The path you take isn’t important. The journey is.

Today I’ve read two inspiring blogs. Read them here and here. Blogs where I wish my story was like theirs. Maybe I could say that I was the one who didn’t really get it at school, the style didn’t suit me, and I wasn’t engaged. Except that wasn’t really me. Yeah there were some subjects that I didn’t like….Physics! I think that was more about the teacher though – scary man with a beard and stern face… Everything else, I pretty much loved. I was that quiet mouse in the corner that people called a ‘swot’. I hid under my hair, I did my homework, I studied like mad for exams and I was devastated if I got less than a B, and I was disappointed at that!


This doesn’t mean that I was a straight A student though. I did well in the subjects I was passionate about, which was basically English and Media Studies and the rest I worked hard at and got good results. Same goes at A-Level. I didn’t get a first degree. I took a year out and then went to uni but I got it wrong. I didn’t enjoy my course and after the first term I left. I ‘gave up’, but I knew it was right for me. I had absolutely no idea of the path I wanted to take – I’d always been an academic and wanted to achieve. It’s what drives me, and I’m terrified about ‘failing’. After a career in retail management and studying gems and jewellery, I ended up going straight to a part time master degree, which was brilliant – I was learning and applying at the same time. It totally works for me – I need to apply it for it to really make sense. I see no point otherwise. For three years I was terrified of failing. My masters was in HR Management and I was surrounded by people who were already pro’s – what could I offer in a debate? I wonder this same thing every day, but I find that my opinions form, they shift and they develop, the more I read and ‘listen’. I’m the lurker that’s quietly taking it all in, considering my stance. For a little insight, read Quiet. I smile way too much when I read this – I’m most definitely an introvert, with extrovert tendencies if I find the right energy source!


Now, my chosen path is risky. I forgot to mention that when it comes to life choices, I’m pretty risk averse! Yet here I am consciously choosing not to have a perm job, and trying to follow my heart. Did I mention that what’s in my heart keepings morphing into something slightly different almost daily…? There’s nothing more certain than change they say…


So what am I actually blogging about you ask? Well. I’m a traditional academic and a qualification junkie, but I love learning and being inspired by things and people. I’ve always recognised that just because I value academia, that doesn’t mean that others have to follow my path. What’s important is that you find what works for you. The life experiences you have and the people you meet along the way give you far more value that you realise. I am extremely fortunate to have travelled around the world, exploring beautiful countries and meeting exceptional people who life extraordinary lives. This is the best experience I’ve ever had, and the learning I gained from travel and appreciating different cultures and ways in which people live their lives, has inspired me to do more. I’ve also had a few good managers who have believed in me and given me autonomy to do what I love. If you’re an employer, or have some recruiting clout, hire the school leavers and encourage them to think broadly and dream big. If you can, encourage career breaks so people of all ages can experience something else, and hopefully come back to you! Nurture the talent and support growth. Forget the academic stuff as essential – yeah it’s nice to have, but practical stuff is always better (in my humble opinion). I seek out beautiful surroundings and people who inspire me to think differently, not the same as everyone else. Make the journey work for  you. (Photo credit – me!)

Age…is the magic number (or just good genes?!)

The end of the year generally brings about a certain amount of navel gazing. The review of the year just gone, the striking conversations or experiences that have stayed with you, the things that went brilliantly and those that didn’t…. I wrote the blog below a few months ago and sat on it, wondering whether I wanted to put my feeling ‘out there’. I’ve decided ‘yes’!


I was recently part of a conversation where an experienced and knowledgeable HR professional who I’d never met before, was emphatic about not engaging a consultant like myself, as I didn’t have x number of years under my belt. At that moment, I got it, or thought I did. His job was to sell experience. His clients saw experience and a consultant’s back-story as value. I’ve reflected on this a lot since. Probably more than I care to disclose.


My reflections took me back to the good old (well, not so old) Equality Act 2010, and in particular, the guidance and good practice around recruitment, and focus on the best person to do the job. Now that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to have experience – there are many professions where it’s absolutely necessary, but we’re talking about specifying actual numbers of years here. Those legal eagles out there will know that this in itself requires objective justification etc etc…  What I passionately believe in is that the focus should shift to what someone can bring. Their skills and actual experience, not the number of years under their belt. Does someone with 15 or 20 years necessarily have more rounded skills and experience than someone with 11 years for example? Maybe. Maybe not. What about their life before their current profession? What value can that bring to an organisation?  Don’t even get me started on sector specific prejudices… That’s another blog.


I’m then drawn to a recent conversation I had at a social gathering with one of my clients. It was a ‘guess the age’ type of thing. When it came to me, I got guesses between 6 and 10 years younger than I am. It’s always been the same, and whilst extremely flattering (and as I get older I cling onto it as much as possible!!), what role might this play around credibility and perceived experience I wonder? How will this impact on how I’m viewed by potential clients and even people I meet? At a recent christmas party I was told by someone that when they met me, they wondered how someone younger than them could be in the position I was in, guiding them on what they needed to be doing as a manager. “I thought ‘what does she know?'”.woman-silhouette-1381346418vdW  I’m 7 years older than him.


So what?  Well. I’ll keep slapping on the moisturiser every day but I might also start paying a little more attention to the topic of personal branding – in sales terms, my USP. There are things I, and everyone else, can do to take control of their life.  I consciously do this all the time, but in 2016,  perhaps that personal branding piece should be a little higher on the agenda for me.  If you google ‘personal branding’  you’ll get a raft of ‘top tips’ and ‘how to’, but instead of the cookbook method, I like some of the principles set out here. My age, my appearance, they don’t matter. I’m a blank silhouette who can bring something to organisations. ‘Stand for something meaningful and the rest will fall into place’.

Employee Engagement

I’ve been reading some interesting blogs and musings about employee engagement (what is it? is everyone just on the bandwagon? Concept overload?) and people feeling less than loyal to their employer. “Shall I leave?” “I hate going to work”……. So do something about it! The tricky bit is the next step. Two choices – you either trawl through the web/speak to recruiters and apply for the next dream job(s) and leave when you get the golden ticket (AKA job offer), OR you just leave and then do all the same with a lot more time and (perhaps) panic mushrooming in your head….

So I chose the latter option. Many people have asked “why?” The answer – it was the wrong job, the wrong place for me. There was learning. A whole steaming pile to be honest, but I’m glad for all of it. Most importantly, it’s helped me to be clear about what I don’t want. To me, that’s as important as what I do want.

hire-me-post-itI recently attended a #streetwisdom / #BTWC session held in London with a wonderful varied bunch of people. The most interesting thing about this (I discussed it with a rather cynical person last week – they know who they are!) is that there’s nothing earth shatteringly new about it. It’s striking in its simplicity and it helped me to see the fundamental need I have around work. And it didn’t involve a 9-5 day in day out routine stuck in the same office behind the same desk (or bank of desks!).

What has happened since I hear you ask? (Well, maybe ask…) It seems that for all of the talk of transferable skills, in reality a CV search takes note of the sectors you have worked in, rather than consider what you can bring. I met with a recruiter a few weeks ago who had me earmarked for the same sector I want to get out of. She told me that she just needed to get me in front of people as they’d realise I would fit into a commercial/corporate environment. That’s great! But only if I have a recruiter bigging up ‘me’ as a person and helping them to see past the sector I’ve worked in. Then I thought about my own prejudices when reviewing CV’s and where people have worked before… I’d love to say that I disregarded everything, but to be completely frank, I’ve been wary in the past of potential candidates with significant experience in the public sector, or the sector I’m coming out of. My reasoning? Purely past experience trying to enable change or different ways of thinking. Adopting a stereotype that’s unfair. The lesson? When I find that dream job and if I ever look at applications again……..throw everything I think I know out of the window and see the person and the skills!

Rambling over!