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Claudia Chimento

Claudia Chimento

Executive Assistant

Paris, France

This time it was about believing in myself

The first time in my life I left Italy was within the framework of an Erasmus program: I left my birthplace, Torino in Italy to live for 6 months in Lyon, France, this is during that time that I understood that France could be a country where I would like to live.

However I never imagined that, three years later, I’ll be back with just a red luggage and some dreams in it.

After 2009, the economic crisis started to develop massively in Italy, a phenomena never seen before. Fresh graduate unemployment was at its highest.

I didn’t believe in myself anymore. I was frustrated because I always dreamed of a bright future, I always was that ambitious girl who wanted to realize herself as a person, as a woman, and through her career.  But it appeared that it wasn’t possible anymore.

So I understood that I had to do something, I couldn’t live in this way anymore, without self-esteem  and with no future. I didn’t want to accept it any longer, I wanted to change but I didn’t know where to start.

This is when the universe knocked at my door for the first time in the person of my close friend Chiara. Chiara is an Italian friend, a dentist that I have met in Lyon during my Erasmus experience and that has just moved from Roma to Paris for the same above-mentioned reasons. We developed a close friendship since Erasmus and  after one of our several skype dates she convinced me to leave Torino for Paris and offered me to stay with her until I find a job in Paris .

I will never forget the day I left my country. I was scared but, at the same time, I knew that it couldn’t be worse that what I was leaving behind me.

I found my first job in Paris one week later, in a fast food restaurant. I wasn’t happy, but at least I finally found my economical independence. Inside of me I wanted more, but I didn’t know where to start. All these experiences made me lost hope, self-esteem and self-respect.

This is when the universe knocked at my door for the second time in the person of Insaff. After reaching economical independence, I’ve decided to find my own apartment, at least my own room, and this is how I’ve met Insaff. She was looking for a roommate and I was looking for an apartment. It was a perfect match. We immediately became friend and I told her my story.

This is when she told me about Lean In Paris, a community of women that meet every month to empower themselves. I decided to give it a shot, and I was right. Insaff and her circle of women had spent months and months trying to make me believe in myself because, for them, if I had the courage to leave my country, I should have had the courage to find a a job that matched my skills and qualification – and most of all, a job I really wanted to do. They convinced me to leave everything behind me and start over again: meaning quitting my current job and focus all my energy in searching a qualified job that match my skills and competences.

This was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my entire life. Because this time, it was about believing in myself.

I have to admit that in that particular time, Lean In helped me a lot. Not only because it was empowering to meet each month with strong women that were doing the best they can to pursue their dreams and ambitions but especially because I’ve also discovered a real sorority. Insaff reviewed and revised my resume, Rhizlaine (another circle member) trained me for the interview, and each of the circle members, in their own way, pushed me toward not giving up and sticking to the idea that a job was around the corner.

And they were right, after few difficult months where some doors slammed in my face, I found it, I’ve found the job, I found my job.

An Italian hospital in Paris was searching for its Director’s assistant. And like it was easy and meant for me, I just had to send my application, have an interview and land the job. I was so happy and immediately started the week after.

However, a few months later, my feeling were mixed. The job was perfect for me, interesting and fulfilling, however, the wage was not satisfactory at all and I realized that I was underpaid.

It was very hard. It was hard because when you go through what I’ve went through, when you leave your friends, your family, your country for a better future, when you fight so hard, you get tired of fighting.

But even if it was hard, I knew deep down that I did not have the right to give up. Not after all that I’ve being through.

And this is when the universe knocked at my door a third time in the form of a salary negotiation workshop. Lean In and Insaff, again, came and helped me. At that time, Insaff has launched the first sessions of her salary negotiation/renegotiation workshop. She taught us how to value ourselves and don’t be afraid to ask for what we deserve. Lean In helped me to find some courage and reminded me that I wasn’t a scared girl anymore, because all that I went through made me stronger. I have became another person, a strong woman, who fights for her rights and shows that she is capable of everything she sets her to.

Today I love my job, I work closely with the director of a big hospital in Paris, I love my responsibilities,  and I love dreaming  of the next step of my career and my bright future!

I have to say thank to my girlfriends Chiara, Insaff, and all my Lean In sisters because they taught me that I’m not alone. Some women think they don’t have right to even try or to speak up about what they deserve. But we should speak up and we must never stop to try! So now, when I picture my future, my career, I ask for the best, cause this life lesson taught me that if I was able to overcome the odds I can do whatever I want. If somebody can do it, then I can also try to do it, and who knows maybe I’ll do it better!

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