Friday, March 9, 2012

Back at it

I have been back at the work bit since January now, and it has been another learning experience I did not expect. I have learned that I like to work.

I am not sure why this has surprised me so much but it has. I knew when we first moved to England that I liked working because I was pretty close to loosing my mind for the first 6 months when i didn't have a job. Once I found my (current) job and started at it, I really was much happier. It's funny because I always thought that not having to work and having all kinds of time on my hands sounded like a dream. Once I had the option of not working and just being a lady of leisure, I actually hated it. It probably didn't help that I had (and still have) a husband who works a LOT and that is part of the gig since we live abroad for his job right now.

Being back at work has more than its fair share of challenges but it also has some advantages. Last week I was invited to the launch of the new innovation center for Kraft/Cadbury because they are now a US/UK company and I work with such companies in my job. (It's really a great fit since I fit the bill as an American living in England). Not only was it a really cool day to spend at Cadbury learning all about their chocolate (and tasting loads of it!!) but it reminded me of why I do enjoy my job - AND - how much I have grown within myself by working over here.

As I was driving to this work event I was thinking to myself that I was not sure if I would know anyone at the event but it didn't matter whether I knew anyone there or not. I know that I have enough confidence to walk into a situation where I don't know anyone and I will be able to walk up to people, will politely introduce myself, have a conversation, and hopefully make a worthwhile connection by the end of my time at such an event.

Thinking through these steps made me remember how I felt three years ago when I had just started my job over here. I was starting to meet stakeholders and other business people in the local area for my job. I met a local CEO of an organization and he invited me to be his guest at a business black tie gala. I accepted because it was due to be a worthwhile business event.
The day arrived and I was on my way driving to the event and it hit me - I realized I was about to walk into a 500 person event by myself and I knew only one person who was going to be in that room. This wasn't an event in Chicago anymore where I had gone to work functions by myself but always knew that because I knew enough people within my industry, I would walk in and would be able to recognize someone I knew - or someone with whom I at least had a connection.

This time, I was going to an event in a new city and a new COUNTRY and I did not have any type of professional network here yet! In fact, beyond my team of employees, I really did not know anyone else within a work capacity.

So, three years ago, I went to that black tie event and it turned out to be fine. In fact, it was more than fine. I actually walked away with a fist-full of business cards and made some connections to people I see and do business with now on a regular basis.

I am reminded of these thoughts and sentiments when I am off to events now where I am not sure if I will know anyone or not. And it doesn't bother me anymore because I know I have moved countries, made new connections, and built a new professional (and personal) network for myself since I had that first experience of getting thrown into the deep end here. It is good to remind myself about how I felt three years ago because it makes me realize how much I have grown and how proud I am to have established myself professionally within a new country, even though it was my husband's expat assignment that brought us over here. I know I would not have had the same (personal and) professional growth opportunities if we were still in the US, so for that I am grateful.

Cadbury's chocolate making headquarters!
They had the guests (only about 40 of us in total), tasting their liquid chocolate with various mix-in ingredients to see if we could create any flavor combinations that were worthwhile. Since it is their innovation center that we were touring, this type of activity takes place all of the time there.
And then as if I didn't consume enough chocolate at the event, they sent each attendee home with a bag full of Chocolate products to sample later.
My little taste-tester was, once again, into the bag straight away, trying to get her teeth into that chocolate! (Unfortunately for her she hasn't been allowed any chocolate).

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