I don’t fit in! So naturally, I would ask what am I going to do about it?
Sounds like a positive question, that should open up opportunities and help me grow. Right?
Some reflection, as I look back through my career:
Schooling – being a dedicated book worm and committed school girl, my aspirations of becoming a Doctor were engrained. I wanted to help individuals in a way that enables them and makes them happier. Health and wellbeing seemed like the best place for me. I did not fit in school nor was I accepted for who I was – an Asian girl in a white community, with thoughts that were alien to most. I was not trendy enough. Never mind, my imagination and will to succeed kept me going strong and kept me company.
So in college, what happens? Lots of personal family issues meant I could not achieve what I was so passionate about. Lots of negative noise, but still as dedicated. No worries, there are ways and so I went off to a career advisor, who I trusted and who knowledgeably showed me the way to get back to my passion – A degree in medicine. Which would mean I would need to take a science degree, and then get into medicine through APL or conversion. So Biochemistry it was. Or wasn’t. I dragged myself through the degree and on completion breathed a sigh of relief. I did not fit in! Biochemistry wasn’t for me and personal family issues meant lots of noise. A RTA (road traffic accident) later (so close to my final exams); I lost hope of ever entering medicine. All hope wasn’t lost, as I was at the same time progressing very nicely in my role in a GP centre – which I worked solidly in tandem with studying; getting exposure to health practice. It paid my bills, whilst in full-time study. And I got to meet individuals, who were Asian in an inner city practice. Their ways. Their lifestyles. Their ambitions. What of where I was in the workplace? I got on rather admirably with the one employer (GP) who gave me hell, yet believed in me. I was inspired by her and no matter what she did to push my boundaries at work – I proved her wrong. Conscientious as I was – I gave it 500% at work and worked my way up!
But still, I did not fit in! So you would think; surely I should, as I have been promoted at a very young age (a position everyone would be envious of!), but it came with whole hearted dedication, and hard graft. I was overlooked the ultimate promotion at work in my first organisation (that on hindsight, gave me my solid foundation for work in life). Why? Because of my age. I was told this, and I lost hope – not my ability being questioned but my perceived lack of life experience. I was ambitious but not for personal gain. A ‘white lady’ got the position without effort. I did not fit in – that was what I translated the circumstance as. Took it too personally.
Now I am to fast forward some career lessons as each position I have held, have been an honour to have achieved, with significant life obstacles, that no one can imagine. I proved the world wrong.
Looking at the number of obstacles that have shaped my life. I know they were there for a reason – for better, brighter things.
Not many can say they have been in a position of influence country-wide. I have been the only Asian (ethnic minority) to have been presenting in high profile events, consultations, policy launches and professional workshops in health and social care; technically bright in very specialist roles, of which there are very few that can, and have worked. I gave every minute of my life to my career – it paid well and I was in a position of influence, or so I thought. I did not share my concerns with anyone, yet it was very interesting to see me as the only individual of ethnic background, to be leading high profile country wide workforce and skills policy activities. I don’t gloat. But my passion for health remained. I kept diversifying my knowledge and experiences, throughout my career – achieved many accolades. Not many Asians or individuals can say the same.
What hit me; is despite being the only ethnic or even a handful at best of technical experts working in skills development, workforce planning and education policy; that there are not many other equally talented and hard-working ethnic minority representatives in those positions. It is a ‘white world’. An ambitious, yet grounded individual like me, can and will prove my ethics, existence and work value, over and over again. Yet strategically workforce planning, with the high input of specialist ethnic professionals in health; many don’t follow through the ‘talent pipeline’. Sad, but I am sure this blog will raise some thoughts and opportunities.
I was lucky – but was I?
I don’t believe this. I have never been ‘pipped’ for a work position EVER (I add, I’m sure no-one has either). I have had to prove my worth time and time again – with hard graft, like many others. My personality would show this and the individuals, who have worked with me in the past will recite how difficult or kind and helpful I can be.
The title of this blog is ‘I don’t fit in!’. I am not overwhelmed at being the only ethnic minority, in a lot of my stakeholder engagement. I proudly stand as an Asian and woman, who has worked extremely hard at proving a point. I am worthy and I am the ‘best’ technically skilled individual anyone can meet. Modesty huh?!
Many would take the ‘I don’t fit in’ as lost hope. Keep working hard in the background and don’t challenge the system. Some may not even want to reach higher levels in the workplace. It is a real shame that we have individuals (who are representative of a huge proportion of a sector) not contributing into shaping the employability, talent, and skills levels, now regarded as important for diversity in the workplace. A lack of informed input from these individuals, mean we do not have a healthy debate on what works and what doesn’t in the workplace.
I have since established my own independent consultancy working across UK and India, with some very credible organisations. I give my personal time to involve, input, and engage in consultations and other key developments in skills, workforce and standards, to help those less fortunate or those who really want to rise to the challenge and create a dream career in the sector, they will succeed in. At times, I feel I don’t fit in with Asians themselves, as I have been brought up as a very independent, confident and bold woman in a white community.
As an advisor, I am confident individuals have voice and opportunities that will be blocked or overlooked. Is it confidence? Is it personal circumstances?
In the workplace, it isn’t just rising to the occasion with your hard work – you can give an employer 200% and I am sure you will be. What is more important is that you express confidently you, you worth and your value, in supporting workplace initiatives, beyond the task at hand. You are not challenging, but constructive and yet you are not difficult to work with, if you come up with a suggestion or point of view that isn’t in keeping with those colleagues you work with. Diversity is being embraced in the workplace, and not just token. Organisations need diversity to sustain business and grow. Culturally, you have been accepted in teams to contribute complementary. There is no harm in sharing sometimes conflicting evidence, working with your complementary and supportive strengths.
I don’t fit in! Oh yes you do!
Be confident in what you do. You are individuals with special talents and experiences – that no other can imitate or share.
Embrace your leadership strengths and speak volumes. You can influence, what is shaping organisations and workplaces around the world.
I go back to my initial statement: I don’t fit in! – So what am I doing about it?!
What are you doing about it?