What My Story Can Teach You About Taking a Chance on Someone

Hooray, finally! Spring is finding its way in, at least here in Toronto. Soon, it will take over everything around us with greenery and myriad of colors. Depending on when you are reading this, it might be April Fools’ Day 😊. But the story I am going to share with you is 100% real. It’s my personal story that I promised to share in the last week’s blog.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving – Albert Einstein.

The story starts like this.
I moved to Canada from Poland in 2005. My plane trip with four suitcases, full of hope, was the first plane flight I have ever taken. Which tells you I have never been to North America before. Yes, I traveled quite a bit on wheels around Europe up to that time, mostly as a tourist. Moving to another continent and country for good was a whole new ball game for me.

Everything was new and calling to be discovered: culture, the way of life, architecture; even the day to day stuff that most of us do not think about daily like traffic, road signs, or stores (i.e., where do I buy what?). This type of experience is beautiful, exciting and also scary at the same time. I had the advantage of having stayed with friends who have lived in Canada for many years and were kind enough to guide me and introduce me to many new things.

My happiness and excitement sometimes gave way to self-doubt and floundering confidence. I needed a job, and everyone I talked to was telling me that without Canadian experience it will be hard for me to find a good one.

With that, my negative self-talk gremlin came out of hiding and was flourishing: “Hey! What are you trying to do here in this big city a Polish girl from a small town? So what that you speak English and French – many people do”. “So what that you have a Masters degree in international relations – it’s not a degree from here – no one cares” “do you know how many young more talented people are in this city?– millions!”, etc. etc.

The good thing about putting yourself in a situation like this one is it forces you to act, to do something about it and move forward, no matter the talk in your head.

The first Canadian job: You’re embarking on a new future, positioning yourself to write a fresh story on a clean slate – Adena Friedman.

That is why, I created a resume and started sending it out. I had experience for sure – but not from Canada. Lucky for me, my friend knew someone at his workplace at the time that was always looking for bilingual customer service reps. He worked at a facility management company, and their operations helpdesk was preparing to take over a large client. They needed people speaking French. And that I could do, or so I thought. 

So I sent my resume and after a short phone screen was invited for an in-person interview downtown. I was so excited! I remember going downtown the weekend before the scheduled meeting to find the building and ensure I knew 100% where I was going on the day. The last thing I wanted was to be lost and late!

Despite the nightmares about it, I wasn’t late, and the first interview went well. A couple of days after I got invited to the second one. A few great strong women interviewed me to offer me the job finally. A real job with decent pay, a dream come true!

Taking a small chance on someone can give them enough wings to take off and fly – Maggie Perotin.

The manager who hired me took a chance on me. She did it because she saw something in me that I could not see myself. She believed in me more than I did at the time.
Yes, I had some skills that I could use in my new job right away, but how many other candidates had them? Many! And the first French call I took was from a client in Atlantic speaking Acadian – oh boy! I had no idea what they were saying! I barely understood the minimum to get through the call and arrange for the service they required.

Moreover, not only did she offer me a job in the industry that I got to love, but she also took time to train and mentor me for many years.

Her mentoring went well beyond job training or industry knowledge. At the beginning with English being my 3rd language, I tended to reverse the structure of the sentences (if you know a bit of French you know what I mean 😊). She always took time to proofread my writing and coach me on that. Together with my peers, she introduced me to many English sayings or common phrases that you cannot learn outside of the culture that uses them, for example, “nuke,” “deer in headlights,” or “Bob’s your uncle.” Yes, I looked like a deer in headlights when someone offered to “nuke” my coffee one day. I thought they were talking about a bomb!

In the end, my first Canadian manager ever not only became one of my greatest mentors and best friends, my Canadian “mom.” Over the years she inspired and guided me in many professional and personal situations helping me to become the person I am today.

Giving is an expression of gratitude for our blessings – Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen.

One of the biggest lessons I took from her was gratitude and inspiration to give back, to help others the way she helped me. I knew that I would never be able to pay her back even a portion of what she did for me.

That’s why I decided to give back to others. I have stayed and progressed my career with facility management industry as I found it to be exciting, complex, diverse, never dull and always busy (sometimes even too busy 😊). I am someone who likes doing many different things and gets bored with mundane, repetitive tasks. This industry can keep someone like me motivated and engaged for many years!

Over the years of my professional career, I have interviewed and hired a multitude of people. And whenever it was possible, and I found a great person with drive and determination who just needed a chance I gave them one. Those employees always turned out to be one of the best ones I have ever had. We developed great relationships, and many turned into friendships. I had the privilege of watching them grow and spread their wings.

There is no better reward for a leader than seeing their mentees flourish in their careers and grow as people. And the most important thing of all, I know that they will give back one day as well.

If you give people a chance, they shine – Billy Connolly.

To conclude my story, I want to inspire you and ask you to sometimes take a chance on someone. Even one person. To let go of that selfish fear that sits in us trying not to get “hurt,” take a risk or “be wrong.” To open your eyes and heart and see someone that needs you. To notice someone that needs your belief in them, your word of encouragement, sharing a bit of your knowledge or just a piece of advice.

You never know how a small thing to you, can be a massive help to someone else. If we all share a little something with one or two people a week, a month or ever a year, and inspire them to do the same, the compound effect will do the rest. Everyone can contribute and make the world a better place.  Start small with people around you; just take a chance and try.

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