Making Your Way as a Young Professional in a Male-Dominated Industry
Work + Life Balance

Making Your Way as a Young Professional in a Male-Dominated Industry

WORKING OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE DOESN'T HAVE TO BE A BAD THING. HERE'S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU EMBRACE BEING THE ODD WOMAN OUT.

About a year after graduating from Manhattan College, I was asked to join a new Kiwanis group chartering on Staten Island, All Island Kiwanis. At the time, I didn’t know much about Kiwanis except that it’s admired for its service projects within local communities and across the world. I was excited about the opportunity to join an esteemed organization but admittedly nervous.

I knew that while some women participate, Kiwanis is mostly comprised of men...and it’s definitely not an organization where it’s common to find 20-somethings at events. I was bound to stick out, but I wasn’t sure whether that would be a positive thing. Still, I felt the need to prove I could belong. I signed up.  

Fast forward two years and I can say with confidence that joining All Island Kiwanis was one of the best things I’ve done, not only for my career but also for personal growth. Joining an organization mostly  comprised of men in an older demographic felt like a risk, but it’s turned out to my advantage: I get to see how people with different perspectives approach our work and also bring my own unique viewpoint to projects.

Joining an organization mostly comprised of men felt like a risk, but it’s turned out to my advantage: I get to see how people with different perspectives approach our work and also bring my own unique viewpoint to projects. 

THE UNEXPECTED PERKS

As a young woman starting out, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from people who have been with the organization for over 20 years and who I never would have met on my own. In my current position I handle a lot of fundraising, and thanks to fellow members who run businesses, I’ve learned great techniques to use as I interact with potential and returning donors. Their advice, gleaned from years of experience, is invaluable. In return, I bring a fresh perspective on projects and offer ideas on how to get a younger audience involved.

Even though I’ve been out of school for three years, Kiwanis keeps me learning. Every meeting and event provides valuable lessons. It’s helped me build skills I couldn’t have learned at school or work, but most importantly, it’s made me a more confident person in general. As I started taking the lead on projects, I was building confidence without even realizing it. {Click to Tweet} I took on more responsibility where I could to demonstrate my abilities and keep learning. My hard work paid off: I was elected president of my Kiwanis group.

In a few short weeks, I start my one year term as President of All Island Kiwanis. If you told me three years ago that at 24 years old, I would be leading a Kiwanis group, I wouldn’t have believed you. I feel honored that my club trusts me in this important role, and I’m excited for the challenges and opportunities I’ll encounter this year. As the youngest President in my division, I’m looking forward to creating new projects and opportunities so that younger people, especially women, can get as excited as I am about being part of Kiwanis.

TAKING THE RISK

Although I didn’t join Kiwanis until after college graduation, you don’t have to wait until then to join a club. Do it as soon as you can. There are opportunities at every age to join service organizations. Witnessing the work they do is truly remarkable especially when you’re still finding your way. {Click to Tweet}  Plus, you’ll learn skills you can apply to jobs after college–a great way to build your resume while participating in rewarding volunteer work.

If I never took that chance and joined All Island Kiwanis, my career decisions might have been different and my personal growth would not have made as much progress as it has. A new graduate, I was unsure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go.  Now, I’m looking forward to being a leader in my community.

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Have you ever worked in an environment where you felt like the odd person out? How did you deal? Tell us your story in our comments.