How to Deal with Being the Smartest One in the Office

How to Deal with Being the Smartest One in the Office

By: Taylor Wagner
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“What?!” you must be thinking, “who the heck does she think she is?”

Don’t worry – I don’t actually believe I’m the smartest one in my office; far from it in fact. But, it was an inside joke during my time working in SFU’s Career and Volunteer Services that lead me to understand the type of workplace culture that suited me best.

Growing up, I often heard my mother begrudgingly tell anyone who complimented me not to let it “go to her head”. You see, I have an abundance of (often misplaced) confidence that sarcastically makes its way into my conversations. I was a self-assured kid who turned into a self-assured adult. Screw me, right?

Well, during my co-op term at Career and Volunteer Services my coworkers caught on to my antics pretty quick and found great joy in knocking me down a few pegs. We shared great banter that created a fun work environment, ultimately making me more productive. Being surrounded with people my age who shared my drive, skills, and sense of humour motivated me to do my best work.

This is my second co-op term; the first one was at a custom software development company downtown. There, I was the first Marketing and Communications person they had ever had. This meant that I was surrounded by computer scientists and engineers – a collection of amazing people, but far from the kind I was accustomed to. To make things worse, I was pretty much the only person under 40, which widened this social gap extensively.

We did have a lot of social events, such as Friday night roof drinking and birthday lunch excursions, and I got along well with my coworkers. In spite of this, I always felt disconnected and out of place. I was completing my work well and on time, and I was supported quite well – but I felt isolated and eventually unmotivated.

And yes, I understand that the workplace is not made for socializing and you don’t have to work with your friends. However, an important part of career exploration is finding a work environment that makes you feel at home and drives you to be better, whether that’s in the work you produce or who you hope to become. By trying out such contrasting workplace environments I was able to learn how workplace culture can make a large impact on your overall happiness. I was doing the same tasks at each of these co-op positions, but they were oh so different in the end.

My advice to you is to take advantage of co-op and try out as many different work environments and cultures as you can. It’s amazing how different the vibe of a small start-up, a university, and a large corporation can be, and you’ll only know what works best for you once you try it out!

If you’re still confused or just don’t know where to start, drop by Career and Volunteer Services and book a career exploration appointment. I might be a little biased but, the staff here (myself included) are pretty great.

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Posted on February 08, 2018