Career Experiments: Celestine

The first thing that impressed me about Celestine was her number of interests, ranging from mastering languages to the great outdoors. The second thing was her determination to take advantage of all the opportunities that came her way.  

This is HUGE. I just read the brilliant Herminia Ibarra's article "Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers" about how leadership experience creates leadership identity. The way to become a leader is to do leadership stuff, just like how Celestine co-led a wilderness expedition with her class. Not only does action help you see yourself as a leader, but others start to see you that way, too. 

Nature might not be your thing, but if Celestine's experience of learning alongside others inspires you, consider Finding Your Tribe. A "tribe" unites people from different backgrounds around a common interest. A strong tribe connects you to people who are already rooted in the field, so you can benefit from their advice on getting started, getting ahead, and what to expect on the road ahead.

Break time: No camera can capture the true golden color of that canyon wall that stood before us. But never mind that, let’s learn how to read a topographic map and find out where we’re going!

Break time: No camera can capture the true golden color of that canyon wall that stood before us. But never mind that, let’s learn how to read a topographic map and find out where we’re going!

Who: Celestine, 20

Where: Kanab, Utah

What have you done recently to explore a career interest?

I recently took a leadership class that was required for my Parks and Recreation Management degree, with an emphasis in Outdoor Education and Leadership. Through that class, I had the opportunity to go backpacking for six days in the Kanab Creek Wilderness.

I went into the trip not knowing what to expect and being fairly confident in my leadership skills. I got to put these skills to the test for two days during this trip.

It was a great setting to get helpful feedback from the group and my professor. I learned that I need to have a stronger voice in my leadership. Previous to this trip, I would have felt too rude to interrupt the group’s conversation and get us all on task. Now I know that as a leader, it’s my job to speak louder and make sure we’re accomplishing our goals. I have to work on being louder and prouder in my voice. 

There were also some things that I did well on the trip. I was recognized as very compassionate, patient, and communicative. So although we may not have stayed on task as much we needed, at least I made sure everyone’s needs were being met, whether it be taking it slow and helping people climb down a dangerous part of the trail, or taking the time to listen to someone if they were having a bad day.

I learned a lot about my own leadership style and observed other peoples’ styles. Now I know where I need to improve as well as what I need to continue doing.

Look for the big green back back on the bottom left. There she is!

Look for the big green back back on the bottom left. There she is!

Best moment from this experience?

What I loved about being a leader on this trip was my ability to teach others and problem solve. Beyond the leadership aspect, this trip was a good reminder of how simple life can be. Whether you’re teaching a friend how to climb up a rock, sharing a moment of admiration for the natural surrounding beauty, or eating peanut m&m’s, I was reminded that I can find happiness and reward in the little things in life.

Now, I know that sharing the outdoors with others is my calling. I plan on finishing my degree and one day working in wilderness therapy.

Action: It's Your superpower

Action changes who you are herminia.png

“I think I need to Purel my tush.”

So said Alicia, another teenager on a volunteer trip to Bolivia, where expeditions to the bathroom were a multi-step process:

  1. Stuff your pockets with as much toilet paper as necessary, since it doesn’t come free in the stalls
  2. Dig out your headlamp, since the bathroom complex didn’t have electric lighting
  3. Find a buddy to keep you company on the walk across the dark field to the bathroom complex
  4. With a narrow beam of light for guidance, leap across a stagnant puddle to the rotting log sitting in front of the toilet seat, so your feet could be out of water while you did your business
  5. Purel everything

The reflection staring back at me in the mirror that night wasn’t “me.” This girl was streaked with mud, hadn’t washed her hair in days, and had pit stains down to her waist.

I don’t know exactly how this happened, but at 17 I determined I was spoiled rotten and should volunteer in a developing country to get a bigger perspective on life. (I also couldn’t tell you how my parents decided to go along with this whim, sending me off to Bolivia for a month with a highly dysfunctional national service organization I found online.)

Four months later, I found out what happens when you drop a perky prom queen with a love for platform sandals and hygiene into the Bolivian Amazon with no air conditioning, billions of bugs, and a single bathroom to share between 13 teenagers.

Her identity grows.

Until this experience, I would have told you that the “authentic” version of me was poised and put together. Being a teenager, I demonstrated this through fashion: Handbags coordinated with the rest of my attire and perfectly manicured fingernails. Quite quickly, I realized that being "put together" was of no value when aggressively scrubbing spider larvae off of cement walls.

Early on in that month I determined to push through the homesickness and sense of disorientation that came from not knowing how to be successful in a strange new environment and culture. By end of the month I could add another word to that list of "authentic" traits: Adaptable. 

As a teenager, I hit on an insight that Herminia Ibarra calls the "authenticity trap." This is the idea that we tend to use "authenticity" as an excuse to keep doing what's familiar, rather than push into the great unknown. In her words, “Because going against our natural inclinations can make us feel like impostors, we tend to latch on to authenticity as an excuse for sticking with what’s comfortable.” 

The way out of the authenticity trap is by taking action, putting yourself into new situations that draw out your potential. 

These experiences aren't about reinforcing who you already are, but about discovering who you could become next. 

Action is your superpower. It transforms you

Are there any ways that you're letting "authenticity" bind your powers? 

  • If you catch yourself saying "That's not my thing," could it be? 
  • If you decide not to pursue an idea or interest because "I'm not really that type,"...are you sure? 
  • If you turn down an opportunity because "I couldn't do that,"...have you tried? 

This week, why not take one new action and see what happens? If you take this challenge, please drop me a line at Laurah@betterbetter.co with a brief note on what you learned or gained. I'd love to send you a special gift in return. 

 

What do you need more than insight? Outsight.

Outsight

When I went to Alaska for a post-college summer working at a B&B, I already knew I loved to bake pies.

I had no idea that I'd meet some brilliant mountaineers, wonder what the fuss about the great outdoors was all about, get over my fear of peeing behind a tree, and find myself trekking in the Himalayas three months later.

Insight said, "Yeah....I'm not a big nature girl."

Outsight said, "...yet."

"Outsight," according to the brilliant Herminia Ibarra, "is the fresh, external perspective that comes from doing new and different things - plunging ourselves into new projects and activities, interacting with people outside our daily routines, and experimenting with new ways of getting things done."

Outsight is forward-looking. It gives you access to the parts of your identity and potential that are still waiting to be discovered...or created.  

Insight, in contrast, is backwards-looking. It's based on what you know about yourself already, from your experience of everything you've been or done in the past. Insight helps you zero in on values and strengths. But basing career decisions on insight alone means basing them on your past...not your future.

In other words, don't let insight put you in a box prematurely.

There's a lot more "YOU" to be discovered by getting outside of your comfort zone.

The best part about outsight is that you don't have to wait for it; you can meet it head on. Ask for a challenging stretch project to learn about who you are in an experience you haven't yet encountered, or volunteer strategically to find out what capacities you draw out in a new working environment.

As you develop your outsight, chances are strong that you'll discover career options that you  never considered (or never knew existed!) along the way.