Welcome everyone! I'm excited to share a terrific guest post “from a talented non-profit dynamo“ Reena Bhatia. Reena serves as the Vice President of Education Programs at Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) where she oversees the Eduational Facilities Financing Center (EFFC), a group which aids charter schools and CMOs in financing school facilities. Through a varied, impressive career in non profits, start ups, and finance, Reena offers women her experience taking her career to the next level. Enjoy!
Over to Reena:
How was I able to take my career to the next level? Sometimes I wonder if it wasn't just a little bit of dumb luck along with a lot of hard work and determination.
Among many factors I would attribute to getting me to the next level, a major force behind my career momentum has been learning to overcome my fear of failure and recognizing that success is not possible without failure along the way. I took a huge leap of faith into a position I felt underqualified for and I've tried not to look back since. I knew the position was one that I would need to grow into and that I would be filling the very large shoes of my predecessor, someone well-renowned within the industry.
I allowed myself a six- to nine-month period to "get up to speed," one that I underestimated when I look back. A friend once told me in response to a particularly difficult day, "You'll need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable." That is a mantra that I have picked up and continually remind myself of when I start feeling the slightest bit lost.
There are certainly a handful of characteristics that I would attribute to climbing my "ladder" to success. Looking back at my transition from my undergraduate degree into Equity Research for an investment bank, there was a high level of determination in going after what I wanted to do with my career. I didn't allow myself to settle for an operations role at a bank when I wanted to be on the front lines, even if those front lines required me to get coffee and fill out expense reimbursements for a top-ranked Equity Research Analyst to start with! I learned a lot about myself as a naïve 21-year-old embarking on the journey I thought would be my career. My determination and conviction carried me far beyond my inexperience.
Three years later when my heart told me it wasn't prepared to let me spend my life as an Equity Research Analyst for an investment bank, I relied on my personal and professional networks to help me with my career move. Networking and building relationships have been key to building my career (or more accurately multiple careers). Most people I approached with the request for an informational interview were more than happy, even honored, to provide assistance. Networking and relationship building are essential to building a career, whether a person is transitioning careers or raising the bar within a chosen career.
Truly embracing the "I can do this!" attitude has been important to overcoming the fear of failure. There are so many reasons to opt out of taking risks: I"m underqualified; I'm inexperienced; I can't contribute; I can't add value; What do I know that they don't already know?; etc. With the "I can do this!" attitude comes a wealth of possibilities. Believing that I'm capable of whatever I set my mind to has really opened my eyes to my own potential. In my experience, the times I've taken risks that seem uncomfortable are the times I've not only accomplished more than I originally set out to, but also received recognition for those risks.Â
Seeking help when necessary is essential to the development of any career. I have found numerous mentors throughout my personal and professional life to help build confidence, gain sector knowledge, and forge relationships. Informally, you can call it the process of "building your own Board of Directors." I mentioned the importance of networking and building relationships: I cannot overemphasize how important it is to surround yourself with people that have a vested interest in your career and want to see you succeed. I work in a very social, mission-driven sector and if I succeed,Â the sector succeeds in the eyes of my Board.
Be fearless and surprise yourself! We're all capable of so much more than we allow ourselves to believe. Taking the plunge is the only way to find out what you're truly capable of!
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