City, Solicitor, Commercial Property, London
|Arts and Media|
|Starting a business|
Career Change Story
I co-run the London Photo Festival and this provides amateur and semi-professional photographers with an opportunity to exhibit and sell their work without having to undertake a formal elevation process.
I had worked as a lawyer for a number of years (both in private practice and client side) and I always felt that something was missing in my life but couldn't quite put my finger on what it was and felt that I was trapped in a well-paid job with no other options available to me.
My job was made redundant in May 2009 and I so decided to have a career break and went travelling on and off for a year.
Upon my return, and hundreds of rejected job applications later, I became very despondent and a friend suggested I see a career coach to help me find some direction and purpose.
This was the best thing I could have done because it helped me reignite my dormant passion for photography and I ended up meeting my now-business partner on a photography course.
With the aid of the career coaching, I was taught patience and how to use my time wisely! I was lucky in that I received a good redundancy payout and I also managed to get a temporary assignment which enabled me to simultaneously earn some money but progress with my business.
One of the first things I did was put an advert on 'Escape the City' for a business partner and I was amazed at the response to my original idea to open up a photographer's gallery & cafe.
I also went to as many networking events as possible and found the Meetup website for business groups to be invaluable - if you meet one interesting person or find out one valuable piece of information, then the event has been worth it.
I attended as many photography & business events as possible - Frui (a photography group) were amazing and my conversation with one of their directors about opening up a gallery made me realise I was heading in the right direction.
Career Change Reflections
Networking and marketing are key daily elements to driving the business forward. We want people talking about us behind our backs (in a positive way!) and we are constantly on the lookout for new sponsors, speakers and events taking place in the industry.
My other (new) role is heading up the PR & Marketing department of London Bridge City and the aim is to put it on the map and make it the Spitalfields of the South Bank. Again, this involves networking and getting a presence on social media networks and hopefully using the creative contacts I have made through the London Photo Festival.
I have met some incredibly brave people along the way, increased my working flexibility and now have control over my work/life balance and feel like getting out of bed in the morning to go to work!
It can be lonely and because you are transitioning, a lot of people do not know how to 'categorise' you (it took me a while to be able to answer the question: "what do you do?"). And you can fall off the radar because you are working from home or researching things in non-conventional hours and thus, it is easy to diminish your support network.
But don't give up - all your hard work will pay off and your confidence will return to you.
Get a business partner! You cannot do this alone, so surround yourself by like-minded and supportive people. When doubts creep in, talk to someone you trust and read enlightening things by people who have succeeded (Steve Jobs, Richard Branson etc.)
Also, trust your intuition. If something doesn't sit right, then chances are it isn't right.
You don't have to achieve everything at once so be realistic about your achievements, expectations and goals.
I am a devotee of the internet and Twitter, in particular. I follow things like Women Unlimited (http://www.women-unlimited.co.uk/) and Creative Boom (http://www.creativeboom.co.uk/) for inspirational articles and events.
As mentioned, Meetup has some interesting and often free groups meeting up in your area; for example, 'Business Mentoring' offer free mentoring for new and small businesses and 'Entrepreneurs Night Out' often host informative talks and events (to name but a few).
Speak to as many people as possible - everyone has a story to tell and knowledge to impart.