How I Cut Out Pro Bono Gigs, Doubled Down on My Career, and Stopped Feeding my Kids (on Tuesdays)

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By: Debra Chen

I joined Ellevate Network’s Squad during their beta launch last fall and was offered the opportunity to serve as a moderator for my team. This newly created program was designed to foster a community of like-minded women in different career paths, to support one another through structured weekly sessions. These sessions were geared to help each individual achieve their professional goals.

Over the past several years I’ve written extensively about the power of mentorship, the importance of sponsorship and the opportunity that exists to elevate one’s career through one-on-one relationships, so I was initially skeptical about the effectiveness of group settings- especially one that would bridge all types of personalities in various walks of life into a 30-minute call. Could we all equally benefit from a workshop that didn’t have an instructor? What could we accomplish in 30 minutes? How would I be able to handle my demanding, full-time gig, my 1-year old baby, my 3-year old toddler, and make time to commit to this program? Could I be a qualified moderator when there are times I almost forget to feed my own children?

And yet despite my reservations, I forged ahead and decided the most important thing for me, at that very moment, was to stay committed to the workshop even though I was completely unaware of how the next few months would unfold. Over the next several weeks, a strange thing transpired as I began to witness the profound qualities of this collaborative peer supported group- how functional and natural the process became. A magical thing happens when you curate a group of highly intelligent, ambitious, curious women and provide them with ownership to articulate their objectives and dreams, and the forum of non-judgment to verbalize their strengths and weaknesses. This was not the expectation that I had but this experience re-energized me and re-focused me to achieve another level in both my professional and personal life.

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After my own experience, I now believe that with a fully committed mindset, Ellevate’s Squad offered me one of the most transformative experiences in my career and served as my platform to not only identify and face my vulnerabilities, but to create a resolve around it. The outcome was beyond what I even thought I needed and after my 13-weeks, I gained a new clarity to cut out projects that were no longer serving me (or paying me). I discovered a newfound confidence and importance of valuing my time and my worth and I felt empowered to re-negotiate my consulting agreements to increase my income by doubling down on my existing career. All in all, this experience helped me to find a new purpose, perspective and love for where I am in the moment.

I’d like to share a few additional insights and lessons garnered by this experience:

1) I made a commitment and saw results- nothing good comes from lack of commitment. Despite making 50,000 excuses of what may happen in the next few weeks that would occur on Tuesdays at 8pm, I instead shifted my mindset to what I would accomplish through committing to the 30-minutes a week, every week. I carved out a spot on my planner and considered it “untouchable time” on working on myself. I even told my husband that the next 13 Tuesdays were going to be his night to cook for, feed, and bathe our kids.

2) I stopped worrying about the future and stayed in the moment– I have a tendency to overthink. It sometimes allows me to better process my environment and situation. However, at times it also complicates the simplicity of being in the moment. I noticed that positive things began happening to me when I made a defining decision not worry about what lays ahead and to only think about the week-to-week.

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3) I listened and then connected — I noticed that the members in my group came ready to listen and exercise empathy and that was powerful. And as a result we all walked away learning something- from those who were afraid to make leaps into entrepreneurship or those who were intimidated by working on their LinkedIn pages, there was something in everyone’s story that you could relate to- if you had an open mind and heart. What I learned was that although we were all unique, many of us shared similar fears and doubts.

Last and most importantly, through this journey, I realized what I had really needed was the time to refine and reboot- make adjustments to myself that allowed my career and life to flourish. Sometimes all it takes is the right team, a roadmap and time (13-weeks, give or take). It was an investment in myself come to think of it, and after all, isn’t that one of the best return on investments you can have?

Debra Chen is the Editor and Creative Director Vanity + Trade, a thoughtfully curated content destination for entrepreneurs and executives. They showcase influencer interviews with seasoned executives, who share advice, experience, and real-life insights tailored to inspire and educate.

Originally published at medium.com on March 21, 2018.

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