So the New Year has come and gone, and as with every other new year, it heralds the promise of a better, brighter, more successful one. We’re inundated with adverts for gym and health club special offers, weight loss programmes waiving their joining fee and a proliferation of products and services designed to help you be a “better” you. It’s that time of year when we try and make up for the indulgence of the silly season and get back to some sort of routine, desperately trying to shift those extra pounds/pay off debts/get in touch with long-lost friends/get that promotion/insert relevant resolution here.
If, like me, your New Year’s resolutions are somewhat futile and leave you clutching a glass of sauvignon blanc while only a week into your attempted dry January, rest assured you’re not alone. According to a quick poll on http://www.thejournal.ie, 54% of respondents had already strayed from their good intentions by 12th January.
I hasten to add that I haven’t always been so quick to give in to temptation – some years back I attempted (successfully) to give up chocolate for an entire year, quite a commitment for a chocaholic like me. 365 days later, I revelled in the satisfaction of my steadfast willpower and considered it proof I could resist any temptation and fulfil any New Year’s resolution if I put my mind to it. All these years later, I can’t really say a year without a chocolate fix has done me any harm or good in the long run, and so this year I started thinking about what I might be able to do more of – rather than doing something deemed ‘bad’ for me a little less, or giving it up altogether. And since I’m inclined towards good food, wine and general hedonism, the thought of denying myself anything I truly enjoy seems totally unnecessary (been there, done that, if you excuse the cliché).
2013 was a real rollercoaster for me. While I enjoyed the high of getting married, the year was peppered with real challenges in my professional life, some of which made me start seriously questioning my own ability and many of the choices I had made. I have always considered myself confident and ambitious, and I found myself floundering in self-doubt on more than one occasion. So when an email popped up in my inbox one day inviting me to a networking event, where a guest speaker would be giving some insight into “your personal brand”, I thought it might be the perfect opportunity to try and get back on track using a completely different approach to anything I had done before.
I had never been to a networking event, so turned up with some trepidation and stumbled through a few awkward greetings. But soon enough I realised that there were many others in just the same boat as I was – trying out this networking thing to see what all the fuss was about. A few nibbles and a glass of bubbly later, everyone was relaxed and conversing, revealing a variety of backgrounds but also many commonalities.
Inbetween a busy work schedule, I attended a few more networking sessions, though not as many as I would have liked to (cue 2014’s New Year’s Resolution…) The most recent one I attended was the invaluable SWIFt (Sodexo Women’s International Forum for talent) networking breakfast and mentoring session at Sodexo’s Head Office in London. It meant arranging a morning away from the office during an incredibly busy period, and for a while I see-sawed between whether I could afford the time away to attend the event or not, but I stuck to my decision to attend and it was certainly worth it. After speaking to Sodexo colleagues from all segments of the business, I realised that many of them too had been in a similar position and many had deliberated about whether they could afford the time “out”. It made me realise that we could always find excuses about being too busy, and perhaps I’ve been inclined to do that on too many occasions.
The event itself provided the opportunity to meet colleagues from around the country, as well as some of the SWIFt members. SWIFt comprises 28 senior Sodexo members from 14 different nationalities and all areas of the business, with the aim of improving gender balance throughout the entire Sodexo group. The mentoring circles session (the mentoring equivalent of speed-dating) was greatly beneficial. We were divided into small groups, and my group was afforded time with two SWIFt members, Ana Busto (Head of Group Brand and Communications at Sodexo, based in Paris) and Grace Han (Executive Director, Healthcare & Seniors in China). We had a frank discussion about professional challenges, confidence, ambitions, personal values and a variety of other topics that left me with a renewed outlook on my seemingly gloomy situation. It was reassuring to hear from women of their experience and at their level, that we are not necessarily isolated in facing obstacles and doubts, or handling our own inevitable mistakes.
And that’s where my New Year’s resolution comes in. If a morning like that left me feeling as buoyant as it did, it seems a shame not to make the most of opportunities like this. What’s more, womenwork is one of a number of Sodexo employee networks across the world, so there are thousands of employees celebrating each other’s ideas and willing to share their own experiences. All it takes is the effort to tap into – that might mean turning up at a networking event, or dialling into a webinar, signing up as a member or even mentoring a colleague.
So may 2014 be the year for sharing ideas across perceived borders, and over assumed ones. That sounds much more rewarding than waiting a year to enjoy my next Dairy Milk.