Three women reveal how embracing change and taking risks has got them to where they want to be...
Nishma Robb, 43, is head of ads marketing at Google and YouTube in the UK. She chairs the British division of Women@Google, which focuses on empowerment through improving opportunities for women.
Choose your boss, not your job
‘I’ve accepted roles and made dramatic shifts in my career based on the people I had the opportunity to work for – and I’ve never regretted any of those moves.
When times get tough, it’s these relationships that help you ride out the bumps and scale the heights. Seek out bosses you really admire in the industry. Use LinkedIn to look at how these people are perceived by those around them and what their values are. Then find a way to reach out to them, either by sharing an article about your industry or a thought about how their business could improve. And don’t underestimate the power of networking. I’ve gained a lot from peer-to-peer networks in my career, in terms of advice.’
Drive change yourself, rather than letting it happen to you
‘I’ve actually reinvented myself many times. I started out as a journalist, but then discovered I was more into the business side of things. Rather than stay where I was, I pushed myself and moved sideways into marketing using the knowledge I already had of the industry. I later used that marketing experience to move to Teletext, harnessing the experience there to move into travel and helped launch several businesses. After having a family and taking 18 months out with my twins, I felt like I had to start all over again in a whole new work landscape. So I got a job at a digital ad agency to learn the skills I needed to progress. It’s all about taking control of where you want to go.
Set a long-term plan
‘I hate those, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” interview questions, but they’re actually a good way of focussing the mind. Think of yourself as an 80- year-old looking back on your life. What goals do you hope to have achieved over the course of your career? Now put a plan in place to get you there. Decide the values that are important to you. When you’re negotiating change, it’s good to have this in mind. Personally, a sense of value and purpose is really important to me. I also have a really strong entrepreneurial spirit, so I like being creative. I’m a secret geek and therefore love technology, too. In order to succeed, your key values should be aligned to your role.’
See Nishma speak at MC@WORK LIVE
Amy Hanson, 37, quit her job as a newspaper executive so she could launch Small Steps.
The humanitarian organisation is now the world’s biggest celebrity shoe-auction charity.
Use social media to test out your idea
‘After seeing kids living barefoot on rubbish dumps in Cambodia, I couldn’t go back to my old career chasing celebrities for a living. But I still had a mortgage to pay. I put aside all my savings to cover my essentials for three months, quit my job and went for it. A strong social-media presence was the most important part of my business because fundamentally, people like to share good stuff. So I put pictures from my trip on Facebook with the message: “I’m going back to Cambodia in two weeks, so if you really want to do something to help these kids, give me £3, and I can buy them wellies.” The money poured in. Great partnerships started happening; a filmmaker friend offered to lend me camera equipment to film my trip. Then Apple gave me a Mac with software. A travel company paid for my trip and when I returned, I screened the film, and it snowballed.’
Pull on your experience and contacts
‘I didn’t know much about the charity sector, but I knew a lot about celebrities. I set about writing to every famous person I’d ever interviewed and asked them to be involved. Kate Moss was an early adopter, and Kylie Minogue, Natalie Portman, Tom Cruise, Chris Martin and Sienna Miller soon signed up. Before we knew it, we had hundreds of celebrities spreading the word on Instagram and Twitter. With various sponsors on board, I could afford to pay myself a small wage and get some staff. Five years on, we run a worldwide charity. I work six days a week and never take holidays, but I’m happier than ever. Visiting our projects, I know that I’m making a tangible difference to people’s lives when I go to work each day.’
Lydia Kimmerling, 32, is a life coach. She left school at 16 and has worked in four different industries from travel to TV production.
Never let fear keep you where you are
‘Don’t settle for an OK-ish job because of worry. If you feel like there is more out there, it’s because there is. I worked in TV from the age of 17 after getting a job as a receptionist and worked my way up to assistant producer by 22. But I hated the crazy hours so moved to Panama, when I heard of an opportunity to run my own Asian-fusion restaurant. I stayed for three years before returning to London to try out being in front of the camera as a presenter for a TV network at 26. Realising I needed to do something more fulfilling, I took a job as cabin crew for Virgin Atlantic to pay for my studies as a life coach. When I qualified, I moved to Ibiza to run a retreat. Seeing change through a prism of positivity rather than fear is vital.’
Act as if you can do something even if you can’t
‘I learned very early on saying I could do something before I knew how to do it was a very powerful tool. For every career change, I’ve always focused on what I was going to do or learn before I had a go. There’s nothing like putting yourself in a position with no other option but to make it work to bring out the best in you.’
Make the choice to be ready for change
‘I always wanted to work in Ibiza, but found myself thinking that first I needed to be married or for my business to be thriving, but I was just making things up because I was fearful. If you work hard, the money will come. Many times, the perfect bridge jobs have found their way to me. When I left a job to take a risk on being a life coach, I got a text from a friend asking if I knew of anyone who could do some reception temp cover. No contract and plenty of time to research new opportunities meant it was perfect. There is always a way. Just ask yourself: “How can I make it happen?” rather than complaining, “I can’t make it happen.”’