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5 Steps I’m Glad I Took To Empower Myself As A Young Professional

Written by: Christelle Soto-Suarez, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Do you ever look back at the early stage of your professional life, and think about the “things” you should have done, about the things you could have done better, or earlier? Well, I do… and I’m looking forward to writing a couple of articles on these topics which, I hope, will empower (even if only a little) young professionals to consider these actions and to see how they can adapt them to their own situation – and I’m especially thinking of young women at the beginning of a career in STEM/construction…

silhouette of a thinking woman showing the brain

But before looking at the “should have” and “could have”, I want to look at the “I’m glad I did” these “things” because they helped me, supported me, empowered me along my professional (and personal) journey!


First, what brought me to do these “things”?


The main reason that pushed me was the “wanting” to design, build and lead MY life based onwho I wasand who I wanted to be”, as far as possible…


Of course, “who I was” and “who I wanted to be” evolved with time… but the “wanting to design, build and lead MY life” has always been, and still is, present!


What about the “as far as possible”? Well, we all have to deal with circumstances – but each of us deals with them in different ways. While one circumstance is easily overcome by one person, it can be an unsurmountable obstacle for someone else, or it may not be worth dealing with for another person…


Next, how did I do these “things”?


I’m not talking about the actual doing… I’m talking about the “mental state” I went through before and during the doing…


I’m probably not the only one… But I often feel conflicted between what I need to do to become who I want to be… and enjoying a peaceful, smooth and comfortable life… I called this my “internal contradiction”…


And my “internal contradiction” voices have recurrent, lengthy, argued conversations in my head… The decisive factor, for me, is the weight of “what I want” against the impact of the actions necessary to get this "what I want" in my life…

  • What am I ready to do, or not?

  • What am I prepared to lose, to say “no” to?

  • Am I willing to be uncomfortable?

Sometimes the answer is “yes, I am”, sometimes the answer is “no, I’m not” or “no, not yet”…


Just having these conversations is uncomfortable, exhausting, sometimes stressful… but I always go back to “how much do I want this?”…


Finally, what do I get out of doing these "things"?


When the “thing” goes relatively well – that is, not putting me in a too uncomfortable situation – and the result is quite close to “what I wanted”, I get satisfaction, fulfillment, a great experience to build on, a pleasant adventure, happiness… I get to progress in designing, building, and leading MY life…


However, the “thing” doesn’t always go smoothly… There are often unexpected circumstances, challenges, obstacles that appear along the way… I believe it’s called “Life”!


If the result is still quite close to “what I wanted”, then, it was worth it: I may have had some very low and difficult moments, some that I would prefer not to encounter again, but at least I still get to progress in designing, building and leading MY life…


It’s another story when the result is not at all “what I wanted”… Of course, there’s a lot of pain, regrets, remorse… but, as we say in coaching, those are the moments when we learn the most about ourselves, about how to do something, about how things work… It’s just that it can take a long time before seeing the “learning” from the experience…


And now, let’s look at these “things” I’m glad I did…


Moving away from home for formal education, further and further away…


For me, education was always the main pillar to having a different life from my parents (although there is nothing wrong with their life!)… but I was living in the countryside... So, to get the formal education I wanted, I ended up:

  • Going to boarding school at 15;

  • Going to college in a “big city” a couple of hours away at 18; and

  • Jumping on the opportunity to continue my studies in the UK.

These experiences were a great introduction to “adult life”, step by step rather than everything at once… but it would have been “easier” to stick to mainstream education and avoid boarding school, to look at what higher education was available in the nearby town…


Not waiting for someone to “discover” me


… Especially if you and your family don’t know anyone who could open doors for you or who looks like you, and don’t have the finances to sustain a “wait and see” approach.


Instead, practice keeping your eyes open for opportunities – for me, this included:

  • The opportunity to study in the UK, thanks to some kind of partnership between my college in France and British universities, and additional financial support from the local government – this was the door to a potential international career!

  • Taking my first proper job with a company doing fiber optic networks (a novelty at the time), which I knew nothing about – but was allowing me to be involved in a project at the negotiation stage, with new technology, in a great city (Paris!), in a bilingual environment!

  • Noticing that parts of the work I was doing, and really enjoyed, were actually “specialties” one could specialize in, become experts, often getting a better salary. For example, I went from project management (quite broad) to specializing in delay analysis and then in contract and claim management.

Realizing that I had to create my own network


It’s relatively easy to move into an existing group (network) if you change "who you are" to “fit in”… But what are the consequences for you if you end up changing a lot of "who you are"?


Circumstances taught me this lesson quite early on: I realized that I wasn’t prepared to change too much of “who I was” to “fit in”… and I also realized that I liked to be with people different from me.


Thankfully, both my education and early professional journeys allowed me to meet people from all over the place… but it also meant that I often was one of the few, if not the only one: as a woman in construction, as a French person in a multicultural team, as a non-native English speaker…


Of course, I had to integrate enough to be part of the team… But that environment also “forced” me to create my own diverse “bubble” of closer connections, in part because there were no existing obvious groups for me to join, and also because there was so much diversity that groups were created based on connections between people rather than similarities...


Exploring and experimenting


This sounds exciting at first, but then comes the anxiety… of doing something without knowing how it would end… But this is such a great way to learn about ourselves, about what's possible, as well as building up a professional profile that is different from others in your line of work! For example:

  • Saying “Yes” to an opportunity to work in an industry I didn’t know (like fiber optic networks) or in an unusual place (spending 1 year on a construction site in Gibraltar);

  • Packing up everything, moving to another country, learning the language, and looking for a job there;

  • Taking the time to listen to the experiences of people around me – even if I thought their stories were from another time!

Understanding what I wanted from my career


I always had a good idea of what I wanted in priority: a good salary of course, doing work that I generally like, having multiple experiences rather than aiming at one of the most senior positions in one field, international experiences, being in a multicultural environment…


However, my life did not start like that… Like many others, I had no connections and few financial resources, I wasn’t at the top of my class… and I struggled with learning languages at school…


But having a good idea of what I wanted (even if the idea was not fully defined) made it easier for me to see opportunities and to do my best to catch them – like:

  • Pursuing my studies in another country, although I didn’t speak much of the language;

  • Learning another language because it reinforced my ability to work internationally;

  • Improving my understanding of “specialties” I discovered through work, and getting a new job thanks to this;

  • Accepting a job offer because of the experience it would bring rather than the salary.

What about you?


I’m curious… If you’re at the beginning of your professional life:

  • How well do you know “who you are”?

  • How well do you know “who you want to be” – say in the next few years

  • What are you prepared to do to get to “who you want to be”?

  • What ideas of “things” you could do came up in your mind when reading this article?

And a final note: remember that we learn a lot through experience, even if only one small step at a time!


Final words


Interested in knowing more about my 5-step process to “Empowering Yourself to Create the Life and Career You Want”? Book a free 45-minute Empower Yourself Discovery Call!


Simply curious? Then check out Pistachio-Cassis Coaching website!


Subscribe to my Pistachio-Cassis Newsletter for monthly insights on Empowering Yourself to Create the Life and Career You Want.


Follow me on LinkedIn for inspiration, motivation, and education about how to empower yourself. And please, reach out to me via LinkedIn or email to let me know you’ve read my article. I’d love to hear from you if you have any feedback, suggestions, or anything else you want to tell me! Visit my website for more info!


 

Christelle Soto-Suarez, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Christelle Soto-Suarez is a Personal Leadership & Development Coach who empowers Women in STEM / Construction to create the Life and Career they want, and is the founder of Pistachio-Cassis Coaching. She’s a certified professional coach and a member of the International Coaching Federation.


However, coaching is her 2nd career. Previously, she spent 25 years as a construction professional, working on a wide range of construction and engineering projects and in different roles. She worked and lived in several countries, experienced working in multicultural teams, and speaks 3 languages.


But however fulfilling and challenging these experiences were, the time came when she realized that she actually felt unhappy, unfulfilled, unsatisfied with where she was in her life…


Through her own exploration journey to discover how to create the life and career she wanted for herself, Christelle realized she was actually following a life coaching process… That fascinated her so much that she trained as a professional life coach and she set up her own coaching practice to empower others to also create the life and career they want.


Outside of coaching, Christelle loves expanding her horizons through reading, conversing with people with different backgrounds and experiences, and relaxing in nature.


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