How Ten Strangers Became a Tribe: LYP May 2019 Reflections
By Ibukun Abejirinde
Global Health Consultant
2019 LYP Scholarship Winner
It’s already been six weeks since the May 2019 edition of the Live Your Potential Women’s Leadership and Career development Program was held. While time has passed, it has been impossible to forget my impressions and the lessons from the 2 days of training and conversations which put wind in the sails of my career as a global health professional and an academic in Canada.
In a high-rise boardroom overlooking the waterfront, 10 professional women from different backgrounds and career paths became a tribe. Our bond was forged through vulnerable conversations, a shared yearning to harness our untapped potential and exposure to tools and strategies that would arm us for the task ahead.
How did I get there?
I stumbled upon information about the LYP program through a Facebook group I had joined as a Canadian newcomer trying to find her way in an unfamiliar setting. The promise of the program resonated with my need to recalibrate and reassess my career path as I began a new journey. During the interview for the 2019 LYP Scholarship, I remember speaking about coming with a blank slate, and the awareness that there was more within me that I wasn’t yet reaching for. I spoke about the feeling of having lost the voice of the six-year old dogged dreamer I once was. Being awarded the full scholarship therefore gave me the ticket and opened the door to rediscovering my story.
Three of many take-home lessons
Interspersed by lunch and coffee breaks, we covered six core modules starting with strategic career planning and culminating in each person mapping out their career action plan and next steps. Three of the many lessons that stood out for me:
#1. Negotiating a compensation package should go beyond the salary. This may seem like a no brainer, but for someone like me who had recently come out of a salary negotiation feeling like something was missing, this was a big ‘aha’ moment! I learnt that I could negotiate other details (such as office space, flexible hours, professional development etc.) that would contribute to keeping my motivation and job satisfaction high.
#2. My professional brand is a message that needs to be communicated consistently with clarity and confidence. It requires recognising my target audience and transmitting that message not only in words but also through other soft channels like colour, posture and aura. Crafting the brand is however, only the first step. I also have to own my brand, live it and celebrate it fully. I have therefore adopted a daily (well, almost daily) practice of power talking to myself because Practice makes Confidence!
#3. At LYP we were challenged to answer the question “What are your guiding principles and values at work and in life?” It is one thing to say you know your values when they are swimming round your head, and another, to write them down and evaluate them. The exercise drew me back to a few months earlier as I prepared to move to Canada. I worried about finding a job I would love, and wondered whether I would be forced to settle for any position. A wise mentor had said to me [paraphrased] “Be clear on what your values are first and then find a job that matches it. And not the other way around.” LYP helped me take this advice further by transforming it into a practical tool.
Asides the major lessons from the program, at LYP May 2019, I experienced other ‘aha’ moments; where something that was said or done essentially caused my mind and heart to be flooded with light. I would like to share three of those moments:
My small circle is big enough for me. I have sometimes tried to do more to expand my inner circle and support system because I felt it was selfish to have only five people in it. My thinking shifted during the program and I became comfortable with accepting that this is all I need for this season of my life, and that is okay.
Having a mentor is good, but having a sponsor is much better! This means having someone within your company who believes in your potential and is willing to bet on you and speak up for you. The LYP Program was the first time I had heard the difference between mentors and sponsors explained so clearly, especially with regards to its relevance within the Canadian work culture.
Self-care is often times not simply about saying no, but also about saying the best yes by putting myself first. For me that means de-cluttering my to-do list and doing more with less.
To whom credit belongs
The learning and conversation could not have been as rich and rewarding as it turned out to be if we had not all shown up physically, mentally and intentionally. But I dare say none of the magical transformation that happened would have been possible without the skilled facilitation skills and energy of Jean and Lilit, Co-Founders of the LYP Program. They superseded my expectations of the program and I do not aim low!
Little wonder they were both recently nominated for the Women of Inspiration SupportHer Award. I was not only intrigued by the story of how they met and built the vision of LYP Women over the years, but was also inspired by their being honest and authentic- sharing the ups and downs of their career path and being vulnerable with us. They made the tribe complete.
Thanks to having a skilled project manager in our tribe, we took initiative and decided to set up our own accountability system. In this system we have each logged our SMART goals stipulating when we want someone to check in on us and ensure we haven’t let the ball drop. The coming months and hopefully years will determine if this new tribe has found its rhythm and strength as a shared sisterhood.
In the meantime, I try to find opportunities, on a daily basis, to apply the tools and strategies I picked up from LYP and leverage them towards accomplishing my bigger goals. I am also trying to follow my action plan, one of which is to pay my LYP experience forward. I do this not only as an LYP brand ambassador but also because I have a personal commitment to catalyse the effect of the program. That is why I am delighted to be a mentor in the MentorNet program of the Canadian Society of International Health, steering a young global health professional on her own career journey.
So, what does the future hold? First, I am looking forward to opportunities the LYP platform will provide for face-to-face reconnection via the LYP Talk Series and workshops (you can subscribe to the mailing list to receive updates on upcoming events). Secondly, as a member of the LYP May 2019 tribe, it is reassuring to know that I do not walk this path alone. With the support of these amazing ambitious women, I am right on track to becoming the best version of me.
I’ll keep you updated!