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How do you know what your purpose or ‘deepest work’ is?

How do you keep going after 25 years in one sector? How do you know that you are doing a good job? How do you know what your purpose or ‘deepest work’ is? How do you know your next steps in your career? You join the Clore Social Women and Girls programme and you find out!

The programme inspired and challenged me at a fundamental level; being with women from the sector and learning from others’ experiences was deeply challenging and humbling. The Clore Social programme used a variety of interactive learning methods to draw out our experience. From YouTube clips, inspiring speakers, journal articles, homework, workshops, group exercises, coaching, Action Learning Sets and one-to-ones, aided by an abundance of post-its and sharpies, we trawled through a massive amount of content. It’s demanding and requires you to commit… and to juggle your workload.

However, having completed the course, I will claim several things:

  • I am more able and willing to step forward knowing that I will fail. One session by Liz Peters enabled us to take big theatrical bow when we got a silly exercise wrong. I’ve taken this to the office and when I take a ‘failure bow’ I make it good. The message is, ‘It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s ok to get it wrong.’ I’ve learned to ask myself, ‘What will you do about it - wallow or learn?’
  • I am still learning to say, ‘YES, AND...’ instead of, ‘YES, BUT…’ as this can be a powerful enabler to the team around me.
  • I am more aware of my energy and attention and when I work best. After a one-to-one coaching session with the excellent Pat Joseph, I prioritise diary dates, planning and margins and therefore work to my strengths.
  • I have accepted more speaking engagements. Using the power poses that Liz emphasised you’ll find me breathing and standing like Wonder Woman before I speak, imagining amazing women cheering me on.
  • I am more aware of the strengths and the issues that women with disabilities face thanks to learning from women in our group.
  • I am more aware of a ‘systems thinking’ approach after the session with Jennie McShannon. Asking key questions about the root causes of a problem and how we can work together to bring about change comes more naturally to me. I still need further work on this!
  • I am more connected and able to offer and receive support from my cohort. Our Action Learning Set will carry on and the five us will keep learning from each other, thanks to Jane Garnham our fantastic facilitator. I have also taken the bold step of training to be an Action Learning Set Facilitator and I’m booked on the training course. I wouldn’t have done that before. I would have discounted myself.

Leaders face an enormous amount of issues, women in leadership even more so. The problems that I arrived with are still there, yet my perspective has shifted. I am more aware of my own and others’ strengths, our purpose and my ‘deepest work’. As a result, I think I can carry on longer in the resilient yet fragile women’s sector which deals with so much trauma and injustice. I know I’m doing a bloody good job and I want to enable others to know that too – including you! If you have read this far then I hope this is prompting you to apply... to get the dates in the diary… to talk with your Trustees...

Most of all, I’ve learned from all these women I have met. I’d like to think they have rubbed off on me, helped me to emerge and not listen to the ‘imposter voice’ that seeks to stop me before I start. What a dreamy and inspiring space to enter! I can’t recommend it more highly. But give it your all, make the most of it, stay curious, you might just find out your ‘deepest work’ and get some tools to help you be the best version of you, failures and all.

Josephine Knowles is the Co-Director (and Co-Founder) of Beyond the Streets, a charity that works with women facing sexual exploitation - and is the organisation’s only Argentine Tango dancer!

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