Suparna Bhasin of She Creates Change teaches women to pursue their passion. She talks to lifestyle expert Claudia Chan.
Jobseekers unsure of their futures often hear the advice ‘Do what you love and love what you do.’ But finding what you love takes work, according to professional development mentor Suparna Bhasin. Since 2009, her New York company, She Creates Change, has worked with more than 300 women, using a process called the “12 C’s” (from “courage” to “curiosity”) to help female clients identify their true calling. A certified coach, Bhasin has also served as president of the board for Women’s Education Project, a nonprofit that helps young women in India succeed in college and careers.
Edited interview excerpts follow.
Claudia Chan: How did your own career begin?
A: At a regional bank in Baltimore, where I was given the opportunity to explore what I am good at and what I loved inside of a very traditional firm. What I discovered is that I love to help people—just not around how to manage their money better. This insight led me to Columbia University where I received an M.A. in organizational psychology. Today I run a women’s empowerment company dedicated to helping women discover who they are and what they are meant to do.
CC: What was the hardest career transition in your life and how did you grow from it?
A: The one where I lost my last “job” as an employee with a steady paycheck. In September of 2001, about a week before 9/11, my department was downsized, and I was laid off. I remember this overwhelming sense of freedom and confusion around the fact that the world was completely my oyster and I could create anything I wanted from this place. I hated what I was doing and am happy to report that 12 years later, I have never gone back to work for anyone other than myself. I started the journey by asking people to congratulate me and one year later, I started my first business. Today, I finally understand quite a bit about what it takes to start and grow your own business and I firmly believe I am on my way to realizing a level of success I have been working towards since that day.
CC: If you had a young sister or a daughter who was a senior in college, anxious about landing her first job or unsure of what she wanted to do, what would your advice be to her?
A: Don’t worry so much about what you want to do; first find out who you are and what you love! I believe one year taken out of life to get to know oneself and engage in spiritual practices including meditation and service projects could be the most meaningful thing any young person could do to set themselves on the right path.
CC: How can someone who is not in a traditional position of leadership inspire change in her workplace or community?
A: One of my strongest personal values and philosophies is to “be the change you want to see in the world.” I believe the strongest way to affect change anywhere is to lead by example and inspire others to become better through modeling what this looks like.
CC: Life is full of setbacks. Can you share an experience of one, and how you were able to bounce back?
A: My first major professional setback (I don’t consider losing my job a setback) was when my first business failed. I was forced to move home and understand what comes next. I called someone I met and agreed to a freelance, contingent position [in an executive search role] where I only profited if I made a deal. I worked on this for five months without any results, which led to me putting my resume together to apply for a traditional job. I felt desperate and scared about my options.
I went on the first interview and was offered the opportunity to be flown to New York and meet with the partners. I had a strong sense I would get the job, so rather than saying yes, I called the HR manager and explained to him that this wasn’t me being true to myself and I needed to pass. That same month my first deal came through, $35,000 wired into my account in one transaction, several more deals hit and a month later I was introduced to my last business partner which led to the work I am doing now. Bouncing back only happens when you are true to yourself.
CC: In theory, one should prioritize their own health in order to take care of others (family, kids, work, etc.). But in reality, I’ve found that women often take care of themselves last. What are your thoughts on this?
A: This drives everything I do. The curriculum I have created begins first with “Take Care of Yourself First.” If a woman has not filled her own cup, it will become increasingly difficult for her to joyfully take care of her other responsibilities. Being “selfish” is an interesting concept that ends up in one of 2 extreme places – either narcissism or martyrdom. It is actually incredibly selfish to neglect one’s own self at the expense of other’s well-being because this is not an act of self-love. Unfortunately, I don’t believe women are taught that taking time out for themselves is even allowed. My work in the world and how I teach women to become a better version of themselves centers around their ability to invest time in their own well-being.
CC: What is one book that every young woman should read?
A: Happiness is A Choice by Barry Neil Kaufmann. It helps you to understand that your life and your joy is really up to you, and ultimately no one and nothing determines how happy you are. Only you and your own choices and integrity can help determine this.
Inspired by Suparna Bhasin? Take a look at Claudia Chan’s other interviews with enterprising women.
Dee Poku on Inspiring the Next Generation of Women Leaders
Bobbi Brown on the Business of Beauty
Joi Gordon on Dressing Disadvantaged Women for Success
Ingrid Vandervelt on Overcoming Self-Doubt and Empowering Others
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