By Mai Elsayed, PR Manager at Seven Media, clinical hypnotherapist, internationally published author, and PRCA NextGen Committee Member
My dearest Mai,
I am an older version of yourself, writing you a letter from the future – the year 2021. You are a 26-year-old PR Manager, PRCA NextGen Committee Member, clinical hypnotherapist, and an internationally published author – not to mention all the courses you have taken to expand your knowledge, from cognitive behavioral therapy to art therapy… and the list goes on! Skipping the self-assurance part, what I am trying to say here is LOOK AT WHAT YOU HAVE ACHIEVED AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE!
Let’s take this letter as an opportunity to go through the things you need to keep in mind growing up.
Dream big and always ask questions
Sound cliché, right? WRONG! Walt Disney once said, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Do not let society, culture, or the universe in its entirety define what you should or should not dream of achieving. Avoid jumping on the bandwagon – just because the majority of the population is doing something a certain way doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do or that you need to follow it.
You need to ask questions – a lot of questions. Use the skill of critical thinking that the American University of Sharjah has developed in you. Don’t do things just because you were told to do them. Try understanding why – especially in the comms industry, sometimes clients ask you to deliver tasks that won’t achieve the goal they want. Asking questions in this context (or any context really) will give you a wider perspective and, therefore, will help you make wiser decisions and deliver better results.
Equally important is getting outside your comfort zone. I know it is easier to do the things that you’ve always done but you will never grow (psychologically and professionally) if you don’t challenge yourself. Everything is difficult in the beginning but step-by-step, with time and practice, it gets easier. You never know what you are really capable of until you push your own limitations.
Getting into new experiences and surrounding yourself with smart thought-leaders who will challenge your ideologies will help you develop a sense of wisdom and emotional intelligence while adopting an open mindset. If you really want to get strategic about this, consider setting new time-bound goals for yourself.
Let your passions drive you
Directly linked to my point about dreaming big is doing what you love. When you do something that you are passionate about (whether as a career or a hobby), every challenge becomes nothing but a bump in the road and you will have the right mindset to overcome them! You will be more resilient when you face any obstacles. Your passion will direct you towards your life purpose and will leave you feeling fulfilled. You cannot imagine the difference it will make in your overall productivity and performance when you work on something that you are emotionally invested in. In fact, it will not even feel like work!
Be professional but understand that clients are humans
Here is where your psychology expertise will deem itself useful. Studying therapy will add so much value to your career in PR & comms. I know that you initially won’t be able to see the link but let me explain. As you grow older and hold more senior positions, you will be expected to be client-facing and to manage team members. Understanding that clients (and employees in general) are human beings who have families to feed, bosses to report to, and their own personal demons to face will help you help them. You will develop a significant sense of empathy that will make you feel what they are feeling and understand what they are experiencing. Now, this could be a double-edged sword so read my next point very carefully.
Have courage and be kind
Being empathetic is a really wonderful quality that you should continue to nurture and I think it could be one of the values to save humanity… but you seriously need to know how to set boundaries. The last advice that Cinderella’s mother gave on her death bed was ‘Have courage and be kind.’ I would counsel you to apply that to your life and all your interactions.
Being an empath can sometimes leave you over-stressed and overwhelmed by the energies of other people. Don’t shy away from saying ‘no’ when you need to but please be cautious not to hurt people’s feelings in the process. Even when you give criticism, remember to always be compassionate. You never know how your words could affect someone’s life. None of us has life figured out 100% and therefore, we are all learning as we go.
Take it easy
Mai, being your future self, I need to give you a final piece of advice that links back to what you’ve achieved at such a young age. Yes, you should dream big, but you also need to take it easy. You see, life is a game of finding balance. You need to find that sweet spot of achieving your dreams while at the same time giving yourself time to breathe. You only live life once so find equilibrium in everything. You are a determined, empowered, strong independent woman so be easy on yourself and drop the perfectionist attitude. You are allowed to make mistakes!
Lots of love,
Your older self