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You’re not too small to swim in the big pond

Rachel Serwetz
Rachel Serwetz
March 7, 2016
You’re not too small to swim in the big pond

When it comes to careers, you might feel like a small fish in a big pond. This can mean one of two things: how small you feel compared to the big organization you work for, or the fear you may have to even enter a new space, given how large it may be. In either direction, this sentiment can be quite discouraging.

I am going to break this issue down into two core facets. I hope to enable you to break free from this sentiment; I hope you never feel this way again (though, naturally, you will, in which you should read this again).

1. You are only as good as you think you are.

If you think you are a big fish, you will be seen as one. This is a game of perception.

Self-perception → self-presentation (how you act / the confidence you portray) → others’ perception of you

This self-perception will dictate how you explain your past experiences, how you perform during your current ones, and how you see your future. It will impact what you say when someone asks you about your goals for the future and thus it will impact what goals you even see as possible for yourself.

Be realistic and be honest with yourself. If you think you may be downgrading yourself but are not sure, speak to a mentor, current/former boss, and peers/colleagues at work to gauge your current status. Don’t just listen to one person, though. One must not always accept all feedback at face value. But, if you are not a very self-aware person and must realize your own self-perception through external sources, then truly try to wrap the feedback you hear from multiple sources into one concrete picture of yourself.

Ideally you do not need to rely on other people’s perceptions of you to figure out who you are. Be introspective. Figure out where you stand and what your next career steps could look like. Often networking conversations can help you realize this very thing (e.g. as you’re having the conversation, you’ll be forced to come up with some answers to questions you may have not allowed yourself to ponder yet) and this will help you do some quality future state thinking.

2. It is a complete mind game.

In which you can psych yourself out into thinking you are altogether not worthy of even APPLYING for a certain job. This brings me to my second core issue: putting yourself out there.

One of the best quotes I’ve heard and have been saying a lot lately is: If you do not ask, the answer is no.

Putting yourself out there can mean various things, such as applying for a job, networking with different individuals (in and out of your company), connecting to multiple parts of your organization in your current job, and more.

Without networking, you’ll never know what’s out there.

Once you learn what’s out there and what you want to go for, I shouldn’t have to reiterate this but, if you don’t go for it, you will not get there!

It absolutely breaks my heart when there is a dream someone has (and even may flow logically from their past experience and they are qualified for this next step) but that they don’t even try for it.

You become capable of your potential only when you reach for it and are then granted the opportunity to enjoy that challenge. Reach, my dear friend, or risk forever staying a small, unknown, un-tasty, unimportant fish.

You’re not too small to swim in the big pond

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Rachel Serwetz’ early professional experience was at Goldman Sachs in Operations and at Bridgewater Associates in HR. From there, she was trained as a coach at NYU and became a certified coach through the International Coach Federation. After this, she worked in HR Research at Aon Hewitt and attained her Technology MBA at NYU Stern. Throughout her career, she has helped hundreds of professionals with career exploration and for the past 4.5+ years she has been building her company, WOKEN, which is an online career exploration platform to coach professionals through the process of clarifying their ideal job and career path. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Binghamton University and has served as a Career Coach through the Flatiron School, Columbia University, WeWork, and Project Activate.

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