I have, for the better part of my career, thrived on being the "outsider" in my work environments. I came to appreciate that being seen as an outsider also gave me the space to not be a part of the company pack and to not be a company yes person. I have been quite successful at meeting goals, exceeding expectations and letting my work ethic speaker for itself.
Years ago, on the way to developing professional capacity and leadership, I re-branded the perception of being an outsider to that of an "objective" strength. Given the changing environment and the increasing negative strength of "outsider" it was time for an update. See below for an example of the changing power of the word.
Quick story: I interviewed for a volunteer position where I have enough experience to jump back in easily. Short story, I didn't get the position for a number of reasons. I knew trying to jump in this way would be challenging. Feedback: more participation would help (understood). Objectively, I can add that the industry is not one I have professionally worked in for a little over 10 years and I don't have an established network in said industry (although I do function around the space through other channels).
This post isn't about the merits of the decision. I will continue to engage because I truly enjoy the space. Today's post is solely based on the word "outsider" in this ever-changing environment.
Does the word "outsider," in today's professional environments, hinder our leadership ability to be inclusive of people and supportive of change? And by labeling someone an "outsider," do we really mean we want more people "like us"?
I first heard the word used during the interview which was led by three organizational leaders discussing my previous work. The second time I heard the word my usual personal pride did not spur me to rise to the challenge of proving myself, a challenge I usually enjoy. Don't get me wrong, I didn't stop trying but the youthful eagerness at acceptance was not part of my fight this time around. The rebelliousness of the word had waned as if a decision had already been made.
Immediately after disconnecting the first call, it crossed my mind that the perception of being an outsider was going to hurt my chances of being seen as capable. Then I heard the word used again during the scheduled 10-minute (rejection) call.
I am actually okay with not getting the position so no hard feelings. I have plenty on my plate to keep me busy. In a few days, I will reach back out to the team and share these thoughts with them in hopes of broadening inclusive awareness and efforts.
This round has been a reminder that I don't want to ever drink the kool-aid at the risk of losing sight of what is best for the organization. I follow and champion great leaders, productive ideas, excited energy and inclusive environments.
And I would like to support others when making change. If this is you, and I can help, let me know.
PSA note: when interviewing or discussing opportunities for engagement, please do not refer to applicants/discussants as "outsiders" because of chronological gaps in experience or because applicants have alternate but otherwise applicable/transferrable skill sets. Take on some of the responsibility of connecting.
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