This blog was written by Helen Mun ’18, 2018-2019 Davidson Impact Fellow for the Georgia Justice Project.
As of November 2018, I am five months into my fellowship and seven months post-graduation, and I am still growing into the new world of professionalism. After riding many highs and lows in my role at Georgia Justice Project, I now find myself reflecting on how far I have come in my first professional job after graduating from Davidson.
Georgia Justice Project is a legal non-profit organization, and our building is divided into what we call “the legal side” and “the social services side.” My workspace is on the legal side, among the offices of all of our attorneys. Everyone is busy and stressed, which is characteristic of the legal profession and of the non-profit environment, as we try to serve as many indigent clients as we can with our limited time and resources. The office environment is also relatively fast-paced and can sometimes be chaotic as new issues arise or clients drop in unannounced.
My first few weeks were dedicated to learning about Georgia’s criminal justice system and laws, the client base that Georgia Justice Project serves, and the various positions and roles of our twenty or so staff members, which include lawyers and paralegals, social workers, development staff, and others. I spent my first few weeks reading reports, listening attentively in meetings, asking plenty of questions, managing multiple projects, making mistakes and learning from them. I often felt overwhelmed by the steep learning curve, but I made steady progress and received support from the people around me. In October, I asked my direct supervisor and Legal Director of the organization for a three-month evaluation and was pleasantly surprised to hear her glowing positive feedback.
The recognition of my efforts to learn quickly and the initiative I took in certain projects buoyed me, and that newfound confidence helped me to become more proactive and independent in my roles on the policy team and on the legal team. My supervisor began to entrust me with additional responsibilities, and although I was excited at the prospect of contributing more, self-doubt and feelings of imposter syndrome began to settle in. I questioned whether I was qualified, whether I belonged in this space, and began to overthink even the small, relatively inconsequential decisions that I made on a daily basis.
I recently spoke with a trusted mentor and friend of mine about my struggles to adjust into this professional sphere. She shared with me that, although she has been in the workforce for many years, she sometimes feels similarly and constantly reminds herself that she earned her seat at the table. At her encouragement, I reflected on all the personal and professional milestones I have accomplished and all the changes and challenges I have faced in 2018. It is a long list, but after remembering all of these things, I realized just how well I have been doing at a new job in an intensive and fast-paced environment. I am proud of how much I have learned and adapted in my new role, and I encourage all who are enduring similar challenges to celebrate your accomplishments, take your mistakes in stride as learning opportunities, and to sit at the table like you belong there.