Presented in partnership with Naseba. 

 It was great to have conversations with so many individuals who were either working in diversity, inclusion, and accessibility initiatives or keen to learn about them.

The 19th edition of the Global WIL Economic Forum took place last week. Being part of the event was such a profound experience- the venue was bustling with energy and the event brought together so many amazing women. I’ve covered countless conferences and forums in my past 5 years in Dubai, but I can easily say the WIL Forum ranks as one of my favorites.

This was also the perfect chance for us to get some career advice, from four incredibly accomplished boss ladies. In an increasingly competitive landscape, most graduates and seniors have the same worries- especially as they get graduation inches closer- getting a job, tackling fears, accepting the “right” job.

That’s exactly why we’ve got some incredible career advice for you!

Who we spoke to:

Charlotte Chedeville, Dawn Metcalfe, Donna Benton, and Michaela Alexis

Why they’re amazing:

Charlotte Chedeville is the Senior Project Manager of the Global WIL Economic Forum and does a lot of behind-the-scenes magic. In 2016, she was awarded by UN Women Canada as a Young Leader for Outstanding Contribution to Women’s Empowerment. Since then, she has developed projects from the ground to promote inclusion and equal opportunities, and recently joined Professors Without Borders, a not-for-profit organization focused on providing higher education opportunities for the youth in the developing world.

Dawn Metcalfe is the founder of Dubai based PDSi, which helps individuals and teams get even better at what they do, and has worked with business leaders around the world to change the way they see the world, their behavior and their impact on others. She is an executive coach, facilitator, trainer and leadership advisor, and her insights and straight-talking approach have kept her constantly in demand from large multinationals and government entities, across the Middle East, over the last 10 years. Dawn’s latest project, HardTalk, is an innovative programme designed to help people get better at having the difficult conversations needed for success.

Donna Benton is the founder and chairman of The Entertainer, she started the Entertainer in 2001 after identifying a market need for both providing consumers with dining incentives and enabling restaurants to reach new customers. Donna worked alone to build the business from the ground up, from managing corporate legalities, recruiting merchants, to doing door to door for sales. She’s grown the company from scratch to having a portfolio that includes 39 products, providing offers across 18 destinations in 14 countries and drives over US$ 1.3 Billion dollars into the global economy every year.

Michaela Alexis is the President of Grade A Digital, a Social Media and Personal Branding Agency in Ottawa, and has thrived in the content marketing community, successfully managing over 100 brands in the past 7 years. She’s also a Linkedin influencer and frequently writes about her experiences; she recently started a revolutionary #letsgethonest campaign and was able to get millions of people to share their struggles and be brutally honest about their experiences on Linkedin.


What’s your career advice for those graduating?

Find your tribe, and understand that you have a story regardless of how fresh you are on the job market or whether you’re just starting out or whether you’re working as a barista. If you want to be a marketing executive it doesn’t matter where you are – use what you have right now; we all have perspectives that are unique and valuable and necessary.

The reason that I’ve been sharing my voice as a millennial is that others were talking for millennials and about how to engage with them in the workforce. So I jumped in and say here is my perspective, and we all have those perspectives. So never worry about being too fresh or being at the beginning of your journey. If anything it’s a blessing to be at the beginning of your journey, because now you have an opportunity to show people the process of what it’s like to succeed and fail in the challenges that you have to overcome-Michaela Alexis

The truth is, most fresh graduates don’t really know what they want to do. Except for the few who graduated in very specialized fields, most of us go out of university with no real specialty, only having had limited exposure to the job market and the many, many jobs that exist. And that’s okay. Don’t stress out thinking your first job should be the one. Instead, explore opportunities and go where your instinct takes you.

Another thing is that when you’re a job seeker – especially in the early stages of your career – the mindset usually is: “There are thousands of wanna-be consultants/secretaries/nurses. I need them more than they need me, and I will do whatever it takes to get the job.” While this might indeed get you an offer, it could cost you a lot more: being unhappy at work can have major repercussions on your health, it can hinder your personal and professional growth, and even affect your confidence and self-worth.

When I first graduated, I did exactly what my parents and my teachers had taught me: I wasn’t too ‘picky’, I had to get a foot in the door and prove myself. That might have been the right thing to do back then but, as time went by, I continued to approach each new opportunity the same way. But salary is not everything, and finding yourself in the wrong place is a painful experience – which is why my foremost advice to young graduates is to remember that you are interviewing the employer as much as the employer is interviewing you. Not only will this help you find the right place for you to thrive, but you will also gain respect from serious organizations for not being so ‘desperate’. – Charlotte Chedeville

How do you maintain work-life balance and still give your mental health enough time and attention?

It is unreasonable to expect, the same work-life balance throughout your whole career. If you are ambitious then you will have to work harder and that may involve long hours. But, if you have to differentiate yourself I don’t think it is in terms of how hard you work, it is about the results that you get and those results are more and more likely to be results of getting other people to use them.

A leader is somebody who has to get other people to do things in order for that leader to obtain their vision. Relationships. Be nice, play nice with other people. That does not mean sucking up to them or letting people get away with stuff- it means not to bend the rules. Don’t treat others as you would want to be treated, treat others as they would like to be treated.

How you are willing to behave in order to be seen as respectful is very very different. The platinum rule is you have to go into other people’s heads and work out what it is that they need in order to see you in the way you want to be seen. – Dawn Metcalfe

A healthy work-life balance is a key to long-term happiness – but it’s your job to ensure that it is healthy and that you’re happy with where you are.  Remember that balance is fluid and priorities will change at different stages – e.g. you have to work harder to get a promotion and focus on your personal life when you have your first child.

Find your daily or weekly rituals that are for you – for me it’s exercise.  My morning run on the beach is for me – not my businesses or my kids.  But a happy me equals a happy mum/boss. And finally, try not to compare yourself to others. Be a leader, not a follower. – Donna Benton

Advice on dealing with nerves before meetings or interviews?

Everyone gets nervous about meetings when you start out, but it gets better with practice so throw yourself into it and learn something from each one. Do your homework and be as prepared as you can.  It’s critical to really know what you’re talking about – and to appear confident, even if you’re not.

And always be presentable and look the part – first impressions really do count. – Donna Benton

If you can picture that emotion you can get a grip on it- the more accurately, the more gradual you can get and the more of a grip you can get. Just saying to yourself I am feeling nervous is a start and it will help. Doing the whole deep breathing thing helps too.

You need to acknowledge the emotion that it is a reasonable thing to feel, it is perfectly reasonable to feel nervous before you go into a meeting or an interview. Everybody in that room has been there, everybody in that room wants you to do well. The fact that you are in the room means that you have a right to be there. So grab that chance and make the most of it. If you never do anything then you can never screw up. – Dawn Metcalfe

There are multiple times when we’re presented with different opportunities, so how do we make a critical decision that we will not regret later?

I have what I call my personal commandments written down in all my notebooks, and they’re just truths that I live by. I use those commandments for every single decision that I make. And, it’s allowed me to never have any regrets because I know that I’m always being honest and truthful to my values and what I hold true. So I think that when it comes to looking at different opportunities really asking yourself am I doing X because I should be or I feel like I should be or am I doing X because it really seems like a great opportunity and it’s going to fulfill me. It’s exactly what I’m looking for. We get very caught up in titles and work. But really, at the end of the day, a large salary isn’t going to fulfill you, it’s not going to make you excited to get out of bed in the morning. It’s not going to make you not dread Sunday nights and having to go back to work the next day. – Michaela Alexis

Job hunting can be frustrating in terms of timelines, so what do we do when professionally, things don’t seem to be happening fast enough?

Nothing ever happens fast enough. Things take longer. Again, if your job search involves throwing CVs randomly at people, I get 60 CVs a week minimum saying “Dear sir, please find attached…” Nothing like “Dear Dawn I read your …” you have to give people a reason to help you. And there is just so much out there in the world and like you said the competition is so high but if you don’t give people a reason to help you then why would they? Someone else will come along and be nice. – Dawn Metcalfe

There’s no way around it. You have to prove yourself at all stages of your career. You don’t just get respect – you have to earn it. As I said before you have to be prepared to work hard. By that, I don’t mean work extremely late or for hours on end, but work effectively, conscientiously and always strive to excel. And always be a team player. Never utter the words, “it’s not in my job description.” – Donna Benton

Use LinkedIn, Twitter and other channels to share your interests, showcase your abilities and create connections. From the moment I started working and had a CV that counted more hobbies than months of experience until today, LinkedIn has opened so many doors – helping discover new ideas, meet potential employers and even connect with Ministers and celebrities. – Charlotte Chedeville

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  • Mashal Waqar

    Mashal Waqar is the COO and Co-founder of The Tempest. She's a startup mentor, accessibility advocate, and LOTR fanatic. She was awarded "Young Leader of the Year" award at the 19th Global WIL Economic Forum. She has been mentioned in over 20 international and regional publications. When she's not trying to be productive, she's usually recording covers off Youtube karaokes.