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How to Align your True Self with your Career: Using Purpose as your North Star

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What does it mean to be true to your purpose as you mould your career? What are the challenges in bringing your whole self to work? And what are the rewards? Our September 10 Digital Ladies event was dedicated to exploring this very topic. Co-hosted by Saswati Saha Mitra, the 10 Digital Ladies award winner for the 2018 Specialist Category, the theme for the event came about from a conversation we had about how it was at times difficult to find and keep hold of that ‘red thread’ of what was truly meaningful to us as we navigated our career paths. Time and time again, Saswati came back to the question of how to make a meaningful difference in the world.We set about pulling together a line-up of speakers who would offer rich and varied insights on the topic. Our panel was made up of:
  • Saswati who leads Uber’s Global UX Research team, delivering high quality strategic insights to Uber’s Product and Business Leaders. With 600+ cities to conduct research in, she also builds scalable processes that allow anyone in the company to become a user expert.
  • Gemma Carver who, as Digital Director for Pentland Brands, is responsible for growing the digital footprint of a portfolio of globally recognised brands such as Speedo, Canterbury, Mitre and Berghaus while also nurturing young brands such as Seavees (trainers) and Endura (cycling), and incubating new brands and innovations.
  • Emma Prest who oversees the running of DataKind UK, leading a community of volunteers and building understanding about what data science can do in the charitable sector. Emma also sits on the Editorial Advisory Committee at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
  • Penny Jones who enjoyed a brilliant 15+ years in digital media, performing a variety of business development and strategy roles. Far more interested in people than platforms however, she recently stepped down from her role as global strategy director for Conde Nast International to launch a career coaching practice, From the Middle, helping early and mid-career women create careers in which they thrive.

Here are the 10 things we learned from our speakers:

  1. What’s your purpose? If you know your overall purpose – you have something to guide you along your journey. And so, when life happens, you can adapt to the changes needed, without going too far off course. Penny said, ‘My purpose is to help people, I looked back over my career and the best bits were when I was helping the people in my team. I woke up in the morning and felt confident because I knew what I was doing.’
  1. We spend about 60/70% of our waking time at work, that’s a lot of our time and energy. Saswati said, ‘I want people to be able to say “I am proud of the life I have led, and it really matters to me where I spend my time and energy”’/li>
  1. Plan ahead (as much as you can) and set goals. ‘I didn’t know this in my 20’s, but you need to think ahead for the next decade,’ said Saswati, ‘By having a longer term plan aligned to your overall purpose, it gives you enough time to make mistakes along the way and correct your path’. Setting yourself some realistic goals helps to give focus and structure to your career. Try having some short term quick wins and longer term goals to aim for.
  1. It’s ok to be yourself. In your early 20s when you first join the professional workforce you don’t always know your true self. Gemma said ‘It’s taken me nearly 20 years to realise you don’t have to flex and mould to the role around you.’
  1. Do your research. Figure out the roles and industries that interest you. Then find people already in those roles, talk to them about the positive things about the role and also the challenges, and work out if it’s really for you.
  1. You might not always need a change of role. Sometimes you can be in the right role just not the right company. Gemma shared, ‘I once worked out I was in the right role, but it was more of the people change that I needed.’ It’s important that you work for a company where the values align to your own personal values.
  1. It’s ok to be scared. Emma said, ‘I was terrified when I applied for the job at DataKind UK, and I was probably still terrified for about a year and a half. It took me a while to feel like I knew exactly what I was doing and that a lot of the time I was the expert in the room.’
  1. Labels are for clothes. We often label ourselves with the company or roles we are in. Penny said, ‘when I left The Guardian, I wasn’t Penny from The Guardian anymore. I jumped straight into another job to give myself an identity again.’
  1. Have meaningful conversations. You need to have the right conversations with your employees to make sure they’re engaged and fulfilling their potential. Penny said, ‘you work hard to get the best people in your company, you want to be able to keep them and inspire them.’
  1. Careers are long and winding. It’s a marathon, not a sprint: Penny said, ‘career paths won’t always be linear… and it’s ok to change your mind.’

Stepping up and being true to yourself takes courage – and that can feel scary, especially when the path forward isn’t always crystal clear. Sometimes it’s about believing that the way will unfold; using your inner compass and trusting that you will get there.

Thank you to Photobox, our brilliant hosts for the evening, and also to Bright Innovation who have been doing amazing work helping 10 Digital Ladies reach an even wider audience, as well as doing our event write ups!

Nina LovelaceHow to Align your True Self with your Career: Using Purpose as your North Star

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