Better together

Humans, as social beings, operate more effectively as part of a community. Whilst there are many group activities I do my utmost to avoid (church services, rampant orgies, playing any kind of sport with a bat), ultimately, as the personal statement on my CV has declared for the past eight years, I am “happiest working as part of a team”.

I’ve always enjoyed being part of a group. I love being involved in a collective purpose. I love the camaraderie of shared experience. I also love a good uniform, especially if it has a hat.

Group membership is meant to be supportive and collaborative. It is, of course, possible to still feel alone within a particular group or community. Worse yet to be ostracized from an organization because of your lifestyle, gender, skin colour or any other tenuous justification conjured up to alienate others. These are the kinds of groups from which we should simply walk away. Don’t stop to wonder why they don’t like you. Don’t waste time thinking up ways you can change to fit in. Just turn on your heels and get out of there!

There are some communities, however, to which we are inextricably linked, including race, nationality and gender. As a black, British woman, I am proud of these labels and I embrace them. However, in recent weeks and months I have become more and more affected by a range of increasingly worrying attacks on these groups. I find this weird and confusing. Racial oppression isn’t new. Neither is gender inequality, nor the misguided imperial mindset of a significant proportion of the British population. Why is this affecting me so much now?  Am I just older and more tuned in to the news? Is social media enabling access to more global issues? Or has the relative peace of my existence thus far meant I have simply not been paying attention? Continue reading “Better together”

The French Revelation

I recently spent a long weekend in a beautiful city that, 9 years ago, was my home for over 18 months. It was a brief but very significant part of my life and this little jaunt unexpectedly triggered a great deal of reflection on my story so far…

In a welcome break from the bracing winds and torrential downpours that have come to epitomise early springtime in Switzerland, we hopped on a train to Paris in a brief reprieve of blazing sunshine. It is usual that whenever one looks back on past adventures, the playback is always filtered through a haze of sunshine (much like the Instagram filters you use to convey the epic nature of your fabulous life). Thus, I had the perfect conditions for a trip down memory lane.

Tour Eiffel
A moody shot of the Eiffel Tower

We wandered through the city, happily soaking up the iconic sights interspersed with the lesser-known highlights of “my Paris” (read: an extensive tour of shabby drinking establishments). It was great to reminisce about the good old days, but at a certain point I also started to reflect on what was not so good. Looking back, I had no idea who I was or what I wanted. Pretty typical of an early millennial twenty-something, I suppose. However, there was something darker about my aimlessness; a complete lack of direction with no future goals besides the next party, the next drink (or three), or the next disappointing notch on a comparatively unmarked bedpost. I was constantly worried about what other people thought of what I did and said – anxiety quietly simmering beneath an otherwise calm exterior. Continue reading “The French Revelation”

Taking the ‘work’ out of networking

Organised networking, like organised fun, is something that even the most adventurous of characters often dread. I recently dipped my toe back into these dark and murky waters as a means of personal and professional development. Here’s how I got on…

We’ve all been there. Hovering on the sidelines, clutching a glass of warm wine and silently willing ourselves to make a move – any move – just to get the proverbial ball rolling. We glance discreetly around the room hoping we appear as accomplished and fabulous as everyone else seems. We ask ourselves:

“Should I make eye contact?”, “Who can I approach?”, “Does everybody know each other?!”

and then ponder how best to introduce ourselves with confidence but not arrogance, assertiveness but not aggression, smiling but not manic…

Perhaps you can gather from this introductory insight that networking events are a million miles away from my happy place. I’ve always struggled to feel comfortable in these situations and I suspect I am not alone. Continue reading “Taking the ‘work’ out of networking”