Creating and leveraging a personal and professional network is useful at every stage of a career or business venture, but getting started — and maintaining a valuable network over time — requires intentional effort. Enter Bianca Jeanty, a marketer, strategist, and intrapreneur who helps individuals and small business owners use storytelling to convey their professional equity.
Watch the video above for Bianca’s top networking and mentoring tips, as part of the CCNYC’s 2020 Creative Curriculum, launched in partnership with Squarespace. She also recently talked with us about her winding professional path, how she balances her work with a self-care practice, and why letting passion override fear is key to finding the next steps in your career.
SQUARESPACE: You’re an established strategist, storyteller, and networker. Did you always have a clear vision for your career?
Bianca Jeanty: Absolutely not. The vision for my career has been anchored in freedom, but the clarity surfaced over time through trial and error. I actually planned to be a dentist. While the idea seemed prosperous, I quickly realized that vision was catered to pleasing my family and ensuring I didn’t disappoint. The barrier most nerve wracking to me was the ambiguity that came with answering “What’s next?”
Being married to one job function was something I vowed early would never happen for me. The same way we praise diversified portfolios is applicable when thinking about professional equity. That flexibility allowed for my career to take shape, especially when I committed to molding it as a body of work. Establishing myself as a strategist, storyteller, and networker came from mostly failures phoenixed into lessons. Those countless hours of working through confusion on how to communicate one idea into another industry contributed to my journey.
In retrospect, I was doing strategy through personal development and hadn’t realized that skill was applicable. For example, I had to convince my best friend to split the fees of multiple online courses I believed would help me break through professionally. I was as financially challenged as I was passionate, and it was received. Imagine wanting to be in media and communications but not having the language to convey value around it? It took perseverance, commitment, and honesty about what mattered to me as a person to land on a career route I could be proud of.
SQSP: You’ve made bold choices in your work life. How do you determine your next move, and find the courage to take steps towards it?
BJ: I’m generally a curious person. Being nosey doesn’t require courage, if you think about it. It's an innate feeling to seek more understanding and truth. And your actions tend to be more courageous when you reframe them in a different way.
So, instead of asking, “what do I want to do?”, I ask, “what do I want to learn?”
I believe in making each move as lucrative as possible. I also know that your career is only as valuable as the equity you’ve acquired. That includes building your reputation, cultivating your experience, clarifying your expertise, and having a diverse skill set. My experience in building platforms and content has taught me the value of fixing your fundamentals so you can be confident in your next move.
Courage does not mean there’s a lack of fear. And determining your next move doesn’t validate your identity. Your next move is just the vehicle to enable you to find what matters to you. What matters to me is love, respect and freedom. It can be strange to think of those virtues in a career or professional setting, but it’s all relative. Deciding that your passion for a new opportunity is greater than your fear and the opportunity to build with your peers is liberating for me.
SQSP: How has your lived experience shaped your career?
BJ: I have a fundamental belief that your professional self and personal self are the same person. While we may have the ability to compartmentalize how we operate in new settings, we’re still reinforcing habits on how we filter the world in front of us.
Not just the big moments in my life have shaped me, but also the smaller ones. At some point in time, I’ve made decisions to not ask for help on a project because I’ve experienced what it felt like to be ridiculed for not knowing how to do something. Or even running my first 6 mile race sounded outlandish until I started taking baby steps to train and build that stamina. Sometimes our ability to believe we can do something is limited by the comfort of what we know and the version of ourselves we understand to be.
Experiencing career highs and personal lows reminds me that anything I put effort into, especially my career, is an opportunity to learn, embrace the process, and apply what makes you personally great everywhere.
SQSP: You’re vocal about managing the separation between yourself and your work, and recognizing that what you do isn’t the same as who you are. How do you keep this perspective in your day-to-day?
BJ: Truthfully, I have a stringent calendar in which I schedule my priorities. And, like the client meetings that are business critical, self-care has a beautiful place on my calendar as well. Reading, praying, meditating, bike riding, staying in touch with my friends and family, dance breaks, and even watching reality TV are my opportunities to take care of myself. If I don’t prioritize my routine to ensure I’m healthy for and present for the day, it actually impacts my work down the line.
The practice of scheduling all of my priorities helps me look at my day and recognize that being a work-a-holic doesn’t enable me into being a better person. Having a great work ethic requires discernment. Discernment isn’t just critical thinking. It’s asking “who do I need to be at this moment to get what I want down the line?”
I need to be rested, courageous, detail-oriented, and present. And having those calendar reminders keeps that perspective sound.
SQSP: What role has your online presence played in your success?
BJ: My online presence has definitely helped me be more discoverable. As we’re on the early end of experiencing the internet, personal successes and failures can make it online. That being said, your storytelling is critical to ensure your character and integrity is as equally visible. That’s where “digital real estate” is important, as it’s your fulfillment center. It’s something that is not only accessible, it’s something you can own and can control. Social media is an excellent tool for discovery, but it’s just one part of the equation.
As a storyteller, It’s not enough to announce that a project is happening. It’s my responsibility to consistently provide value that generates trust and across all platforms for search engine optimization. Whether that is sending bi-weekly emails to my subscribers, uploading new blog posts to my website, getting a press feature, or breaking down content on social media, these elements lock down my credibility and the story I have to share.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this life, it’s to own your story and not let anyone else tell it. And while it may seem like a tactic to generate valuable information, your gift is building a digital legacy.
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