Changing the Narrative

Agnès Cosnier-Loigerot

What is possible when you start to reimagine yourself and unleash your human potential?

At the recent Professional Women's Network (PWN) Global Summit I gave a presentation on the topic "Navigating Careers in Turbulent Times", and I'd like to share some of my thoughts on this blog as well.  

The secret of getting ahead is to get started.

This quote is not from me, but from Mark Twain, and I often use it when we kick off the career journey with our students and executive participants.

And it applies to anyone looking for a change, since often we may feel lost, not knowing how to start, or intimidated by what lies in the journey ahead. The current uncertainty does not help. So the first step is to break it into small and manageable tasks and start with the curiosity element (which proves to give clarity).

You can make the most of these turbulent times as a chance to stop and observe.

When the career coaches speak to students these days, they specifically ask how they have changed over the period. The programmes at INSEAD are transformational, but the coaches question things differently and push to reflect upon how students need to prepare for the world post-COVID. It means working on capability building and leadership potential.

But it means also setting up regular practices that allow students to stay anchored and focused, and therefore make progress. These practices range from mindfulness and self-kindness to ongoing learning and skill-building. And the first two are crucial, as we must be clear with ourselves and our emotions to best contribute and support others and our organisation. As for learning, it can take so many different forms: research, conversations, projects, education.

All this allows our students to recognise their value and invest in themselves so that they can continue to position themselves as an asset and build their personal brand.

By understanding that we are the primary decision-maker in our professional life, being diligent about re-learning and un-learning these days, and knowing where we want to head to, what our Northern star is, we become confident about our positioning and the impact we can create.

When I made my own radical career change more than a decade ago, during another crisis, I paused, learnt new fields to enhance my versatility and be able to leverage my transferable skills. But I also worked on my purpose, chose the environment I wanted to be in, the missions I wanted to accomplish (linking business and society). So when I came for the interviews, I not only presented a set of skills complementary to the team in place, but I also had stars in the eyes and managed to genuinely connect with the team members. I was transforming the interviews into meaningful conversations in a two-way format.

Of course, there are some industries or regions where women have to break a lot of stereotypes to succeed. Our successful alumnae always have something in common: they were not scared to try things out, and proud of what they could bring to the table. The go-getter character (as Global Executive MBA alumna Nathalie Sleiman puts its), can-do attitude, authenticity, and the knowledge supported by research and certifications gave this credibility which definitely opens doors.

When we discuss with our Executive MBA alumnae, they want to encourage women to invest in themselves. And as with any investment, timing is everything. Be it Isabelle Dresco with three kids, 15 years of international career success, or Celine Abbas with pressures at work and a young family, or Milena Bowman, the family’s main breadwinner, they encourage others to be bold, and not to listen to that little voice of self-doubt at the back of the head. They also talk about daring to fail, and daring to ask for help. What is holding you back, how can you overcome self-limiting beliefs? Our "Limitless" video series explores this theme further - do take a look!

So to conclude, you can start looking for a goal that makes you feel accomplished and happy. And by applying what I’ve shared, the rest will come!