147: Confidence Building and Defining Career Success on Your Terms with Dr. Jasmine Escalera

147: Confidence Building and Defining Career Success on Your Terms with Dr. Jasmine Escalera

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147: Confidence Building and Defining Career Success on Your Terms with Dr. Jasmine Escalera

 

This week our special guest is Dra. Jasmine Escalera who discusses the topic of confidence building and defining career success on your terms.

 

Dra. Jasmine is a certified career and life coach with proven programs that help her clients focus on gaining clarity around their careers, beating self-doubt, and building confidence. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Pace University and Ph.D. in Pharmacology from Yale. She was also named a 2022 LinkedIn Top Voice!

 

In this episode we discuss:

– Her background as a Latina who grew up in Brooklyn, New York and how it influences her work today

– The importance of self-awareness in (re)building your confidence after being in spaces where few people look like you

-How to carve your own career path and define your own career success

– And the importance of forming a community building strategy for networking

 

You can connect with Dra. Jasmine on Instagram @jasmineescaleracoaching and LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/jasmine-escalera

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Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Welcome back everyone to another episode of the Grad School Femtoring podcast. This is your host that Dra. Yvette, and today I have an episode all about confidence building and defining career success on your terms. Our special guest is Dra. Jasmine Escalera, who is a certified career and life coach with proven programs that help her clients focus on gaining clarity around their careers, beating self doubt, and building confidence.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

She is a 2022 LinkedIn top voice and has been named the number one job search expert to follow on LinkedIn in 2022 by Job Scan, and a career expert to follow in 2021 by Brains magazine, so she knows what she's talking about. Dra. Jasmine was also born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and received her bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Pace University, and a PhD in pharmacology from Yale. She has held high level nonprofit management positions, designing research programs that increase the quality of life and health care options for underserved populations. And that wasn't even the whole bio, y'all. I cut it down. I'm just really happy and excited. Welcome so much to the podcast, Dra. Jasmine.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

Thank you so much. You know, I'm gonna have to be completely honest with you and say that I think you're the first person in my entire career that has called me Doctora. People sometimes call me Doctor, mainly just Jasmine, but that was the first for me. So I really appreciate that. Thank you.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

I'm glad to be the first and not the last. Everybody else gets to call you Doctora, I hope. So for those folks that don't know you- although I have a feeling a few will have at least seen you, or seen some of your social media content. But for folks that don't know your backstory, I would love to hear more about you, about your background, about everything that led to you becoming a career and life coach. I know that's a really big question, so just whatever you're comfortable sharing about your trajectory thus far.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

I'm comfortable sharing everything, so this might be a long story. But no, I'll try to keep it short. Thank you so much for asking. You know, I feel like my story really truly begins as a Latina who grew up in the projects of Brooklyn, New York, and growing up within an area and in a community where I felt completely supported, embraced and empowered. Because I was around black and brown families, families very much like mine, families going through a very similar struggle to my family. I loved growing up in the projects.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

Although it was very challenging and hard, and we did grow up very poor, I never seemed to realize that there was anything different. I think that that was the uniqueness of growing up in such a loving and supporting community. But it was also kind of like growing up in a bubble. Even though I was in New York City, and New York City has a wealth of different people and different economic scales, I was really just kind of associating with people who look like me, who grew up like, me, who acted like me, who lived like me. I think that what that did was build this incredibly confident young woman who truly felt like she can take over and do anything.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

The problem with that is that my parents did not- you know, my dad didn't graduate high school. My mom went to college much later in life, and no one in my family had really achieved the level of success that I was quickly achieving, going to high school and then going into college and then going into graduate school. So I was the first one to go to college. I was the first one to go to graduate school. I was the first one to get my PhD. And I do have to say that no one in my community, no one in my family could prepare me for that.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

When I stepped out into the college world, especially grad school at Yale, and then later into my career, I felt like I saw less and less of people who look like me. I felt like I was around less and less of people who had the same background as me. And that truly affected the way that I saw myself, what I believed I could accomplish and do, and the confidence that I used to have as that young girl who was in her own community. I don't think I was adequately prepared for what it was truly going to be like out there in the real world, not because no one didn't want to prepare me for it, but because they truly have not had those experiences.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

What I find as a career coach, and what I found as myself, is that the environment truly does affect the way we see ourselves and represent ourselves both in the academic and professional space. And that it is incredibly challenging to build that confidence, that authenticity, and that power in those spaces when you truly are the only. So what I had to do for myself was take myself through a very deep internal work kind of process, where I built back that confidence through mindset work, through using empowering tactics, and through connecting back to my Latina heritage, to who I truly was and what my community had given me, which was strength and resilience, and true competence.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

I really had to do that to build myself internally in order to really be able to step out into this space as the only Latina in STEM, and truly be the woman who was going to build her career her way. And almost to kind of be able to say screw it. I'm the only in the room, but that doesn't mean I can't achieve it. That was a deep and tough journey to go through, but I had to do that internal work. That's what I help my clients do within my coaching. And that's really why I built my coaching business, was because I do believe that hopefully, one day, the external world, the professional world, the work world will change. But I come at it from the perspective out of, if we can be our most confident empowered self, then we can feel good in that space, no matter what. And in essence, then we can be a part of that change.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

That's really amazing to hear your trajectory, and just to talk about how you started out with having that confidence. I'm thinking about how in childhood, a lot of us grow up having these really big, lofty dreams. Then something happens, and like you said, being introduced to new spaces, something happens to our confidence. A lot of people struggle to regain that confidence that they had as children.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

I love that you're coming from the perspective of there's so much that you gain and that you receive from your community, from your familia, from the folks around you. And yet, despite that, there's still that lack of preparation, because of just not having had that experience for college and grad school, which a lot of my listeners will be able to relate to because they themselves are the first in their family. They are students of color. A good majority of them are Latinx students.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

And you're here to talk about confidence, and about building confidence, about kind of crafting your career and defining your own sense of success. So I wonder if you can kind of expand a little bit more on those two things. First confidence building, how do we rebuild our confidence if it has been lost? Or how do we unlearn the things that have made us lose some of that confidence, that maybe we had in childhood? If you can just tell us a little bit more, expanding on your thoughts on confidence building and perhaps even what we can do? You mentioned mindset work, but examples of things that that folks can do to help them regain or rebuild that confidence.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

I think it really starts with self awareness. I think it starts with understanding that you are not the problem, and you are not the issue. If you are the first and you are the only, those are two huge challenges to overcome, because no one has taught you how to be in that space and perhaps no one is really tending to you in that environment. So I think it really starts with just compassion, showing yourself grace. And the self awareness- understanding what's going on internally. A lot of what I had to do when I was building back my confidence was acknowledge that my confidence didn't exist, and really get very deep as to what was going on within my mind and also within my surroundings. I truly believe that confidence comes from the external world, so really being praised, acknowledged, supported, mentored. But it also comes from the internal. You can achieve that confidence by truly just focusing on yourself. What I did was I really started to ask myself, when am I feeling the least confident? When am I not feeling like myself? And what's going on within me when that's happening?

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

For example, stepping into rooms with just white men being in the STEM field was really challenging for me, because not only was I not a white man, I was a brown woman. It was very, very tough for me to feel confident speaking up, to feel confident challenging their ideas to express my own. And I had to get really clear around- this is uncomfortable for me, because I am the only woman in this space. I am the only brown woman in this space, and I think that these individuals are judging me. I don't think that they believe that my ideas are worthy of being heard.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

But I then had to really get clear with myself on- how do I feel about my ideas? How do I feel about expressing them? And really, truly building empowering mantras for myself, where I could tell myself in those moments, your ideas do deserve to be heard. So it's truly about first, you got to give yourself grace and compassion. This is not easy. Then really getting very aware with what's going on internally, what's going on in your mind, and questioning those thoughts and also empowering yourself. It's kind of crazy, and people would think I'm kind of a little nuts, because I talk to myself a lot.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

I love that.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

It's how I build myself up. I'm constantly telling myself, even now as a coach who truly focuses on this, I am still always asking myself questions. Why do I feel this way? Why do I think this way? And telling myself it's going to be okay. Fear is one of the biggest things that will stop us from doing anything- fear of judgment, fear of what people will think, all of that fear. But fear is never going to go away. It's biological. It is not something that we can completely diminish or dissipate.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

So living with that, and acknowledging that certain things are just going to be scary- they'll be less scary the more that we do them, but that they're just going to be scary- and talking myself through them was so incredibly important. That can be really hard, because it means that we're kind of looking at ourselves and not blaming the external world. Now, I would love to sit around and chat about how the external world is not built for us. But I do also want us to recognize that until every single space and environment can truly be occupied by us freely, without judgment, without bias-until that happens, we can focus on building up ourselves to feel the best about us.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

I'm so glad that you mentioned the relationship between ourselves and our environment, and how that directly impacts our confidence. But you're bringing it back to us, and bringing it back to granting ourselves that agency of like, actually, we're in charge of our confidence. We're in control over how we react to our environment. Although, like you said, there's a lot to say about the environment. Particularly when I'm talking about the environment, I usually refer to academic spaces, because I'm primarily talking to students in higher ed, whether it's undergrad, grad school, and so forth. And in those spaces, it can be very toxic. There is constant criticism, and it's hard to build your confidence when folks are constantly putting you down. Then on top of that, there's only typically one career path for doctoral programs, especially the top programs in the US. It's that tenure track, that coveted tenure track, professoriate route.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

That leaves us with kind of transitioning to the other part of today's topic, which is defining career success, because I don't think that students hear this enough. That they are also, in addition to being in control of their own confidence, they're in control of their own career. They don't necessarily have to go that narrow, that one singular, narrow path. So what are your thoughts on career success- defining career success, how to even determine that when sometimes folks are not 100% sure what they want to do, and so it's easier to just do what other people are telling them to do?

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

Yeah, I love that you brought that up, because I think for the vast majority of my career, I did exactly that. I did what I thought I was supposed to do. I remember in undergrad, when I was coming to the end, I was told, with a degree in biochemistry, either I was going to go to med school or I was going to go to grad school. That's it. There was nothing else. And I listened. So I took the MCAT and I applied for grad schools and took the GRE, and I decided to go the graduate school route. For me, it just felt better. I did not want to be a doctor- God bless them all- but not a medical doctor. I was more interested in doing research and really doing hands on science, bench work. So I went the grad school route.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

But if I looked back, that was not at all what I actually wanted to do. But I didn't know any better. I had no one really telling me that I had gotten this degree to be able to choose what I could do. No one told me that. I was just told- all you could do really is two things. If I could give myself any piece of advice, looking back, it's that the world is your possibility. You can literally do anything. That can seem scary, but I want people to come at it from the capacity of possibility. It is possible for me to do anything. So how can I then look deeply within myself, ask myself key questions about what I love to do, what I'm great at doing, what I would want to try, what I would want to give a shot?

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

And to recognize and realize that there is no such thing as a career path. There is no such thing as this walkway that you just walk, that there is a layout of step to step to step. And in fact, I think that's a great thing, because then we have the opportunity to play in our careers. We spend so much time in this space, so much of our lives in this space, and yet somehow relinquish so much control over how it works and how it goes. I find that to be something that we can just -and should just- give ourselves permission to release. So when we think about career success, I really take it from the perspective of who are you? What would you want to do? What are you great at, and what would you love to try?

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

And just be open to the possibility of acknowledging that it doesn't have to look a certain way, that you can give a few different things a shot to see how it works. And to be okay with hearing all of these things in the background- about having a path, having the dream job, being able to stay in a job for a year- don't look like a job hopper. Release all of these things and really allow yourself to play, to explore, to have fun within this area of your life where you will spend such an immense amount of time there.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

For anyone who's in the academic space currently- me personally, I never wanted to go the tenure academic track. That for sure was not for me. When I was in graduate school- which was quite a long time ago, and I will not date myself- they actually called the non tenure track the non traditional path. So it was almost kind of like labelled already as something that was just looked down upon. I think that now at least we have opened ourselves to an immense amount of possibility. So I would say explore, play, ask yourself those deep questions of what would I love to do? What am I great at doing? What would I be interested in just learning more of what fields seems really fun and enjoyable to me. Network- find out what those environments and spaces and places and fields are like. Talk to people who have jobs that are of interest to you, and really kind of come at it from that perspective of learning. And give yourself time. Give yourself time to figure out what the longevity could potentially look like. You don't have to have it figured out all today.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

I know they're thinking I wish I could. I wish I could have it figured out. And I'm thinking from the perspective of my listeners, I'm trying to imagine what kind of questions they would have. And I know some of them would be thinking- well, I am the first in my family and I have a lot of responsibilities. I want to make sure that I can have a stable paycheck, and provide for my family etc. So for them, it does seem desirable to want to pursue a path that is predictable, whether that is the professorial, whether that is becoming a medical doctor, whether that is becoming a lawyer. All the things that, for some of us, our immigrant parents tell us to pursue, because that seems like the quote unquote, safe route to go. What kind of advice would you give them, in terms of even how do you determine your own career success? How do you develop that path? And how do you do it in a playful way? When that playfulness can feel like risk, whereas going that narrow path or the path that someone- a mentor, perhaps an academic mentor- is telling you to go, that feels safer, that feels more comfortable. And that feels like something that's more doable than, say, networking. So I guess there are a number of questions that are coming up. It's like, yeah, you define career success? How do you network and how you sit with the discomfort of not knowing where that's gonna take you?

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

Yeah, well, you define career success, however, the hell you want to define career success. And actually, I am a firm believer in the fact that there is no such thing as Webster's Dictionary, if I asked you what the definition of a word is, I want your definition of the word. So very often people will ask, will say, I don't feel valued by my company. And I asked, what does value mean to you? You know, so I like to kind of put the term back on people and ask, well, what does career success mean to you, because if career success means to you safety, stability, security, a good income that is stable, then you've hit them, you hit the mountaintop go get that right like, but also understand that because you define the term, you get to redefine the term. So it isn't necessarily about identifying or taking a huge risk that feels like a risk to you today, it is about defining things as you need them to be and want them to be, but never closing yourself off to redefining those things. So you get to decide. And that's the thing is we are always in control here, you get to decide what career success means to you right now.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

And it's interesting, because I have clients in every single stage of the journey, some with children and families, some without some more VPs and executives, some who are starting out. And it's so beautiful, actually, to see their different their definition of career success and what they value be so different and dependent not just on what they want in their careers, but what they need in their lives. And so that's what I would say is, it's okay, if it doesn't feel right to you today. But don't close yourself off to always connecting back to yourself, and redefining your career success, your values and what you need and want throughout the entire next 40 years of your life. Because that's how long you're going to be in this career, right are in any career. So be open to really digging deep and asking yourself what you need, what you want, what are my circumstances? Where are my situations? How can I get out of this what I need and want, while also being able to create the life I need and want, there are always ways to do that. So it may not feel great right now. And that's okay. But don't shut yourself off to the idea that you can't change.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Right? That's, I think it's really helpful to consider this idea of, you're constantly changing as an individual. And so your own definition of success of values is going to keep changing and just reminding ourselves to be reflected in that manner. And then also for folks who are starting to figure out what they value, what their priorities are, what their strengths are, and starting to consider different career paths. They're going to need to start networking, what tips strategies, or how like, I can imagine someone or even someone like myself, when I was younger, is a lot more introverted and shy and just, you know, a little intimidated to reach out to individuals and just not knowing the proper that the hidden curriculum is like the proper decorum, like what do you do? How do you reach out, all that stuff, and so for folks who may be new to networking and reaching out outside of their bubble, whether that bubble is their family, their community, the university that they attend? What advice would you give them in terms of networking?

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

Yeah, so I think of networking as community building, and when I thought of it in that way, it felt completely different to me personally. So when I thought of networking as just really creating my community, my professional community, I started to ask myself, well, what does community mean to me? And when did I feel like I was the most a part of a community? And I actually took me back to when I was a kid. And so I really based my professional community and the feel of my professional community off of my community. So, you know, to me community is, you know, the fellas hanging up hanging out on the stoops and people playing salsa music and dancing on the streets. And me as a little girl running around with my best friends, you know, opening up the fire hydrants and playing in the water, like I thought of community as something fun as something vivacious as something supportive as something, you know, something that like, was always there and present to make me feel good, supported, confident and happy. And so I just really took it from the perspective of and this is how I take it now of, I want my professional community to feel like a community.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

And so I think the thing again, going back to control is that you get to control who is in your professional space. So make it the way you want to make it right. So ask yourself, Who do I need in this professional space to feel like I can be supported, mentored, championed? Who do I need in this professional space to help me solve some of the questions that I have internally about where I want to go in my career, and what are the characteristics that I would want that person to hold, and to have both professional and even personal, you know, it's great to be able to have a professional community of individuals that you feel are similar to you have similar backgrounds, maybe can talk to some of the things that they've also, you know, felt challenged by in their career because of who they are. So I would say that if you're embarking on a networking journey, think about it from the perspective of community, think about what you want in your professional community, how you want it to help and support you and come at it from the perspective of again, fun, joy, and playfulness. Networking doesn't have to be heavy, it doesn't have to be this thing that we're scared of. It can look like what we want it to look like. And in fact, it can have the same joy, playfulness, and fun that any kind of networking, even personally has.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

So I would say come at it from that perspective of really defining your networking or community building strategy, the way that you want to. And I also do say to caveat that it's important that as women of color, men of color, people of color, or people from marginalized communities, it is also important that we have allies and advocates in our professional community to support us and champion us who don't necessarily look like us. But who will have those seats at the table and can say our names in rooms when we're not there. And when people who look like us are not there. So it's important to also think about having those individuals in your community too. But again, coming from a supportive, loving, compassionate and caring way. So you get to build that community, however you want to build it and see the excitement and being able to do that if you can.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

That's really great. I can't help but want to ask, because in I similarly come from the perspective of thinking about networking as community building, and it has helped to take down that wall, whether that wall was intimidation, whether that wall was whatever it was, it's taken it off or taking that away. But now, well, you're talking about different forms of community building, you're talking about having, you know, identifying support systems, identifying mentors, identifying perhaps sponsors, folks who will advocate on your behalf. But I bet your career coach, so I can't help but want to ask at what point does someone decide to work with a coach? In what instances would you recommend someone to reach out to someone like you a career in life coach, I have to ask, I want you to share more about what you do.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

Yeah, no, thank you so much for asking, you know, I work with clients who are women of color who are in professional spaces, where they don't feel like they're being seen, valued or hurt. And I want I work with them in the perspective of understanding if their environment is the right supportive environment for them to be able to grow, to thrive to accomplish their level of success that they're looking for, and also to develop internally that confidence that diminishing of the doubt that really overcoming the imposter syndrome, so that we can establish whether you are in the right place to actually be able to make this happen and also build the systems internally for you to go out there and advocate for yourself. If the environment isn't a supportive environment, I help my clients find the right supportive environment for them based on what their needs and values true We are and land the right opportunities and jobs for them based off of them. So I really take this approach of your career is you, it should represent you, it should be you. And it all starts with you. So really gaining an understanding of who you are what you need in order to really achieve success as you define it, and going out there and advocating for it, seeking it, landing it, and really being able to be in the space where you can say, "okay, I got this," that's really where I aim to get all of my clients is into that environment into that space into that self of I got this.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

That's really great. I have a feeling so folks may or may be interested, because I, you know, in addition to having undergrads and grad students, we also have listeners that are early career professionals, or folks who are trying to pivot. And in some cases, they may find that they may need, you know, to pursue a graduate program to make that pivot, whether they're pivoting to social work, or whatever, field or area that requires it, but in some cases is not required at all, they just need that support. They need the support of someone who has walked others or who has walked in that path and can, you know, show them, teach them some strategies and help them kind of figure out craft their own path? We're getting close to wrapping up, I wanted to ask you the second to last question is just any final closing thoughts around the topic of confidence building of defining your own career success, and everything else that we've shared thus far about crafting a life that is, in my opinion, values aligned? Based on who we are. Yeah.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

Yeah. You know, I wish this is this is the honest truth. And it's not easy for me to say, because I'm still really going through this process. But I wish that someone had told me that my parents had my best interest at heart, but that they weren't going to be able to guide me through what I was going through. And that, in fact, some of the things that they told me, were actually going to hold me back from achieving the level of success that I could now achieve. Because of all of the hard work they put in. I wish that someone had told me that I was going to have to clear out and clean up a lot of the things that they told me were true, or that they believed or that a thought, simply because they didn't have the opportunity that I now have. That's something that I would really love for people to be able to acknowledge is that our parents struggled for us to be here.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

And now we can give ourselves permission to think the way that we want to believe the things that we want and to act the way that we want, because of their struggle. And that we don't have to carry the same belief systems that they had, in fact, we can acknowledge them. And we can release them and create completely new belief systems just because of where we are and what we were capable of achieving, because of them. So I wish that someone would have told me that sooner in my career, because there were a lot of things that I believed and that I thought and I acted based off of that. Just because I didn't know anything different. And so that's something that I would want everyone to understand is that your parents gave you this opportunity to do things your way. And that sometimes when they want you to look for stability and security, it's because that's all they had to cling on to. But you get to do something different. And it's because of them, and we should be so gracious to them. And we should also release anything that doesn't serve us anymore.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

I love that. It's so true. And it carries into so many other aspects of our life, the way that our parents impact us. So thank you for that reminder, because I'm thinking about just the many ways that it is important to reparent ourselves as someone who also is a parent of two young children, thinking about Wow, now I'm an immigrant mom, in another country, like what am I going to do to my kids, but we're gonna be great. But it's also like what opportunities Am I carving a path for that? I don't even know that I can't even imagine because of like you said like, our parents struggles are provide opportunities for us that we that they could never have dreamed of. So it's it's a great way for you to close this podcast before we let you go though. For folks who resonated with what you said, who want to hear more from you who want to connect in some way, shape, or form, what are the best ways or what is the best way to reach you?

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

Yeah, so I live on Instagram and LinkedIn. So on Instagram, it's Jasmine Escalera Coaching @jasmineescaleracoaching and on LinkedIn, it's Jasmine Escalera, PhD. So I would love to connect with anyone who's open to connecting DM me if you have any questions, and we'd be happy to chat about coaching.

Dra. Yvette Martínez-Vu

Thank you so much, Jasmine. I feel like there were too many gems in there that I don't even know which one to pull for the show notes. Thank you. I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom, your knowledge, your insight, your experience, all about career success, all about confidence building. I think that it's a really important message to share, especially to first-gen students of color, especially for folks who are right around this time. Thinking about as we wrap up the academic year, some folks are graduating, what the next steps are. This is really really helpful for them to think about what you've shared today and how it's going to impact their career and their life. So thank you. Thank you so much.

Dra. Jasmine Escalera

Thank you so much. This is absolutely wonderful on I was it was a pleasure to be here with you

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