About five years ago, my cousin Isabelle, who is from Luxembourg, permanently settled in New York. It was huge for me because as a child of immigrants, I never had extended family here. I love having Isabelle, and her husband Noah, around in all sorts of ways. But for my newsletter, what’s interesting to me is how she’s taken on career. Like a lot of millennials, Isabelle takes career management for granted. That’s something that didn’t even occur to me at her age. Like the Gen-Xer that I am, I thought that if you just got a good job at a company, things would take care of themselves. Now that I help others with career strategy for a living, I see some key things that Isabelle does without thinking. I’ve asked her a few questions, and here are her responses.
Claire: You are still in your 20’s and seem to really know what you are good at and what you can contribute at work. Would you share some key moments that have helped you understand that?
Isabelle: I feel like I had a lot of these realizations throughout school. My parents were great at telling me to follow my passion and to do the things I liked. So I got rewarded by getting good feedback from my teachers, who confirmed my strengths while also pointing out my weaknesses.
One example is that when I started working, it became clear that I need to be in a fast-paced environment and I need change. I get bored if things become too repetitive. I also need to work with people I look up to and respect, because they are smart and empower me. I like a boss with empathy but also need to feel that he/she has analytical thinking. In addition, I realized that I love working on things myself and getting things done efficiently. So when it comes to teamwork I have to be careful to be patient and not rush other people with different working styles.
I’ve had a couple great mentors, you being one of them Claire, helping me to analyze myself and dissect the way I work, what I’m good at, and what I struggle with. I’m lucky to have had such mentorships and consider it essential in my career to have someone older, who can help me gain perspective, share experiences and push me to analyze myself.
Claire: I’ve seen you be offered more responsibility, even promotions, in a couple of jobs. In your approach, what do you think has made that happen?
Isabelle: I think it was passion, dedication and embracing my roles fully, that have helped me to grow and get more responsibility. I don’t ever want to be complacent. I actually don’t enjoy when work gets too predictable and when it feels easy to just complete tasks and then go home. I really crave the constant challenge and I think that has inspired my bosses to push me and reward me.
Claire: Full disclosure – you had a job where you shared that you were frustrated and demoralized. What helped you determine it was the wrong job? What steps did you take to move on?
Isabelle: I took a step back and looked at myself from the outside. I went away on a long weekend with a close friend to assess. I found myself stuck and feeling a lot of negative feelings related to the job. I didn’t recognize my attitude because, usually, I’m super motivated to go to work and get things done. I was having a hard time getting on the subway and even going in.
Eventually, I decided that I couldn’t continue lying to myself and that let me be open to analyzing what made me so frustrated and unhappy. It wasn’t the right fit in terms of interest levels and I believe that my strengths were not being used at all. So I decided to have the conversation with my boss and explain to him that I would leave the company. It wasn’t easy, but the weight that lifted off my chest was incredible. I knew that I could be happy at work and decided to go out and find that happiness in another job.
Claire: You’ve chosen the start-up route over big corporate. What is your selection process? How do you know the opportunity is a good one and that the people are solid?
Isabelle: I initially went into the startup world because I was inspired by the sense of entrepreneurship and the fast-paced environment. I love feeling like I’m building something every day and I love seeing tangible results of my work. I think startups are good for someone who craves problem-solving and mixing creative and strategic thinking. Now, not everything that shines is gold. I think it’s even harder in startups to really figure out if a company is the right fit for two reasons: 1. It’s an ever-changing environment so you need to be willing to adapt and deal with new challenges and new people all the time 2. Job descriptions can be fluid and you can be asked to do things that ‘you weren’t hired for’ initially.
I’ve really learned to listen to my gut. I now work for a women-owned company and absolutely loved the founders when I met them. I was impressed by their experience and connected with them on a human level. There was instant trust and I realized that the people, especially in startups, are the most important. So really try to meet as many people as possible when you go through an interview and trust your intuition. I believe that job titles and responsibilities can change, so I can compromise a bit on them but I can’t compromise on good people.
Claire: Like a lot of millennials, you have this incredible side gig. Would you share more about it?
Isabelle: I love my job, but I also have a passion outside of work: I deeply care about making a difference when it comes to promoting a plant-based and vegan lifestyle. It’s based on my personal journey and convictions when it comes to animals and the environment and how we treat them. So I started a blog, The Plantiful, and writing gig at Peaceful Dumpling about 2 years ago. I also co-founded an online vegan meal planning program called Buddhalicious It lets you sign up for 30-day plant-based challenges that help you, step by step, to cut out animal products and live a healthier, more balanced life.
Claire: I’ve loved exploring a plant-based diet with you. Give us some guidelines for going vegan…or vegan-ish!
Isabelle: Absolutely! 🙂 I think the first step is to figure out your ‘why’? It’s important to find the reason behind your wish to go vegan or vegan-ish and then make it a sort of mantra, that you can always go back to when you struggle or feel like you lose your orientation. Because you’re changing habits, it is a process and it takes time.
Secondly, I would start by doing one vegan day a week. Just one. Breakfast, lunch and dinner + snacks, all vegan. Once you have that one day down, you can add 2, 3, 4 and more. You don’t have to be perfect. Just try to make a little bit of progress, one step at a time. And even if you don’t go 100% vegan, your conscious decision to cut out more and more animal products is a gigantic win for your health (and the animals :)).
I would also recommend doing some research and getting some resources – you can check out my blog or meal planning program, for example. Get some recipes you love and veganize some of your favorites by finding plant-based alternatives. I can definitely help with some inspiration so feel free to reach out!
Claire: Isabelle you are a rock star! Let me shift now to the readers. Please see below. Isabelle has provided us with a quick guide for how to transition to vegan (or vegan-ish) eating and, if you link to her newsletter you can sign up for her fantastic recipes and get a pantry guide for plant-based cooking. BTW – Isabelle’s grandfather (my uncle) was the best chocolate maker of his generation in chocolate-loving Luxembourg — Good food is in her blood!
All my best,
How to go vegan…or vegan-ish
1. Start with one vegan day per week (Meatless Mondays for example)
2. Cut out non-vegan food categories progressively. Start off with eliminating red meat, then poultry, then fish, then dairy and then eggs.
3. Find alternative products to the non-vegan food you ate before: replace animal protein with plant-based protein such as tofu or meat replacements. Switch out eggs in baking for flax seeds or applesauce. Replace dairy with vegan versions such as almond or soy-based milks and yogurt.
4. Veganize your favorite recipes so you get the same flavors but in a plant-based version
5. Stop shopping for non-vegan foods + give away all non-vegan foods that you have left at home
6. Explore local vegan restaurants with friends.
7. Offer to bring a dish (vegan!) when invited to a friend’s non-vegan house
8. Do research before you eat out at a non-vegan place: call them in advance or ask the waiter to confirm they can make you something vegan – 99% of restaurants will be more than happy to do that and more and more restaurants now have vegan option on their regular menus