On South Africa’s Women’s Day, Baker McKenzie lawyer Bridgett Majola, a senior associate in the Banking & Finance Practice of the firm’s Johannesburg office, shares her advice for women and what she would tell a younger version of herself:
Life is messy, it isn't always what you think or plan. We make imperfect decisions, keep an open mind and embrace what you may not understand.
Loosen up a little, take life as it comes and just enjoy it for what it is. The most successful people in the world haven’t had linear paths to success so don’t compare yourself to other people. You must run your own race and define your own success. Don’t get demotivated when everyone else around you succeeds. There are various reasons why others do well, whether economical, as well as good old luck and likeability but, everything has its own time. In any event, what other people call failure is often just the gift of a new direction and a new opportunity.
Be fearless. Don’t be scared, not of monsters and snakes and stuff, but of the other stuff like social pressure to buy a house, have a stable job, get married, have kids, etc. Somehow life will work out just the way it was intended.
Never stop learning – stay curious, relevant, reinvent yourself and learn to make choices
I have spent so much time in my career working hard but the reality of the matter is that the hardest workers don’t always succeed. You only really succeed when you change your perspective from "working hard" to "increasing your value/worth" and this is done by increasing your productivity, mastering your skills early and mostly by being adaptable.
Don’t lose your sense of curiosity and desire to learn from others around you - they are your best teachers and cheerleaders.
Don’t let your emotions get involved. Things change all the time (leadership, strategies, teams, policies etc.), and any kind of change elicits emotional responses, such as fear, feeling overwhelmed or wanting to run away. Being emotionally intelligent in these situations will help you to stay adaptable and relevant.
Don't be afraid to say "no" when you feel you should, and to say "yes" when it seems right to you. Don’t live in anyone’s shadow or be a pawn in anyone else’s life. Learn how to make choices early on because you are only accountable to yourself and you are the only person who needs to live with the decisions that you make or don’t make.
Crisis of confidence
Someone once told me that black people can’t be successful transactional lawyers and that I should rather be doing something else better suited to the kind of services that "black clients need". If this happens to you, don’t get unnerved. It is true that you may not come across many senior black transactional lawyers on the deals that you may work on, but it doesn’t mean that that will always be the case. Historically in my country black women specifically suffered triple oppression in the form of class exploitation, national oppression and gender discrimination. So, it may still take time for to see changes - stay the course, be globally competitive and enjoy the journey.
Don't be in a hurry to grow up. Just laugh at the mean girls at school, you will grow up to be gorgeous!