What to do? What to do? Summer was done. The girls were back at school and it was time for me to work out what the hell I was going to do for work.
I’m a project manager. An organiser. My skill is basically getting people together who don’t normally work together to get sh*t done. People always need to get sh*t done so my default position was to offer myself out to the world as a freelance project manager. I didn’t really know what this meant myself and so, unsurprisingly when people started asking me questions about the type of work I did, what type of project manager I was, what problem I specifically fixed for organisations, I was a bit stumped. All I knew was that I wanted more control and more balance in my working life.
I had a browse on some jobs boards and looked up some agencies, thinking that taking on some interim roles might be a good way to ease in. I started having meetings with some of my contacts and it was becoming abundantly clear that I didn’t have a good pitch. I started to get frustrated and questioned whether this was really something I could do. I mean, am I even a project manager? Is that really what I want to do? Questions, questions, questions. Then two events in one week changed everything.
The first was a trip to the Mum’s Enterprise Roadshow* at the Business Design Centre in London. I had signed up for the event in the summer as I knew I would want to have some things in the diary come September. It was perfectly timed for the week after the kids had gone back to school and it was free. All good. I had no real expectations of what I would find at the event but I knew that networking was an important element of working for yourself so I went with that in mind. And what I found there completely blew me away. I walked in half way through the morning and was faced with a sea of women talking to women in animated conversation about work. Many of them had babies slung over their shoulders, in slings or being pushed back and forth in buggies. I had to have a little sit down and just take it all in. After a few minutes I took a deep breath and dived in. What I found were lots of businesses, predominately run by mothers, supporting mothers to follow their passion and bring their ideas to life. It was awe-inspiring. But there were two women that day who had a particular impact on me. They were Helen White from Brilliant Together** and Julie Morgan from Another Mother***.
Helen was a panel member in the Q&A session. She had been an attendee at the previous year’s event and there she was, the very next year, on the stage, talking to a room full of mothers about how she had turned her business idea into a reality. She spoke so passionately, straight from the heart, about what that journey had been like for her. And seeing someone up there who had done it, who had made it happen, in what seemed like such a short amount of time, was truly inspirational. Could I be a Helen? Could I be someone who in one year’s time was talking to others about how I had set up my own business? The idea was deeply compelling.
Then there was Julie. Julie was one of the speakers. Her talk was about establishing a strategy for your business but what really struck me was her opener. She talked about fear and vulnerability. About how, when you go out on you own, these will be regular companions but, if you let them in, if you go with it, they can become faith and trust. It felt like Julie was talking directly to me. These were exactly the feelings I was struggling with as I tried to decide what the hell to do next. Could I really do this? Was I making a huge mistake? Was I good enough? Could I sell myself to others? I was steeped in fear! During her talk Julie mentioned that she is based in a town that is close to where I live. She also mentioned that she runs regular meet ups for mums who are running their own businesses.
When I got home I looked Julie up and lo and behold the next meet up was that very week. I signed up thinking it would be a good way to motivate me and meet some new people. What I hadn’t bargained for was a life-changing two hours. That may sound extreme but it is true. After listening to where I was at, Julie took me through a visioning exercise. She got me to really picture what it is I want. For myself, for my home, for my family and in my work. To dare to dream. To put myself firmly in a future state and to feel how it feels. I will keep the A3 page I scribbled on that day forever. It was the moment I switched from fleeing the past to facing the future. It was the point at which I dared to dream. It made me see so clearly what was important to me. What I really cared about and what were the fundamentals of a good life for me.
On the drive home from that session, completely unexpectedly, I cried. I cried tears of relief and of gratitude. Julie had helped me to recognise what is most important to me and allowed me to imagine a life built on those values. For the first time in my career I could see a way of taking control of my own path. Of building something that was really ‘me’. I was excited about the future. I had shifted from flee to free. Now, it was down to me.
* The Mum’s Enterprise Roadshow is an awesome initiative set up by two amazing women from their kitchens! They are on a mission to get mothers to #shootforthemoon. Check them out. Got to an event. Follow them on social media. They are spearheading an awesome movement.
** Brilliant Together provides practical guidance to people setting up their own businesses. Helen’s story really inspired me and showed me what you can achieve when you passionately follow your dream.
*** Another Mother UK supports mums who are business owners to build a brilliant business whilst maintaining the right balance between work and family life. She has been instrumental in getting me to a point of confidence and excitement with establishing my business.