I was cautiously excited (but scared if I am truthful) this time last year beginning my career shift from taking my regular payslip to freelancer but with today being 4.e.g. consulting’s 1st anniversary it seems the perfect time to take a pause, look back, look now and look forward.
I remember feeling like I was staring into a uncertain abyss of a future, yet to bag a client, yet to create let alone send an invoice, yet to recruit a role (there’s nothing like matching your first vacancy to give you validation) but despite this having some small measure of optimism. I had at that point started some internal dialogue and external conversations about what I wanted to do next and had the help of others around me, such as Helen and Simon that were invaluable.
Last summer I had come out of a redundancy that wasn’t altogether a positive experience, and in my heart of hearts I knew I hadn’t found my true home even with putting my heart and soul into the role and with my optimistic HR hat on. Despite this, I wore the warm vintage cloak of corporate Retail. I loved it, it was trusty and reassuring, gave me clarity & solidity in my work, I was part of a brand, driven by its values and goals thinking really only of my HR team, line managers and candidates.
So, I had a name 4.e.g. consulting but not really a voice! Looking back I have listened to my own key messages I wrote in my first 4.e.g. article on LinkedIn because I didn’t have a website, company page or blog. What I take from this is that I have done what feels both right and timely for me. I was humble enough to ask lots and I mean lots of questions to anyone that would pay attention, I listened intently learning from those in and outside my profession and sector, local freelancers, creatives, trusted colleagues from a former life! Looking now I am doing this everyday and I make a point to learn from this and seek out experiences, places and tools to learn.
I once believed that the reality for working in recruitment was two worlds – agency or in house that was all and certainly not freelance and certainly not flexible. I was comfortable with this, the combination of being available for candidates and the pace at which roles are recruited were imperative. Were freelance recruitment professionals a thing of mythology? I had aspired to the notion of working differently, witnessed others “living that supposed dream” but was it really possible? The simple answer is Yes it is.
At this point, I had a sense I wanted to work with smaller businesses, work less hours, but ultimately partner with businesses to guide them to make better recruitment decisions giving them the expertise, tools and experience that would give them lasting impact for their business, teams and bottom line. Larger organisations in the main were increasingly casting cookie cutter roles with practically no flexibility in any form. One particular business, despite needing an experienced recruiter, the very next week (they rung me on Thursday) for a 4-6 weeks could not explain why the contract had to be full time and in the “office”. My wish is having seen a more positive move towards working differently that is taking hold is that for future generations my daughters included, it will be change.
I have discovered new places where people do work differently, for example Instagram has been kind to me finding connections, information and support I really didn’t expect in the unlikeliest of accounts and places. Some of those connections has transversed the digital into the real world where I find myself sitting in a cafe with a particular like-minded recruitment individual (you know who you are) sharing experiences and making up the rules on how we can collaborate and work together. How brilliant is that? Through working with new clients outside of industry, new skills and knowledge have been acquired. I have kept myself invigorated attending events I might not have made time for before, listened to podcasts (Work Life – Adam Grant/CtrlAltDelete – Emma Gannon/Squiggly Careers – Amazing if/Eat Sleep Work Repeat – Bruce Daisley to name a few) even read whole books found myself part of amazing communities such as The Hoxby Collective. At Hoxby there is no vacuous speak, work is measured purely by the output and quality of your work, not where, how long and how senior you are.
I told myself to take small steps and prepare as much as I can, setting myself up for success as much as possible, matching the practicalities of tax codes, T’s & C’s, tech, email addresses, website hosts and domains etc with a mindset that will grow with my work and business. There is no one definitive manual for being freelance and there shouldn’t as the beauty of being part of the “gig” is you can make up the rules – on some matters anyway. Thinking to shape your work differently I wish I had known about the great work IPSE do ahead of going freelance, they are a great organisation with such great resources from guides to setting up, conferences, advice on financials, newsletter to events. “Small” seeds, small steps, has become a feature and style to all my work, I don’t need to change the world, there are plenty of others to do that brilliantly.
If you had asked me back at the beginning of 2018 if I really believed I would be in the place I am now I might have caved and doubted myself, because of the huge change for me that I was making at the time. Now, I know that what I do provides a great service my clients that they benefit greatly from. Because of my approach is to make mentoring accessible, it is bringing opportunities to individuals that is practical, bespoke and cost effective, making real change at key moments in their work journeys.
I didn’t expect this year to be either smooth running, easy or clearly defined, but it’s easy to get lost in being both flexible, responsive to your clients as well as distracted by what others are doing. I will admit to spending time (mainly as a result of social media) comparing myself to others working in similar spaces, thinking I should be doing what they do. I did become distracted but it wasn’t a wasted exercise because through that I realised what I really didn’t want to be. They are great at what they do, you admire those people, will learn from them and champion them but ultimately led me to understand what direction I wanted to take.
I have had to learn to become more focused I have become clear on what , who and why I want to work in the way I do which definitely wasn’t the case a year ago. Within that focus I have become my biggest critic but also my biggest cheerleader, something I never did before. The words of Kemi Telford come to mind. If you haven’t looked Yvonne up do!
Then I remembered saying to people I just want to do good work and I have had to delve deeper to define what that means for me. For me that means working with small to medium sized businesses who don’t need or have recruitment in their teams, offering them bespoke services so that they can cherry pick exactly what element(s) of the recruitment life-cycle. Because I have always loved working directly with candidates I came to realise that I did missed the level of engagement enormously and that what I did love was guiding individuals to making the best choices for them at that time. From here I had the hair brain idea to professionally work with people and mentoring was the right avenue for my experience and skill set. This idea wasn’t really on the agenda as I was focusing on recruitment but opportunities presented themselves and within month 3 of 4 e.g. I had my first mentoring client. This is becoming a rock bed of what I do. I am doggedly determined to make career mentoring accessible to everyday people at whatever stage. I will look to talk more about my mentoring in future articles as much of what I have written about has been about hiring.
Right now I will pause and give myself time to celebrate but as I look to the future, one thing is for sure the world of work is both fascinating and evolving and you know what ……that is great to be a part of but with me making the choices. Through my work it is this choice I will continue to bring to the people and businesses I work with.
Happy Birthday 4 e.g, Happy Birthday me!