I was only able to start using my difference to make a difference when I stopped thinking about what other people thought I should be doing with my life and started doing what I truly wanted to do. Let me explain.
After growing up in four different countries and attending American International Schools, I was ready to start university. I had seen my dad work in business my whole life, and I was fascinated by it. At age 10, I had wanted a cash register for Christmas. An ugly, grey cash register! How strange is that? Business was intriguing to me even at such a young age, and it’s what led me to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Finance at Boston University. I learned a range of valuable lessons from how to value a company using multiples to working with a team on launching a prototype.
After my Finance degree, I thought I should continue in that line and thought I’d enjoy climbing the corporate ladder. As a very ambitious and driven person, I thought the challenging and fast-paced environment would fit perfectly. I applied to banks and a couple large international corporations and was offered a position in sales and account management at Bloomberg in London. For the first year and a half, I absolutely loved what I was doing. The learning curve was steep, and my knowledge on Fixed Income and the financial markets was growing quickly. The company itself was fantastic: the people working there were from everywhere around the world, which meant I felt right at home with my international upbringing. I enjoyed the flat hierarchy and learned extensively from every supervisor I had there.
However, little by little, I realized something did not feel quite right. I asked myself: who exactly am I helping here? How is this rewarding? How am I making a difference in the world? In my eyes, the only people I was helping were bankers by providing the appropriate software and data for their portfolios.
What was keeping me in a job where I didn’t feel I was helping anyone? I was embarrassed to realize that I enjoyed the status, the different perks like hotel loyalty points and a good salary. Who wouldn’t at 22? I was also afraid of what others would think if I decided to quit and choose another path. I was scared to change and potentially drop in their esteem. I’d also worked extremely hard to get to where I was, was I really ready to give it all up? If I wasn’t someone working in Finance in the City than who was I?
After two and a half years working at Bloomberg, I booked and attended a free coaching weekend at The Coaching Academy in London, and it was the most eye-opening experience I’d had in my young adult life. It allowed me to narrow down on what I was truly passionate about: helping others and creating something from start to finish.
That was the day I realized that I had go after my own dreams, and I had to stop thinking about how others would judge me. It was my life, and no one would change it for me. I quit my job in July and started a one-year Master’s at King’s College.
Midway through my Master’s degree, I realized I had to stop running away from my passion. I wanted to combine all three of my interests: love, helping people and creating something from start to finish. That’s when I decided to launch my own company: a dating platform. I couldn’t wait to help people find the love of their life. If I could bring that level of happiness to someone, it would be truly rewarding.
With my multicultural upbringing, I wanted to create a platform where anyone would feel welcome, no matter where they were from, what language they spoke or where they were born. Also, as someone who gets bored very easily (a trait that International School Kids will resonate with), I wanted to introduce a new kind of website that would be based on interaction and engagement from the very start. This was the model I decided to work off of.
After choosing a topic that they were truly passionate about, each person would be assigned to a small group of singles that were also passionate about that area. Then, like Facebook, Twitter, or Quora, each person would be able to post articles, news stories, and videos related to the area and comment and debate on other posts in the group. After four weeks of getting to know each other online through reactions and responses to posts, an event related to their passion would come up, allowing them to meet other group members in-person. If they didn’t find the love of their life at the event, they could walk away with new friends and having shared an experience at an event they would have chosen to attend anyway. Each person could then choose to join another passion group or stick to the same passion, but be assigned to a new group of singles.
Without first following my heart as to what I was truly passionate about, I would never have been able to create something that could make a difference for others. I was scared of what others would think, but, in the end, if you really want to make a difference in the world, you need to be true to who you are and what you believe in. That’s the only way you can reach your full potential and hopefully help as many people along the way as possible.
Olivia Charlet is an adult Third Culture Kid. Her dad is French and her mom is Belgian. Born in Tokyo, she then lived in Dusseldorf, Johannesburg, Vienna, and Hamburg, all before the age of 18. She moved to Boston to complete a Bachelor’s in Finance at the School of Management in Boston University. She now lives in London, having completed a Master’s in Organizational Psychology and Psychiatry. She has started a dating platform in London.