As it’s #NationalTellAStoryMonth I have been sharing my snippets of story on social media, and some of my key learnings. I don’t consider myself to have a particularly unique or interesting story as such, but with the benefit of experience and hindsight I can pinpoint some key things that make me uniquely me.
I am the youngest of 3, with parents who were teachers. Education and learning have always played a part in my life, and I know where that’s come from! I liked learning through school, went on to university, and have continued learning throughout my adult life. Check out my LinkedIn profile to see some of the things that I have learnt!
As well as my love of learning I mentioned that I was the youngest of 3 children, and you’re probably wondering why that’s relevant. Last year, I did a lot of work on my business, and thinking about my story and my USP, this came up. As the youngest, I never had the chance to do things first; my brother and sister, just by being older, had that luxury. Hindsight has taught me that actually now I strive to be different, offer something different; something new that others before me haven’t quite done. I’m not content to do what everyone else does – I am that Flamingo in a flock of pigeons.
Be a Flamingo in a flock of pigeons.
As much as I love learning, school, especially the early years, wasn’t great. It turns out not everyone in this world is nice. At this point I didn’t want to be different, I wanted to blend in and not be noticed. It has taken a lot of years to look back and understand that my experiences in primary school have shaped, in a positive way, who I am now. Whilst I’ll never say ‘Thank You’ to the school bullies, I accept that my resilience and strength that I now know I have are, in part, due to them.
Tough situations build strong people
I got through school, I did well in my GCSEs – in the days when an A was the top mark – and went onto my A-Levels. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in with my life, what 17 year old really does, but I knew I wanted to go to university; I wasn’t ready to leave education yet.
University taught me so much! And not just on the actual course. While my degree in Social Science was interesting, it was the life learning that made the difference. Dropped off at Nottingham Trent University and left in halls to fend for myself, I was shy; I was nervous; I didn’t quite know what was going to happen. I didn’t want my parents to go and leave me there, but I’m glad they did! It was the push I needed to be independent and to take a massive jump out of my comfort zone. I’m not a naturally outgoing person, only recently have I accepted and embraced that I am an introvert, so talking to all these strangers and trying to make friends was a big thing.
I didn’t know it then, but stepping out of my comfort zone was going to turn into a bit of a habit for me.
3 years later I had a degree, friends and settled in Nottingham. I decided not to move back down South at this point – I was having the time of my life, and I could afford to buy a house, so that’s exactly what I did. Along with yet more independence (and bills!), I got a pair of cats, Joey and Domino, and life was good. It carried on, a few things changing like getting a job, living with my boyfriend and moving house. But, I hadn’t stepped out of my new comfort zone for a while!
After a brief spell temping, I got a job at Carphone Warehouse, starting as a sales consultant and working up to a branch manager. I kind of fell into the job, but then I loved it! Working with customers, a focus on customer service, a great social life with work colleagues; yup suited me down to the ground.
Until it didn't.
I fell out of love with sales. I still loved the customer service, just without the selling first. So I moved into a Customer Service Manager role which was a great career progression. I had started to want more from my working life, but there I was in my comfort zone with a good job that paid for my lifestyle. I spoke with a life coach and looked at other options, but I was comfortable. There wasn’t the motivation to leave my job.
My boyfriend had by now turned into my husband, and we were thinking about the future. I was always clear in my head that I didn’t want to settle in Nottingham, and it was time now for us to plan our move South. I went for a few job interviews, until I was offered a job as Customer Service Manager for a family run online retailer. My husband got a job too, and we decamped to Bedfordshire, cats in tow. This job saw me doing so much more than just customer service, a great precursor to the varied life of a PA.
We’d now had the conversation about the future, and knew we wanted a family. We moved into a family sized house, and my son soon came along. Now this is where I was rudely shoved out of my comfort zone.
I’d expected to go back to work after my maternity leave, but that wasn’t to be as I was made redundant while on leave and I had to weigh up my options. I didn’t want to be a stay at home mum, but I wasn’t sure about working long full-time hours either, plus the cost of childcare – was it even financially worth doing? When I’d worked with the life coach, the idea of having my own business came up, but it wasn’t the right time, now was. Now had to be. With the benefit of hindsight, again, this was the best thing that could have happened to me.
Now was the right time
I didn’t know how to run a business though!
I scoured the internet for inspiration and when I found a virtual PA franchise opportunity, I knew that was for me. It was a learning curve – but you know I love learning! It was a challenge – I also love a challenge. And it was rewarding. Oh, and I was the first one in the family to own my own business!
For the first few months I don’t think I stepped in my comfort zone at all! I had to meet new people, network, talk to strangers, be confident, and have a wide repertoire of small talk. But remember I said stepping out of my comfort zone was a habit? It’s only now I look back on it, that I realise how much I pushed myself to achieve. I don’t think I had an alternative, so I didn’t really think about it, I just did it.
Being self-employed brought together a lot of my life lessons and experience:
I stopped my franchise when I took my second maternity leave and I’m now the proud owner of my very own business and brand – Silver Lining Services – head decision-maker and boss in chief.
Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining
And that’s where I’m going to leave my story. If you’re reading this blog, you know that I have a virtual business support business, and what I do for my clients. You know the ‘Now’ me. But my story is an insight into the ‘Then’ me, and how I got here. It really is all about Silver Linings. There have been clouds, there will continue to be clouds, but I chose to accept the clouds and enjoy the Silver Linings that have come with them.
I’m uniquely me, and proud of it.