BY OPHÉLIE BLANC MENTOR MY JOB GLASSES & BUSINESS OWNER
When I was 12, I wanted to be a DJ. At 13, I dreamt of becoming a PE teacher. When I turned 14, I began imagining my career as an architect. A few years later, when I reached 18 years old, I decided the role of real estate expert would fit me better. Surprise, surprise…
Today I am 30 years old and I have 11 years of professional experience including 6 different jobs.
In this article I am sharing my personal experience to give you a broad view of what the professional world is really like. Ready for the ride?
THE OBSERVATION PERIOD OR THE FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH THE PROFESSIONAL WORLD
In third grade, I applied for a short internship (mandatory in almost all French schools) at a real estate agency. I remember the day my mother took me to Dieulefit, a small town in the Drôme region, only to drop me there and have me ask all local real estate agencies if they needed someone for a week. Most agencies refused but, in the end, one said yes. Teenage-me was quite nervous before entering that agency for the first time. Taking my first steps in the professional world made me uncomfortable but I had no choice.
On the first day of my internship, I didn’t know what to do, what to say or how to behave. My shyness was on full-mode. I spent a week observing, as the internship required. I admit it was a bit frustrating at times not being able to do anything, but what task can you give to a teen who shudders at the very thought of greeting a customer?
I spent a week at the agency without making a single visit or client appointment, which are essential to the job. However, I made a point of arriving every day on time, even earlier, and of being respectful of the people and places that welcomed me. Even though I don’t have any outstanding memories of this internship, it was my first professional experience and I was quite proud of it at the time. If I hadn’t become a real state expert, at least I had managed to overcome my fears and shyness a little bit.
SUMMER JOBS, THE BEGINNING OF THE PROFESSIONAL WORLD
My second work experience was a seasonal job I took on every summer from the ages 15 to 18. I became a handywoman, a dreamy title, isn’t it? I found this job through my partner at the time who worked at this campsite all year round. For 3 summers I was assigned to clean the mobile homes, chalets and sanitary blocks. I also worked as a waitress, dishwasher and barmaid.
Despite what one may think, I learnt a lot during those summer months : I regularly met foreign clients, had relatively long working hours and physical tasks. These three summers taught me how to work in a team, helped me develop my conscientiousness and, above all, got me some great memories! This kind of experiences may seem inconsistent at a first glance, but in reality they are quite the opposite. It is these early experiences that shape your personality and make you understand the meaning of work.
CHOOSING YOUR HIGHER EDUCATION: DON’T BE FOOLED
In third grade, I was told that my results (relatively good depending on the subject) would allow me to continue to high school. Once in high school, I was asked to choose a course of study. Among the choices offered in French high schools, I opted for economics and social studies instead of literature or sciences which were not my cup of tea.
At the end of 12th grade, I was still interested in becoming a real estate agent. I didn’t know that much about the profession yet, but my teachers were very convincing when speaking about all the great things related law and real estate studies.
After my Baccalaureate (French equivalent to SATs), I entered the Law Faculty of the Jean Moulin University in Lyon since it offered a double degree that would allow me to specialise in real estate. The second degree was called DSAB (Diplôme Supérieur d’Administrateur de Biens) and its courses began at the end of the first semester. I didn’t know exactly what it consisted of but it sounded nice and was socially rewarding.
The dream did not last long. In December of that year, I learnt that the double degree was being cancelled due to a lack of applications. As a result, I found myself in law school, studying a very broad course that didn’t really interest me. At the time, I saw that situation as a total failure : I had put so much energy into moving to a new city, passing my first semester and putting together my application to get into that great degree… All that work for nothing!
However, nowadays my view on what happened is quite different. The (cancelled) diploma I was so excited about would have prepared me for professions related to property management which I don’t find interesting at all. I had been misguided in my career choices and, lucky me, life managed to put me back on the right path!
USING YOUR KNOWLEDGE TO CHANGE YOUR CAREER PATH
After this strange turn of events, I switched back to my initial idea and choose to complete a technical degree (BTS) in Real Estate moving to the city of Valence. In order to find a work-study opportunity, I updated my CV, wrote a cover letter and knocked on the door of all the estate agencies in the South of the Drôme (does this story ring a bell?). This search proved to be quite complicated: very few agencies were willing to take the time to train a young recruit.
I ended up being accepted at an estate agency in Montélimar after two interviews. How did I managed to persuade the agency manager that I was the best candidate among the 6 young professionals that had applied at the same time as me? In my cover letter I had explained that I am the daughter of farmers and that I was used to hard work from an early age.
My technical degree officially started in September, but my employer asked me if I could join the agency in July in order to carry out a sort of trial period until the degree began. My holiday plans fell through, but I accepted.
I still remember how nervous I felt on my first day at the agency. When I was asked to answer the phone, my hand was shaking like never before, my voice was anything but confident… But I was there and I had to jump in. Today, these memories make me smile!
ALL EXPERIENCES AND LEARNINGS ARE USEFUL PROFESSIONALLY
Today, I can step back and realise that from a very young age, my parents taught me that you must earn what you want. I don’t remember them denying me anything, but they always asked of me that I worked hard for whatever I was asking for.
At 13, I overcame my pre-teen shyness to enter the real estate agencies in my small town and learn to build my case in front of professionals.
At 18, I chose a path that ended not being what I thought and was able to bounce back.
At 19, I found the agency that offered me the chance to start my professional life.
For the record, during the first interview, Aurélie, in charge of human resources, asked me to type a text on her computer to see how fast I could do it and what spelling mistakes would go unnoticed by me. I passed the test with flying colours. Where did I get those skills? During that first year in college where I was typing constantly on my computer. Those months were not such a waste of time after all, right?
“EITHER I WIN OR I LEARN”
Behind every fear, there is a new experience. And behind every experience, even those that may seem like a mistake or a failure, is a new lesson to be learnt or a new skill to acquire. One thing is certain: everything, absolutely everything, is useful in life.
And you, how do you differentiate yourself from others? What are your best assets or skills?