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Comment: Unlocking your own personal value (Tedx talk)

I could not see any warning signs, and there was a moment when I just needed to take the risk and jump, says Maya. A former University of Copenhagen student, she has just won a talent stage at TEDx. Here is her inspiring story

One year ago, just before graduating from a Master of Arts, I was planning to start my third internship. Although the focus of the company I would work for was different than my own, I was happy to receive the contract in my inbox because I saw ‘real life’ approaching: the day I would not receive any state funding anymore, and the day my parents would expect me to make my own money.

I thought, and perhaps mostly hoped, that another internship would get me to this level of independency. I had one week to read the terms and sign the contract.

And then something unexpected happened.

Through Facebook I found a consultancy (called HUMINT Solutions), focusing on ‘unrecognized knowledge’. With the innovation method they developed, they help companies and organizations to find knowledge and information that have not been identified before. To read that there is a company out there that systemically tries to use human perspectives to innovate businesses was thrilling!

Before I realized, I was Skyping with the CEO and found myself in an intensive dialogue, in which I tried to figure out who they are and vice versa. It seemed to be a perfect match: I was eager to work with their concept and they were looking for someone with my profile. I got invited to join a project in Germany, followed by projects in Brazil, Greece, Belgium, France and in my home country, the Netherlands. I would get to talk with CEO’s, public officials and academics about unrecognized knowledge.

And all of that within one year.

Taking a risk

But of course I did not know this at the beginning. When I had to decide to not sign the contract for the internship (my other option), things were less obvious.

In contrast to the first company, HUMINT Solutions did not offer me any kind of traditional structure. I would not work fixed hours, but create my own timetable. I would not have a fixed income, but get paid according to the projects I would do. The strangest thing: I would become Business Partner, instead of an intern, or junior consultant or something else you would expect for a 25 year old starter.

My own friends responded with skepticism to the ‘opportunity’ this company offered. ‘Why would they want such a young, inexperienced person to work as a business partner?’ ‘Why do they work without any hierarchy?’

I asked myself these same questions.

It was such a different situation than I or any of my friends ever experienced. Now I know I was only looking at my own ‘recognized knowledge’: the things I had on my CV so far. In fact, I was hired for everything but this type of knowledge. Later, I also understood that they search for young and ‘older’ partners (I have a colleague of 65+) and I learned which unrecognized valuable perspectives I was able to bring to the company.

But back then, things did not make sense to me yet. In the attempt to minimize the uncertainty, I extensively googled the company, checked references and spoke with former clients and former people they worked with. Although I could not find any warning signs, there was still a moment when I just needed to take the risk and jump. It was that moment before I knew everything would work out well. It was when I already had to cancel my internship before I made even one euro with working for a company I barely knew. It was that moment before I travelled the world for work, before I would start a part-time PhD on unrecognized knowledge and before I would be invited to share this story at the TEDxTalentstage.

Never take the back seat

Throughout this exciting year, I have seen how we ourselves can often choose the rules of the game. I have experienced that I can take a risk without being naïve and that there is a big difference between following the crowd and taking the lead. In my perspective, we need to dedicate time to identify our own personal value and explore how to build with that value. Especially when you are entering the market and you expect a certain hierarchical structure, it is important to feel confident of the unique contribution you can make. Otherwise, in your search for success, you will become a reflection of other people. I believe that my biggest success will only be what has meaning to my personal journey.

Haim Dror, the founder of the company once told me to ‘never be on the back seat’. He authentically believes in the unique value of each person and is inspired by Victor Frankl, a known neurologist and psychiatrist with an extraordinary story of life. Frankl claimed that to empower people, you need to show them objectives that seem to be beyond their current capacities: this way they will reach higher than they ever expected. Looking back, I have been extremely lucky for two reasons: one to have found this great company to work for and second that I had to guts to make that jump.

The sky is not the limit!

See the video below:

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