with people as talented, ambitious and driven as I am.

I have not always been bold. I used to bite my tongue because I believed no one wanted to hear what I had to say. I would hold back when I had an idea. That was a crippling feeling of self doubt that hindered my personal and professional growth.

Grad school (wisdom with age) has changed all that, and I remember the exact moment it happened. On the first day of class, someone spoke up during a conversation about being bold enough to fight for your own story. They said; “I live by this rule; I deserve to be in whatever room I walk into, and I have something good to contribute in that moment”. As simple as those words were, they made me realize that I’d perched my confidence on competence and other surface attributes. While that is true, it is not the foundation. True confidence comes from a deep belief in your relevance to the world.

Working at Discovery Inc. has been a time of self discovery. Fitting right? I’ve learned to use my own voice. I’ve learned to damn the what-ifs and the naysayers, and ask my question anyway. I’ve learned to take a moment to think about what I want to say, then say it even if it’s not exactly concisely framed. I’m learning to own a room, the same way I see the executives here doing; with self-assured confidence. I am learning to own my relevance in any room I walk into.

I don’t know where this opportunity will take me (cheers to the hope that it leads to some permanence). I know this though; whatever the case, I will land on my own two feet with a great deal more knowledge than I had before. For that, I’m forever grateful.

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