With International Women’s Day happening this week, I was prompted to reflect on the importance of having the right people around you in your career; those who lift you up to achieve more, who make challenges easier to overcome and fears easier to conquer.
Someone once made a passing statement about how I’ve been very lucky to have “fairy godmothers” (in the form of “powerful” people around me), watching over me and lending a hand along the way. Taken aback, I was initially rather infuriated with that statement. You mean to say that all I’ve achieved was a matter of “luck” and not grit and determination, that I was damsel in distress in need of saving?
Fast forward a year later, I’ve come to realise that both do not have to be mutually exclusive. Throughout my career at EY, and even beyond, now, never once have I fought my battles alone.
There was always the comrade-in-arms, down on the battlefront with you; the angel investor, who believed and was willing to invest their resources in you; and yes, the fairy godmother/father who would come wave their magic wand and magically send you to the Ball in a glittering gown. Even a perceived “competitor”, if you learn to identify how they complement your skills, can become your best ally.
One may argue that it is also possible to succeed alone; I guess, we all have our own definitions of what success looks like. But if I’ve learnt anything, it is that —
- tough times become memorable when you have people fighting with you,
- failures hurt less when you have people who believe in you, and
- small wins are a lot more meaningful when you have people celebrating with you.
My point is this — if you feel miserable, or afraid, or know of someone who feels miserable and afraid at work, reach out and make a connection. That connection can lead to another, and another… and soon you’ll find that you’ve built a community around you. And maybe, you’ll find yourself a little less miserable and a little more courageous to take on whatever comes your way.
At some point last year, I came across TED’s “5 types of mentors you need in your life”. Of course, 5 isn’t a magic number. There are similar proponents of such theories out there who suggest you need 4 or even 9 types of mentors. So, your community may look and sound very different from mine.
But these theories all carry the same message. Your career experience is largely driven by the community of people you build around you; people whom you can trust and will inspire you to grow and do better, not just in your career, but also, as a human being on a whole.