Expert Q&A: A Realist’s Guide To Blending Work and Passion
Want to align your career with your personal beliefs, desires and goals? Ask yourself the right questions, says Charlotte Haimes, founder of Women Making Waves.
Before launching Women Making Waves (WMW), a global community of women who aspire to show up as their true selves and define success on their own terms, Charlotte Haimes spent 10 years working in the luxury industry as a digital marketing expert for top brands like Fendi, Valentino and Chanel. As the founder of WMW, Charlotte’s work helps to amplify women’s personal stories online and in person with talks hosted in cities across Europe and the United States.
What inspired you to create Women Making Waves?
I created Women Making Waves out of a personal need for a space where I could be myself without feeling like I had to fit in or mold myself to an existing culture. I had been working for a while in a corporate environment in Paris where I felt like I had no choice but to adapt to a culture that I wasn’t aligned with. I needed a liberating space that was judgment-free and shame-free, that gave me permission to be imperfect and that allowed me to be, fully, in both my ups and downs. And I realized that I couldn’t possibly be alone in feeling this need.
At the time, I was starting to see several women’s co-working spaces and social clubs launching in England and in the United States – also my home country – that shared these values. Knowing that I couldn’t leave Paris because my husband was building his business, I decided that I would look into creating this space for women here. I quickly realized that this project was going to require a lot of financial backing and all I really wanted was to start executing my vision. So, I decided to scale back and create a community on values that mattered to me both online through interviews and articles, and offline through events. And that is how Women Making Waves was born.
You made a major career move when you decided to transition out of the luxury industry into creating a community promoting women’s well being. How did you know that this was the right move for you and where did you find the strength and determination to make this shift?
The last couple of years working in the corporate world were particularly trying for me. I think the emotional and physical distress I was experiencing was enough for me to look introspectively and make a change in my life. I couldn’t have made this move without the immense support of my husband who pushed me to follow my intuition and to choose life versus living life as I thought it was expected of me.
Over the last 6 years since I moved to Paris, I spent a lot of time following different thought-leaders, including Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Adam Grant and Seth Godin, who helped me gain new perspectives on myself and how to live. And one of the biggest changes I made is to fully embrace being vulnerable and giving myself permission to be imperfect.
I truly believe that this is the only way to live a richer, more fulfilled life, where I can explore my creativity and have more meaningful connections with people. To acknowledge this and to start living by this realization was a very important first step as I transitioned out of this industry into creating Women Making Waves.
What advice would you give other women who want to find a way to blend their career expertise with their personal passions?
First of all, I don’t believe that a personal passion should translate necessarily into a career. If it works out that way, that’s one thing, but it shouldn’t be a goal to make your passion a career. It could be very overwhelming and even frustrating to set this as a goal because your passion may not meet all of your needs. It’s not to say that it’s an “either/or” situation – you can very well follow a passion, all while growing your career or having a regular day job to pay the bills. They’re not mutually exclusive.
If there is any advice I can give, it is really for women who are deeply unsatisfied with their jobs and feel this burning need to make a switch doing something they love on their own. Here it is:
- Understand the root cause of your dissatisfaction by asking yourself the right questions and digging deep inside of you. There is this illusion that career switching or leaving corporations to become an entrepreneur is going to lead to a path of fulfillment. That’s only true if it’s true for you, so it’s important to ask yourself the right questions. Is it the culture of the organization? It is a bad manager? Is it the lack of good leadership? Is it the job itself? Or is it a personal issue, like the lack of self-esteem and the lack of self-love that is driving your dissatisfaction? Seeking the help of a professional coach or psychotherapist could be very useful in this phase, if you are lacking clarity in your professional path or need help in gaining more self-awareness.
- Find what makes you tick in life and do more of that. People often say, “do more of the things you like doing.” And that’s because the more you do, the more you can find out what you like and don’t like. And when certain things make you tick, do more of them! That’s the only way to get to know yourself, to understand what it is that ignites you. You can’t find out just by thinking about them at home sitting on a couch.
- Love what you do, accept the uncertainty and be patient. Very few people switch careers, launch their passion project and become an overnight success. I am certainly not an example of that and don’t believe in it anyway. Yes, things take time, sometimes they don’t necessarily work out and that’s a hard thing to come to terms with, when you’re investing a lot of energy and resources. But the truth is that you won’t know until you do it and that in and of itself takes time.
I will say this: If you love what you do, then that should be enough in itself for you to keep pursuing your venture, even if it means being uncertain about the outcome and when it will occur.
- You can live with a lot less, but money still matters. Chances are you won’t be rolling in money when you first launch your project. Heck, you might not even have a business plan until months after you’ve started! And that’s all OK. But, it’s important that you have a plan to not end up without a penny in the bank. Maybe you’ll need to have a part-time job or keep your day job that allows you to pay the bills. Maybe you’ll have to move to a smaller space for more affordable rent. If you love what you do, these are sacrifices that you may potentially have to become more comfortable with.
But this brings me back to my first point: Pursuing your passion does not necessarily have to become your career. Maybe your preferred lifestyle does not allow you to earn less money or maybe you have financial obligations that you cannot work around. And that’s all understandable, in which case, I would say pursue your passion separately from your job or career, without the pressure of making money. Down the road, you’ll see whether it’s worth leaving your job to pursue your passion full-time.
Logistically speaking, what has been your biggest challenge in creating Women Making Waves and how are you working to overcome it?
My biggest challenge in creating Women Making Waves has been defining my value proposition. I very quickly knew what my “why” was, what was driving me to do it, but I have been struggling with my “what”. To get past this challenge, I’ve been playing around with different ideas and am trying to overcome my fears to actually test these ideas and see if they work. It really comes down to fighting your fears of failing by accepting the fact that your ideas may not work out, but executing them regardless of the outcome. You will only know what works through testing and learning. But, yes, it is a difficult process.
These days it seems many female entrepreneurs are creating and running businesses that have deeper and more personal missions. Why do you think this is?
I think female entrepreneurs are creating and running businesses with personal missions because they’re unable to lead and carry out projects the way they’d like to in a corporate environment, be it for political reasons, for lack of budgets, or for misalignment with the values of the company. I think this is true for male entrepreneurs as well.
Basically, many people are bored in their corporate jobs and many corporations have outdated work styles that are unfulfilling to today’s generations. And ever since entrepreneurship became a hot trend with the financial crisis in 2008, people are realizing that there are other ways to earn a living, all while being fulfilled. I think human beings want to reassure themselves that they are living with a purpose, that their existence isn’t futile. And in a way, entrepreneurship, carrying out a personal mission, answers these needs that are inherent to us.
This was very much the case for myself in launching Women Making Waves. Working in the corporate world, specifically in the luxury industry in Paris, was very trying for me at times. I wanted to do the work that I genuinely loved, but I felt like there were too many political hurdles to overcome. Ultimately, I felt that I would never be able to contribute creatively, as long as the corporate culture stayed the same. Women Making Waves is very much a statement of individuality for myself, but also for other women seeking to voice their own individuality.
Looking ahead to the future – maybe 5 or 10 years – what are your goals for Women Making Waves?
To be honest, I have no idea what’s to come in the next 5 to 10 years! However, for 2018, I’m looking to put in place a business plan for Women Making Waves, testing different ideas. I’m also on the lookout for a future business partner because I strongly believe that this project can only grow and takeoff with a team. I’m hopeful and I’m nervous, but I’m genuinely excited about what’s to come.