Learning from Paige Woods is inspiring. Here's why.
Meet Paige Woods. An Alumna of Harvard who recently earned her Masters at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. She’s currently working with nonprofits on community development projects in her hometown of Detroit.
If that isn’t enough to be inspired by her, read below to learn more about what she enjoys the most, her biggest failure, and how you can genuinely network with people without knowing the tips and tricks.
Here’s more of what she had to say.
So day-to-day you do what?
Because of the nature of my work, I have a lot of control over my day-to-day schedule so each day is like its’ own ‘adventure.’ However, I have to institute some measures to ground my day and provide structure. This includes making lists to guide my daily work and planning my days to accomplish weekly goals.
Such planning enables me to shape my short-term goals in a manner that fits into the narrative of my long-term plans. I find it important to connect the day-to-day operations to the long-term vision of my life and work but it requires spending time reflecting to ensure my actions are intentional.
And you landed what you’re doing now by doing what exactly?
Connections from a former job led to an email introduction that resulted in me getting hired for various community development projects with nonprofits in Detroit. Although I was originally interested in a more traditional career path, pursuing my own community consulting path has allowed me to better understand the community development scene in Detroit.
This understanding is critical in shaping my perspective of the various power dynamics and underlying systems that enable me to do more impactful work. Through this work, I see the necessity of connections because I am able to secure project contracts through referrals.
How did you get through earning degrees from both Harvard and the University of Oxford?
By the grace of God because it’s really no secret formula. I think one thing that has sustained me throughout the application process and my tenure at both institutions is the importance of understanding my story and purpose.
“IT’S REALLY NO SECRET FORMULA.”
Although how I’ve seen my purpose has changed from when I first matriculated into Harvard, I always emphasize understanding where I am on my path towards my purpose. This understanding helps to fuel my passion enabling me to focus more intently on the academic or professional goals necessary to the next stage of my journey.
I believe that this focus on living out my best life, working towards my purpose and prayer have contributed to my ability to successfully navigate both Harvard and the University of Oxford.
Tell me some soft and hard skills that you think are critical.
Soft skills, like effective written and verbal communication, storytelling, active listening, and adequately reading body language are essential to any industry and job title.
“Strike a balance between the two and seek to be well-rounded and personable in your school and work.”
They enable one to take control of their career but hard skills, like additional language fluency and technology proficiency, are usually the first indicator of talent that an employer can determine by your resume. Therefore, you need to strike a balance between the two and seek to be well-rounded and personable in your school and work.
Talk about your biggest failure. What did you learn from that experience?
I have always been really critical of myself and, throughout college, I never felt like I accomplished enough. I really regret all of the energy I wasted comparing myself to others instead of seeing the beauty of my own identity and place in life.
“Push my limits and see the value in what I bring to this world.”
There are opportunities I missed out on because I did not feel secure enough to explore them. I try not to dwell on the regret from that time but choose to let that experience motivate me to push my limits and see the value in what I bring to this world.
So let’s talk about this thing called “networking.” How big of a role has it played in your life?
I hated the concept of networking when I first started college because the concept felt fake and contrived. Therefore, I avoided networking situations and felt incredibly awkward when I did attend those events.
I had to shift my perspective and realize that you can actually network in a positive authentic way by approaching each situation as an opportunity to learn and build. You may have a resource or connection necessary to help someone along their path and, vice versa, someone else may be able to offer you resources that you did not have access to prior to that connection.
It may be awkward but it is important to build with others and that often comes through formal and informal networking.
What can we start doing now to launch a successful career like yours?
Know where you are along your individual path. Especially in our contemporary moment where success is defined in many different ways, it is critical that you take time to define what a successful career looks like to you. Take time to observe and talk to professionals in the fields you are interested in pursuing and learn what they do on the day-to-day.
Sometimes certain careers sound amazing until you realize that the daily work is not aligned with what you see yourself doing. You should also really be creative when thinking about how the shape of your career because there are so many different types of career configurations that did not exist a decade ago.