Lessons Learned No.1

2020-10-04

This is something I've been wanting to write about forever; my time spent in Zeeland, The Netherlands (2006-2007). This post isn't me giving career advice really-it's just a quick reference on a personal story that I think can help you make decisions that actually reflect who you are, what you want, what you dream to become.

It was November 11, 2006 when I fulfilled my dream of living and working abroad; on a Saturday -almost 14 years ago- I "lost" the comfort of my country, a good salary, a respected position in a well-recognised shipping company. I also left behind my friends and family and I stepped foot in the picturesque Middelburg. I still remember that day when everyone back home called me crazy, the wind was blowing strong in Piraeus, the anxiousness and the rain welcoming me at my destination.

This period was admittedly not sufficiently appreciated only until a few years later. However, a good part of the person I am now -professionally and personally- is a result of everything that I have experienced back then.

I almost immediately started living in the closet, complaining about everything thus the first months have been pretty frustrating for me. I was unable to value and cherish my new reality and its significance. I just couldn't see what the opportunity given to me really meant.

However, thanks to a small group of ridiculously generous, ridiculously patient colleagues who have stuck with me through this period, I came to realize that it does get better when you start living openly. So I pressed the reset button on my thought process and got some clarity: 

  • I was living my dream; working abroad in a position of responsibility & among a number of high qualified professionals 
  •  I was nominated to act as Company's representative -being part of its experienced commercial team- to negotiate with top-class charterers
  • I was travelling all around the world and the company showed my trust
  • I was learning new things

What did this period taught me:

From the Company

  • Age, race, sex doesn't matter! In a company like that, I was respected for who I was and I was nominated to play a key role for a reason. The only requirements were to be unpretentious, work hard, dream big and think ahead. Success is not coming easy

From human interaction

  • We can never be too prepared for our job but we need to remember and be prepared also for our life changes
  • There is no excuse to put ourselves in a box. We need to stay inspired to succeed, willing to adopt, accept changes and live!
  • When we start out in our career, it's easy to be super excited and motivated; we must also remember to keep our eyes & ears open and our head clean so to realize the actual situation (good or bad) 
  • We learn from good and bad experiences and the ups and downs of life
  • The value of looking at our roles and experiences, and recognizing the influences on our lives, is that we can unpick what really interests and motivates us and start to understand our decision making

From B

  • Always follow your heart: Working for someone like my Manager (Mr.B.), who had a more commercial eye was a great experience. It was a great job and team, and I learned a lot, but maybe it wasn't the right fit for me. Ultimately, I was recruited to join another company, I gave my notice, and it felt like my manager really didn't want me to leave. However, he understood that I needed to follow my heart. He was supportive and made my time left there the best it could have been. He helped me realize how important it really is to do what you love every day 
  • Mr.B. was so straight forward & open to everything and a paradigm of how a good manager takes and applies suggestions

From MvG

  • It's important to try and respect things you've never done before
  • MvG. had a lot of experience and I was looking forward to learning a lot from her. However, so much of what I was doing was stuff I had never done before. I was nervous and out of my comfort zone. She reminded me constantly that it was okay and that it was important to continue trying my best. I ultimately realized that the type of work I was doing was just not meant for me, but I appreciated her support while I worked there to learn and grow

For those of you yet to start your career who aren't sure what you want to do with their lives, or those of you currently in the middle of your career who aren't sure you're on the right path, I hope this post can help you somehow.

No matter what, it feels very good to put this post up. It's been way, way too long.