“It’s not what you achieve, it’s what you overcome. That’s what defines your career.” (Carlton Fisk)
This week I noticed a thread that was started on Twitter by the amazing Sara Tasker which asked her followers to share their career paths so far and whether their journeys had consisted of linear progression or not. My feed was inundated by people responding to this question and sharing stories of their careers, it was SO interesting to see the progression of each and every one of them through the twists and turns that had lead them to the (very often) impressive roles they now found themselves in. Reading through so many inspiring stories made me want to reflect on my own career journey and write a whole post about my own experiences to date.
With five jobs in four years, you might say that I’ve managed to cram quite a lot into the time since I’ve left University but every single role has played a part in my career development and getting to the point I find myself at today as a self-employed Freelance Digital Marketer.
WHAT I’M WEARING:
Jumpsuit* – JOY!
Leather Jacket – Topshop
Converse – ASOS
Bag – H&M
So let’s rewind to the summer of 2013, I was just graduating from a course I pretty much hated from start to finish and was about to dive head first into the world of full-time work. The only issue? I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. My degree in Photography had left me feeling despondent, uninspired and unsure where to turn but I needed money and I wasn’t coping well with the long days back at home with the sole destroying task of job hunting.
After a heck of a lot of job applications, rejections and even thinking about going back into education to study I finally accepted a temporary admin role at a local college. For the first couple of weeks it was essentially handling the paperwork for new student’s bus passes and I regularly found myself questioning why I had bothered going to University if this was the best it could do for me.
After the initial enrolment period at the college I was kept on to work within the Student Services and Admissions Department which meant undertaking general admin tasks such as inputting data and filing but during busy periods I was often loaned out to the marketing department whenever they needed an extra pair of hands. This really was the first time I’d been exposed to the world of marketing which might seem ridiculous now but I feel like it was a much less talked about industry even just five years ago. I helped out with recruitment events, drafted up press releases and worked on student profiles to appear in college prospectuses. The dynamic atmosphere in the office really captured my attention so when I was alerted to a Marketing Assistant role advertised at another neighbouring college I tarted up my CV and whizzed over an application. The experience I’d gained at the temporary role stood me in good stead and I ended up getting the job, it looked like things were picking up!
It was an exciting time starting a new role which felt like it suited my creative personality a lot more, being the most junior person in the office meant I essentially had to turn my hand to whatever needed help with in the department. That could have been ordering stationary, working on direct mail campaigns stuffing 500 envelopes or organising photo-shoots for promotional material. It was SUCH a varied role and really helped to give me a solid understanding of what the marketing industry consists of.
It was in this time that I found I was naturally gravitating towards digital marketing after really enjoying tasks such as updating the website with news stories and managing the social media accounts. This was also when I decided to start a blog of my own and Jess Who was born!
After a year and a half it felt like it was the right time to progress in my career, I knew that I wanted to move into a role that specialised in digital and ideally I wanted to work for a company that excited me a little more with it’s ‘product offering’. That was when I saw a Junior Content Editor role advertised at the online electrical retailer AO.com and reading through the job description it honestly seemed like my dream role. I worked hard on my application (you can read more about how I actually managed to bag the job here) and I was offered the job the afternoon after going in for my interview! This felt like such a huge step forward for me with my career and I was ridiculously excited about the prospect of joining such a forward-thinking company.
Looking back at the year and a half spent at AO.com it was definitely the closest I’ve felt to having a ‘dream job’, I was predominately responsible for updating the lifestyle blog with interesting and relevant content, managing social media accounts and organising blogger events and outreach. I’m not going to go into too much detail on this time as I’ve done a whole post on what my role consisted of but it was definitely an exciting time to work for such a dynamic online company. The decision to leave was purely down to me choosing to relocate to Nottingham to live with Adam, at this point we had been doing long distance for the three years since I left university and travelling two hours every other weekend was starting to wear us both down.
After working almost specifically in content for a year and a half I felt that one of the areas my knowledge was lacking in was the more technical side of digital marketing so I took up at role as a Junior Internet Marketing Consultant at an SEO agency. Now I may as well just cut to the chase with this one, the position and the company couldn’t have been less suited to me and I was really unhappy for the six months I was there. I knew almost immediately that I had made a mistake and it was a really difficult time for me as I struggled to come to terms with the fact that I could have potentially thrown away the opportunity to stay in my ‘dream’ role for something that I hated. The one thing I can take away from this experience is that I did improve my understanding of SEO which has definitely helped me when it comes to running the blog and also means that I now feel confident enough to offer it as a service to freelance clients.
The whole six months I was in the role I spent my evenings scouring Indeed for other opportunities but nothing seemed to come up until I applied for a role at Hillarys in the Digital Marketing department. It was such a relief when I heard that I’d been offered the position and I couldn’t wait to return to creative role where I felt much more comfortable and confident.
In the end my time at Hillarys was short and sweet but I really enjoyed the eight months I spent there managing the social media accounts and learning more about the world of paid advertising. The influencer marketing campaigns where also a joy to be involved with and have always been one of my favourite parts of my jobs.
When starting at Hillarys I had also set up my freelance digital marketing business and had a couple of clients I was now delivering services to on a monthly basis. In December an opportunity came up to work for a client for three days a week and with the clients I already had on board this meant I would pretty much have the equivalent of a full-time job so it didn’t feel like too much of a risky move. It was too much of a good opportunity to pass up and I basically grabbed it with both hands before handing in my notice in the same week.
People often ask me how I knew it was the right time, whether I was scared about taking the leap and in all honesty looking back at it now it wasn’t really a decision I debated over for a long time. Working for myself is something that I’ve always wanted to experience and is essentially the thing I’ve been working so hard for over the past four years to get to. The late nights working on the blog, building connections through my previous roles, sacrificing weekends to instead spend them on client work. It had all been so I could get to the point where I manage my own time, career and essentially, life.
So I guess that pretty much brings us up to present day, I’ve been self-employed and working as a freelance digital marketer for five months now. Will it be forever? Will I ever go back to working for a company again? Who knows! There are elements of working for yourself that I’ve really struggled to adapt to and with us now in the process of saving to buy a house I often wonder whether it was the best time to make such a huge life decision. Not having a regular income when you’re trying to budget can be extremely difficult and sometimes the fear about the lack of stability can really take a hold but you just have to remember why you made the decision in the first place. I have no idea where my career will take me next but it’s been one heck of a roller coaster so far!