On March 3, 2018 we hosted our first ever Powering Our Future Event at Oxford (Shout out to Jesus College who supported us).
These are the 5 lessons that we took away from the event.
#1 Step out of your comfort zone
There is a common myth that you either have confidence or you don’t
– Alexandra Galviz
We invited Alexandra to host a confidence building workshop at our Powering Our Future inaugural event. At 24, Alex has achieved a lot. She has created an extraordinary personal brand. She has set up a movement. She is now setting up a business. She’s an amazing professional coach, mentor and all around business woman. But, as Alex reminded us, while it is easy to sum up a person in their achievements, their social media profiles and their CVs, the reality is very different. Alex used to be the shy girl in the corner of the room. She showed us a video of her on the verge of tears during a public speaking exercise two years ago. Now, she gives talks to rooms filled with hundreds of people on a regular basis. In a short space of time, she turned herself around.
How did she do this? She made herself step out of her comfort zone, among other things.
Confidence is not something you are born with; it is something you have to work for. Alex forced herself to take part in events that would challenge her, continually reminding herself of her goals along the way. By doing this, she gradually became more and more comfortable in situations where she previously felt intimidated.
(Ladies hard at work writing down their goals and fears)
Confidence, like fitness levels or instrument skills is something you have to practice. You cannot expect to pick up the violin and immediately start playing Bach. The more you energy and focus you place on developing these skills, the faster you will show improvements.
We go to the gym to work out our bodies. We go to school to work out our brains. But, given society’s huge desire to compartmentalise people, we rarely stop to think what we can actually do to work on our feelings towards ourselves and how we project those feelings.
#2 Show up
Don’t just ask for support from your network, you need to also be an active supporter in the great things your network is doing. Supporting events, blogs, initiatives of others is just as useful and fulfilling as being supported
– Jamilla Ekedi-Tanenang
We hosted a panel discussion in the afternoon, with 10+ panelists ranging in age, experience and industry – publishing, law, management consulting, you name it. One thing that kept coming up is the importance of showing up.
On a really basic level – the event happened to be scheduled during one of the freak snow days at the beginning of March. Despite several trains being cancelled / delayed, every single one of our speakers showed up to the event. These are all women who we know personally and invited in, only being able to cover their travel expenses.
But every one of our speakers also left richer. They joined a community, they had a platform on which to share their own experiences and learn from the experiences not only of each other but of the audience. And they could give back.
If you take one thing away from this post, take this: showing up is just as important as asking other people to show up for you. Especially in a world that seems to love pitting women against each other, we need to remember that there is space for everyone. The more we support each other, the closer we will all get to achieving our goals.
And yes – karma works: positive energy is usually reciprocated.
(As a side note, thank you so much to EVERYONE who showed up for us on the day, from the panelists, to the brave sixth form girls, to the volunteers who shared their experiences of Oxford, and to Jesus and Brasenose who supported us to make this event happen.)
#3 – Be resourceful
(Becky Warke chatting to one of the girls)
For some, opportunities are handed on a plate. They have fathers, uncles, family friends who work a certain industry or went to a certain university and that’s how they land the most highly sought after roles. Once you land one great internship, you’re on the ladder. But how do you get that one great internship if you have no connections and also limited financial resources?
One of our panelists, Becky Warke, grew up in a small town in Ireland. When she decided she wanted to be a lawyer, she realised this was one of those worlds in which who you know becomes excruciatingly important. While all her privileged London friends were landing internships, she was stuck doing ordinary summer jobs, wondering how she would ever get on that ladder.
Now she is a Trainee Solicitor at a top City Firm. How did she do this? Through thinking outside the box.
Becky researched and researched and researched, and what she realised was that while internships are hard to come by, court hearings are free and open to all. Very few law students actually take the time to go and witness actual barristers in action. She started going to as many hearings as she could, taking notes, increasing her breadth of knowledge and developing her love of law.
So BE RESOURCEFUL. We can always make excuses for not being able to do certain things. But instead of waiting for the world to change around you, try and see what you can do right now. Go to free public lectures. Go to events. Find interesting opportunities, like Becky did. Read and research as much as you can. And remember, that all of your hustling will end up putting you in a better position than those who’ve been handed everything on a plate. Because hand holding can only get you so far.
#4 – Haters gonna hate
In our generation, it’s so easy to be distracted & put off by other people. We learn to base our self-esteem on how others perceive you – not the small circle of people who genuinely have your best interests at heart, but the hundreds of random acquaintances, who will devote precisely 5 seconds of their day thinking about you.
Ria Ranadive, a first year English student at Jesus College, who joined our panel, is originally from Singapore and went to boarding school in India. She was one of the first people in her school to apply for a subject like English, and when she made that decision, everyone (and, of course, the boys in particular) made fun of her for it. They reinforced the taboos around humanities – branding her passion as ‘soft’ and laughing about how she won’t ever get a job. When she decided to apply to Oxford, they continued to laugh. Who was she to think she could get into a place like that? And even once she got an offer, Ria wasn’t given the space to celebrate. Instead, she grew more and more confused. She was proud of herself and knew what she wanted to do but everyone around her seemed to judge her for these choices.
What made her take the risk, was the realisation that it wasn’t EVERYONE judging her – just all the irrelevant people in the background. As much as people may disapprove of your life choices, they really don’t matter because they won’t be the ones making those choices. When you’re studying for several hours a day, for three, four, five, or six years, here’s the thing, no-one else will be able to study for you. So if you take a subject that you think people want you to take, rather than what you want to take, you will be the one to suffer.
Do what you want to do. Not blindly, of course. By all means ask yourself questions about employability. Employability does matter. Where you study does matter. But what really does not matter – is playground gossip & the opinions of your 546th friend on Facebook.
# 5 – Don’t give up
This last tip comes from India Hill, another one of our panelists, who works in the publishing industry:
“As young women with ambition it can be frustrating to meet with the rejection of our ideas. We want our voices to be heard. Working as a graphic designer taught me to be patient and to not be too wedded to any single idea as the process of designing something can take you through countless different versions of a design. Flexibility is a huge asset and is often more important than having one specific idea that you refuse to let go. If someone doesn’t like your suggestion, then repackage it and try again.
Perseverance and playing the long game is another useful tactic. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t only try again, but step out in a manner that no one expects. If you’re passionate about making changes then shout about it.
I’m passionate about creating a reading experience that’s inclusive for everyone and when I saw that this didn’t translate into the illustrations and images in our books I decided to say something. When my idea to reform company guidelines provided to designers and illustrators wasn’t initially acted on at a managerial level, I took it to our company’s diversity network and am now working with senior members of staff to change company-wide regulations. Have confidence in your own ideas and also never be afraid to speak to someone because they hold a position higher up than you.”
We really hope this was useful. We were so happy with our first #PoweringOurFuture event, and please stay tuned for more to come. Get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any requests for events you want to see.