Our experiences shape who we are. Our successes, failures, monumental moments and everyday occurrences, all guide our life decisions and shape our identities. How can we use our experiences to help us succeed professionally?

We hear José Joaquín Erguera’s story which teaches us the enormous benefits of taking the time to reflect on our own experiences, and listen closely to the experiences of others.

When I finished my English Language bachelors’ degree, my future was uncertain. I didn’t know what to do next, so when I was offered a job as an English teacher at a primary school, I decided to accept it on a temporary basis.

Saying yes to that opportunity was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only did it feel great to be teaching the next generation of thinkers and doers, but I was able to learn from them too!

The children I taught inspired me to be curious and pushed me to be a better version of myself.

It was those children who fuelled my decision to apply for a Chevening Scholarship. One day, I asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. They enthusiastically listed off a great variety of professions, from doctors to police officers, astronauts to superheroes!

One child answered: “When I grow up, I want to be an English teacher, because I want to be like you.”

It was then that I realised I needed to let go of the fear of not being good enough because it was stopping me from striving for more.

I owed it to the children to role model behaviours I wanted them to one day adopt. That night, I went home and started my Chevening application to study for a UK master’s degree, with modules taught by the best professors in my field.

I’m pleased to say I’ve never looked back. Although that’s certainly not to say that the rest of my career so far has been an easy ride.

After completing my extraordinary Chevening year, I arrived home to Mexico and found a job at an international organization which works to advance education. I was excited about the job because I had opportunities to work with teachers from different parts of the country, sharing our knowledge and experiences.

However, I soon realised that it wasn’t quite living up to all that I’d hoped for. I was feeling frustrated and demotivated. Then, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I lost the job.

I felt like such a failure.

It was thanks to the support of my family and friends, as well as the professional advice I received from my mentors, that pushed me to overcome this dark episode in my professional life, and try again.

After a lot of soul-searching and self-reflection, I realised I’d learnt some crucial life lessons.

I learned that looking after your wellbeing is crucial for success.

I’d been too focused on my job that I’d forgotten to take care of myself and the people around me. I was working late at night and on weekends. My health and wellbeing suffered and as a result, aspects of both my professional and personal life also suffered.

I also learned the value of listening and reflecting on constructive feedback.

Listening to constructive feedback from a diverse range of colleagues is a great way to develop both personally and professionally.

Like many others, I used to be someone who didn’t enjoy receiving feedback about my work. It can be difficult to hear when we’re mistaken about something, or haven’t thought of a better way to do things. But I now take great pleasure in listening carefully and reflecting on the feedback of my peers. It’s such a simple and effective way to improve the performance and quality of my work.

Today, I volunteer as an Education Research Officer at the Shaping Horizons Initiative from the University of Cambridge. I work with an interdisciplinary team from diverse cultures and backgrounds, and I so enjoy learning from them.

The 5 key lessons I’ve learned during my career so far?

  1. Seize opportunities that come your way!
  2. Learn from the people around you. When we immerse ourselves in trying to understand different viewpoints and perspectives, we often benefit too.
  3. We often learn more from our failures than our successes.
  4. Your wellbeing should always come first.
  5. Take pride in listening and reflecting on constructive feedback.

Like many others, what my future has in store for me is uncertain. But what I can be certain of is that I will keep searching for opportunities, learning from my experiences and striving to be the best possible version of myself.


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