How I hired myself for every job I’ve ever had
I believe in empowerment. While often used as a “fluff” word nowadays, I personally define empowerment as the act of giving people opportunities to make something greater out of them.
I recently wrote an article titled, “I’m a 22-year-old CEO who gets mistaken as the intern and that’s okay.” While this is telling of my everyday reality, I started a company called Fulphil and we bring together university students to solve their city’s most pressing social problems through entrepreneurship. Maybe and hopefully you’ve heard of it. To date, growing through a Campus Ambassador model, we have about 1,000 students in our network and It’s very inspiring and empowering to see all these young people come together to work hard for something they believe in.
I was asked a question the other day about what I’m most proud of. And I believe it’s actually this Campus Ambassador program we’ve launched through Fulphil because of what it stands for. Joe Lee was one of the first interns I hired for summer 2018. He didn’t know too much about social entrepreneurship exactly before beginning work — and at the same time, I was just struggling to figure out what he’d be helping me with — but I saw him grow and become inspired in the process. Just a month before his internship ended, Joe shyly asked if he could stay with Fulphil to help grow it out after the work he’s done. With that, I made him our Regional Program Manager. He now manages 10+ university campus programs, interviews all our incoming interns, takes a lot of my calls, and sets up some of the best engagement opportunities I’ve ever had. Without Joe, I really believe we would not have all these programs in our network, nor would we have inspired as many people as we have.
I was once in his shoes. All my life, I knew with all my heart that I wanted to be a doctor to save lives. But funny enough, once I came into college, I realized I actually didn’t know what I wanted to do and that really made my first few years daunting and stressful. After a lot of stumbling and reflection, I discovered and was so inspired by the path of social entrepreneurship. I’ve worked with an organization that basically taught me everything I know to help me launch a full-fledged program for them to inspire 1,500 people but also inspiring me to create something of my own to empower the same way I was. Joe, his work, and the others from our network are exactly what Fulphil stands for — youth empowerment. But to see Joe and his work is really a tremendous reminder for the hustle for the beginning of my path and also an inspiration for me to see the great potential that young people hold.
The biggest piece of advice that I can ever give anyone is found in two letters: do. Often we are seeking to find empowering opportunities from our work and others but it all begins with ourselves.
Empowerment really begins with ourselves. Empowerment really isn’t just found in a job, an authority, or opportunity. Rather, it really begins intrinsically with believing in ourselves and giving ourselves that validating right to pursue something. I believe that the opportunities are actually what allow us to realize the untapped potential we have in us.
Relating this to myself, truth be told, I’ve never actually had an interviewed for any job that I ended up taking. I actually consider myself a fairly shy person, so this genuinely surprises me too (when I was little, I was actually so terrified of interacting with the other kids at school that my mom had to park her car outside our classroom so I’d stop crying and learn to play with others). Funny enough, I’ve always proposed or volunteered myself for the opportunities I’d be enthusiastic about. These opportunities morphed into jobs, landing me opportunities to be an intern, an executive director, and now, CEO. But even more so, they transformed into growing experiences to help me gain confidence in myself to realize the potential that I never knew I had. So, when Joe shyly asked me if he could stay onboard, the past two years of my journey flashed before my eyes.
In the end, I believe we all hire ourselves for everything that we do. No one asked us to be who we are today and do what we do. No one asked Joe to continue to work for Fulphil, no one asked me to found a company, let alone, pursue the sector of social impact, and no one asked those thousands of young people to be part of it. We’re really the ones who hired ourselves for the role, whether it’s a job, being a friend, or performing a good deed. In the end, we ourselves are the most qualified people for the jobs that we’ve created for ourselves.
Do. These are two simple letters that are often overlooked but can create a great impact. Doing is not a simple thing — it’s honestly quite terrifying. While sometimes the thought of it is very overwhelming, it often begins with simple small steps that can go a long way to surprise yourself. It could be saying “yes” to something that you usually wouldn’t, or volunteering yourself. Like for Joe, it would be asking a question without the fear of getting a “no,” and in the case of my 4-year old self, starting to play with just one person on the playground. Give yourself the opportunity to make something more out of it, and one day, you can be the one to give that opportunity to empower others