This was the first PWN (Professional Women’s Network) event I had attended so I had no idea what to expect as I walked through the doors of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP. So I was pleasantly surprised when I was welcomed with an array of delicious food platters (Vietnamese rolls, charcuterie meats, cheeses and dips) and not just one red and one white, but a choice of various wines to wash it all down. In fact, it felt more like the kind of girls catch up where everyone brings a bottle of wine and a plate of snacks and you try a little bit of everything while plotting to change the world! Or at least to change our own world, which is exactly what guest speaker Alice Chen promised as she spoke to the room full of friendly, eager and well educated women all looking for a way to bring our dreams and goals to life. ‘A series of exercises,’ she told us all, was all it would take.
Her methodology, which Alice herself still exercises every year or so, started with one simple, but often difficult, step:
Detaching from your current life, but still maintain a sense of the skills you have in that life. By doing this, you also detach from the constraints of your current career path and wind up with a blank canvas full of possibility, leaving you free to ask, ‘How can my skills transfer to a new career path?’.
So, how will you know what the right career path is for you?
This is where the exercises came in, and Alice asked us all to write down, where we have been, and where we want to go. Creating these lists helped to kick-start our brains into thinking about what we are good at and how it can be applied to a dream career.
The next step, is finding out the key to it all: Your Element. The thing that makes you come alive with passion and joy. To find this, you need to take a closer look at yourself by thinking about and writing down the following:
- Five things that you are really good at, and another five things you love to do, talk or think about,
- Your values – How you actually allocate your time, energy and resources,
- And what does the world/ market need? Alice also suggests taking into account any geographical advantages to where you currently live or want to live.
For me, just the process of thinking this way about myself and my skills set made me realise more clearly where I want my career to go and what my dream job would be (Event Planner for Luxury Brands – you know, in case you know someone, who knows someone…) and many women in the room seemed to feel the same. But… how do we get there?
We all turned to our fearless leader, Alice, who of course had the answers.
Find your differentiation of branding. If you are looking to start a business, research three competitors and find out what they do, and do it in a fresh unique way that can’t be duplicated. If you are looking to change careers, have enough conviction in your unique skill set to be able to convince an employer that there is no one else for the job.
Build a ‘team’ and nurture those relationships. Whether this be a team of employees or a network of people in the industry you want to break into. Relationships are key to success in a world that is becoming more and more about ‘who you know’ not ‘what you know’.
But the biggest lesson of the inspiring evening? Mindset trumps skills and relationships. Meaning that no matter how many connections you have, or how rich your qualifications, if you don’t have the confidence that you can do the job and succeed, you will always fall short of your goals.