I remember feeling a tinge of envy whenever a peer spoke about their professional aspirations. I thought to myself, ‘how wonderful would it be to be able to have a career goal, a calling, a passion?’ To me, it seemed that having a goal would make life much more purposeful, and truthfully, to help me not get ‘left behind’.
After graduating from university, I went through a year of unemployment and didn’t have any idea on what to do next. I felt like I had lost my balance and was abruptly transported from a world where I learned to thrive on formal education’s structure to one where I needed to learn to thrive by designing my own roadmap. It felt even more challenging seeing my peers’ careers take off. All the while, I was struggling to overcome my lack of faith in my own ability to obtain a paid position, while still intent on figuring out my career direction. The fear kept building within me and I felt increasingly anxious and confused. I had to actively question whether I was drawn to a certain pursuit for the right reasons or whether those reasons were unhealthy for me.
During this time, I was exposed to people (both in everyday life and through articles and books) who revealed to me new possibilities and perspectives beyond my own. One organization I worked at served internationally trained professionals trying to figure out how to rebuild their professional life in Canada. I witnessed a senior role taken on by two different people – at different points in time – who approached it in completely different ways. I was inspired by a young woman who started working on the front lines at a fast food chain who found ways to continually improve her own work, eventually overseeing the work of several restaurants and training dozens of managers and employees in successive years. It was humbling to read about a young man whose job was to clean and polish certain areas of the company space. He worked so thoroughly everyday, and with such pride, that he became a highly respected employee at the company, inspiring his colleagues with this work ethic.
“Along the way, I realized that perhaps what I was in search of was not passion, but purpose. Something that serves a cause that’s greater than my own interests and immediate desires”
Along the way, I realized that perhaps what I was in search of was not passion, but purpose. Something that serves a cause that’s greater than my own interests and immediate desires. This doesn’t necessarily mean working at a non-profit, social enterprise, or in the corporate social responsibility sector. Purposeful and impactful work is not always in the ‘what’ of an organization’s mission or a role’s job description, but I‘ve learned, more often in the ‘how’. As with the people I encountered, impact can be in the form of thoughtfully thinking through a situation and figuring out how to make it better, even if it’s not within your job description. With the number of waking hours most people spend at work, impact can also be quite powerful in the form of the kindness and helpfulness we provide to our colleagues and the organization’s stakeholders.
I also realized that life is so much more than my job, and so is my worth. The reality is there are always going to be certain roles and organizations that offer more opportunities to further stretch ourselves, a higher level of visibility and recognition for our work, or that even looks better on paper. I believe these are all wonderful things to have access to and pursue. But, there is a fine line between working toward a better future, for both ourselves and others, and defining ourselves by our level of access to these opportunities, both in our careers and beyond.
I hope to say to those who applied to the Girls on Boards program and were not admitted, all is not lost. Every person can do great things and this program, as with our jobs, is one of an infinite number of worthwhile paths in life – including those that can lead to the same or an even better destination down the road. Opportunities don’t only exist when presented as such, but can be created if you have the heart do so.
To the Young Directors of Cohort 3, I extend a heartfelt congratulations! I am truly excited for you in this next chapter in your life journey and all the mentorship opportunities that are to come your way. I have been grateful for women like Kirsten Eastwood and Mara Nickerson who have coached and supported me throughout my experience with Girls on Boards. The directors of Canada’s Ballet Jorgen, the staff of G(irls)20, and not the least, my fellow Young Directors have helped me shape these past two years into a wonderful, meaningful experience.
By: Daisy Heung, Girls on Boards Young Director and Steering Committee member.