Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of profiles of past winners of Catapult Seacoast and Seacoast Media Group's 10 to Watch young professionals contest. Nominations are now open for this year's contest, which is sponsored by Bank of America, Eversource and Heritage Home Service. Go to seacoastonline.gannettcontests.com/10-to-Watch-Nomination-Form-2022 to nominate yourself or someone you know. Deadline to enter is Oct. 9.
Clifton West Jr.
Software developer, Lincoln Financial Group, Barrington
What was most challenging for you getting started as a young professional and how did you work through it?
My venture into being a young professional occurred straight out of college, in a new state, New Hampshire. Being in a new state in an unfamiliar region of the country brings its own unique challenges on top of being a young professional. A main challenge that young professionals face is how to find community outside of work. Finding community is what allows young professionals to build proper work-life balance and give us a larger sense of belonging. For me, it was volunteering and community organizing, for others, it's yoga, Crossfit, dog parks, church, sports, using Facebook events to find and attend local events, doing leadership training programs like New Leaders Council and joining networking groups. Sometimes that will require you to go outside your comfort zone and feel like you are in scary, uncharted waters. It's OK to feel that! Don't let your fears stop you, but also don't rush yourself. It's OK to do things at your own speed as long as you are making progress.
How can young professionals expect to benefit from putting themselves out there as a 10 to Watch contestant?
You become part of a network of other great people that can assist you in your professional and personal development. There is zero downside to putting yourself out there, it's only positives!
What are the personal benefits you've gained from community volunteering and/or civic engagement?
Coming together as a community is the only way to achieve collective liberation for all underrepresented communities. Outside of the skills you learn like public speaking, organizational management, fundraising, etc., that you can use in your professional life, you get back a sense of community and purpose outside of working. Giving time back to my community and being an active leader has been a humbling experience. The people you interact with that want to learn more, that need some support that you are able to provide, the other great everyday heroes you meet, have been nothing short of unforgettable, fulfilling adventures.
The pandemic has obviously been difficult on everyone. What are the obstacles and opportunities you've seen for career growth?
The pandemic has brought its own additional challenges, but also unique opportunities for growth. I had to deal with a different physical working environment; going from a desk in an office building to an office in my home with family and pets running around in the background. Losing the morning "water cooler" talk and the well-established routines was all work-related difficulties I faced. On the other hand, this gave opportunities for quicker career advancement as companies are trying to keep talent, company provided trainings, companies work from home policies allowed for more flexible hours and more PTO, and companies paying for work from home equipment for employees.
What would you say to a young professional reading this who may be undecided about whether they are feeling confident enough to take part in 10 to Watch?
The 10 to Watch brings together a diverse group of professionals from Fortune 200 companies to grassroots nonprofits like Black Lives Matter Seacoast and Reproductive Freedom Fund of New Hampshire. What you are doing matters and you should not minimize your work and accomplishments. Just do it!
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: 10 To Watch: Clifton West Jr. on the importance of finding community