Have you ever thought about starting or improving your professional career but didn’t know an effective way to do it? Would you like to make a difference, evolve your leadership skills, and work more on your self-development? We are delighted to introduce Femme Palette – a community connecting like-minded women, willing to advance their career via mentorship.
This group is driven by professional women who want to get inspired and learn new things by interacting with other people. Femme Palette is very diverse and dynamic by implying the participation of women from different countries, of different cultures, professions, and backgrounds. This initiative is providing highly standardized mentoring sessions for students, who seek advice or a starting point for their career, and courses with experts specialized in Marketing, Design, Finance, IT, HR, etc. Currently, Femme Palette actively operates in Brno and Prague (Czech Republic) but also started expanding to other cities such as London (United Kingdom), Bratislava (Slovakia), and Warsaw (Poland), by this continuously working on the diversification of this program. Foreigners are admiringly cooperating and supporting Femme Palette as we believe that the right mentorship can serve the crucial point in people’s career and this can lead to a life full of possibilities.
Especially for our readers, Foreigners realized an exclusive interview in cooperation with the founders of this exceptional mentorship program, two young ladies – Klara Gajova & Lucie Neumanova – who move the world by empowering other women. We managed to cover and get a new perspective on the topic related to the development of a successful professional path. Is it easy to integrate and succeed in a foreign society? Which are the featured strengths of a potential business lady? How to keep moving forward and stay focused on your career goals? Where to find someone who will keep you accountable for your targets? Find out the answer to these and many other related questions in the below-detailed interview.
Femme Palette – Women Can Become Limitless
Femme Palette is specialized in helping women succeed in their professional path. What are the most frequent challenges your clients are addressing?
Klara: Each individual is unique and so are their challenges and goals. But we are definitely starting to see some commonalities and patterns. Many women reach out to us or apply to one of our programs to improve their hard skills (like skills in design, development, marketing, etc.), but even more, women seek guidance when it comes to soft skills – communication towards their managers or team, gaining confidence to speak up and take up space, or figuring out their own way and leadership style. Many times, women have this interesting personality I would describe as insecure overachievers. We are afraid that we or the work we do is not good enough or does not meet the expectations. So many times, we are doubting ourselves and set these mental limitations that are preventing us from striving for leadership roles, ask for a raise, or start a business. It is currently more known under the term imposter syndrome, and I would probably label this condition or feeling as being the number one challenge for us women to overcome.
What about foreign women here in the Czech Republic? Do they have to confront something specific?
Lucie: From what we have heard, many foreign women have a hard time integrating into Czech society and making new friends. Traditionally, Czech people have been perceived as “closed off” or “not as welcoming” as the other cultures. They tend to spend their free time with their close circle of friends, and it can be hard to integrate for an expat. Some women also experience the language barrier. In many workplaces, the Czech language is still a requirement, so expats have to look for work with international or progressive companies.
What are the main steps women should do to be successful in their careers?
Lucie: I don’t think that there is one guide out there on how to be successful in your career. I think everyone defines success in their career in a different way. For me, it’s been important to find a career path that will fulfill me and make me happy. And it took a while. I tried different things, I switched careers, and now after years, I finally feel like I am on the right path. I think it’s all about trying out things and finding what you are passionate about. If you put your passion into your work, then the success will follow.
Are there any typical features that women have (and men usually not – e.g. empathy, an ability to listen, etc.) and can use as their strengths?
Klara: I think there are many traits referred to as “feminine” that of course, anyone can have regardless of gender, but that women tend to have more often. Those include empathy, patience, ability to listen, attention to detail, showing interest in others and caring about them, being able to tune down their ego, ask for help, and do stuff for the greater good. All of those are a huge advantage for effective leadership, no matter the industry. If women nurture those features instead of perceiving them as weaknesses, shut down the internal voices of not being good enough, and pursue things that they really care about, women can really become limitless.
How do you see this stereotype of women being mainly a good mother and taking care of the household, while the man is the one boosting their career and earning money? Is it still here? Is it only a Czech thing or international?
Lucie: I’d not call this a stereotype anymore since the role of women has changed and we don’t live in the time when this would be a case for most women. Women have the same right as men to focus on their careers, and many of them do. To be clear, women and men are still not treated equally in terms of salary and leadership opportunities, but women do have a choice now to focus on their career, instead of staying at home. There are still many women who decide to be stay-at-home moms because it’s their choice, and there is nothing wrong with that. But it is important that now it’s not expected anymore for women to just stay home. Instead, they can choose what works best for them. Outside the Czech Republic, not many countries have such long maternity leave or support from the government. In the case of the US, women have to go back to work 6 months after the baby is born, and the cost of having a kid is so high, that the family needs two sources of income.
How can women manage to be a perfect wife, an excellent mom, mix it with the process of building her professional career and do all these without stress and getting themselves exhausted?
Lucie: To be upfront, I am not at the place to answer this question objectively, since I am not married and don’t have kids yet. I definitely admire women who are trying to juggle all these things, and I am curious to see how I personally will tackle this challenge one day. From what I have heard from women who are going through this, it’s not about trying to balance everything all the time. As Randi Zuckerberg says in her book “Pick Three: You can have it all (but not every day)”, it’s important to pick three things that you’ll focus on each day, rather than trying to balance everything every day.
From your point of view, which is the most effective way to avoid burning out?
Klara: That’s a tough one! When I personally felt I had been standing at the very edge of my physical and mental limits, I jumped on breaks, left my job, and went traveling for a year. I don’t recommend that to everyone though!
But some time off definitely helped me set priorities and traveling in Asia taught me to say ‘no’ (practiced it with local merchants). And that is what I at the end find really important – the ability to prioritize and say ‘no’. For some people that come naturally, some can learn it while still having their everyday agendas and some just have to pause to learn that, similarly like I did. If an opportunity is offered to you – being it more responsibilities at work, or being invited to a meeting or an event, simply check in with yourself to see if it is aligned with your priorities or mood. If it is a priority and it will help you move forward with your career, meet new people or just have a great evening, then book time for it and show up. If not, then a grateful ‘no’ is a way to go! You don’t have to feel bad about that and the other side will at least have a resolute answer.
Beside every successful man, there is a woman. Let’s say a couple moved abroad because of work requirements. Which is the most effective way for them to integrate into society and become well-healed? What would you suggest to this category of women?
Klara: At Femme Palette, 40% of our members are expats. Some of those women came to the Czech Republic to work themselves, but many of course came with their significant others and are trying to jump-start their careers too. Both categories of those women are coming to our networking events to meet both expat and local women. Some of them also join our mentoring program to get guidance from a mentor who can help them build their network, provide insights on the local market and prepare them for the specifics of working for a company in the Czech Republic. I think this is a very smart move. Many expats sometimes tend to hang out together because other expats understand their struggles, but meeting also the local people and asking for guidance will help them overcome them.
You meet women from corners of the world. Do you remember any significant differences between the nationalities? Something that surprised you or made you smile?
Klara: I have to say that nothing that would be really hilarious or surprising, just minor things. I actually notice the similarities more than the differences. I get to talk to so many people from different countries every day and almost always we have a great discussion and/or a good laugh. In the end, we’re all the same and we want the same thing – live a fulfilled life. That is what always brings me closer to people and breaks down any cultural differences.
How can you help foreign women here in the Czech Republic?
Lucie: We created a community called Femme Palette, to help expat women meet like-minded women in the Czech Republic. At Femme Palette, all of our company’s events and activities are conducted in English, to make them as accessible as possible and allow any woman living in the Czech Republic to join. This way, Femme Palette creates not only a learning opportunity for Czech women to broaden their horizons but also a cultural bridge for expat women to integrate with Czech society. We organize meet-ups, inspirational panel talks, and educational mentoring programs for the community. Our Mentoring Program for Professionals is helping women advance in their careers, learn new skills, and break into new industries. Our mentors have helped many expat women to change their jobs and grow in their roles, by sharing their local experience, which expat women often miss. Since we know that starting a business in a foreign country is hard, our mentors support expat women on that journey in our Mentoring Program for Entrepreneurs too.
We are inviting each and everyone to join the Femme Palette community for the opportunity to expand the already existing network professional contacts, make new connections, and share the irreplaceable energy and experience. Don’t miss the chance to get to know more about this excellent program which helps women globally to boost their career.
Next Femme Palette panel event is called Female Founders and will take place in Brno on July 21 at 6 PM Find out more about the agenda of the meeting and get your tickets here.
Photo credit: Tatiana Shalunova