This year seems to have kicked off at a frenetic pace and it doesn’t look like things are going to slow down any time soon.
Without wishing to blow my own trumpet I have been called upon to perform important work (it’s OK I have tongue placed firmly in cheek). The last few weeks have been filled with friends and old colleagues from past lives asking for advice. At first it seemed strange to me that people were coming out of the woodwork with out of the blue emails or voicemails, requesting my assistance on a range of topics that had nothing to do with copywriting or marcomms strategy. Did I have an advert published somewhere offering a range of random services I didn’t know about?
Just to give you an example, I’ve been ‘introduced’ (by the power of social media) to friends of friends. Some are writing their own books (different people/different books), some are changing careers and want advice on how to shine in the CV department, and someone else wanted to know how to build their first blog. Now, while blogging is part of the 360° marketing/copywriting experience I provide, I have never actively offered manuscript editing, advice on whether you should go via traditional publishing or self publishing route, advice on marketing the launch of said book, grammar coaching or CV writing as part of my repertoire.
Don’t get me wrong, I have been thrilled to help (initially perplexed by so many recent requests but still thrilled). Then it dawned on me that three or four years ago I probably would never have been asked for such advice – and would have been unable to provide it. It’s only because after a few cosy years in my safe corporate career, I jumped ship, pursued a life-long dream and began developing new and refreshed skills.
To give you some perspective I took some time out from a career I loved to work freelance and complete my first book – a work of fiction that had been brewing in my head for a very long time. Fast forward 18 months and the book is complete and I now enjoy the rather sadistic pass-time of trying to find the elusive agent. Believe me, these creatures are more mythical than rainbow coloured unicorns sprinkled with fairy dust.
Having made a very deliberate decision regarding time out from my career, and no publishing contract in sight I was beginning to feel I could very quickly become… irrelevant. What had I done? It had been scary making that decision to take time out and pursue a life long dream. After my many years of long hours, sacrifices and hard work, what if I couldn’t get back into my profession and what if I dropped a few rungs on the career ladder? What if indeed? What if my publishing dreams came true?
So I decided to take control of my rising paranoia about career suicide and literary oblivion and took action. First of all I enrolled in a distance course to refresh my skills in branding to ensure I am still instep with the latest methodologies (a lot can change in 18 months). I carried out my own significant research on the changing attitudes to CV writing and how best to condense ‘a lot of years’ in your CV so it doesn’t look like a bad thing that you started working before the Arc was built. I realised taking time out from my career needn’t look bad on my CV – especially since I had been keeping so busy with freelance and effectively building and marketing my own product – all transferrable skills, all skills I have used for employers and clients.
Finally, I enrolled in a certificated, distance learning course with the Publishing Training Centre. The course provides an inside view of the book publishing industry and let’s just say, so far so good. Aside from trying to assess the best way to try and get my work of fiction published, I realised my career leading to this point had provided substantial foundations and indeed writing my book had actually brought me up-to-date and full circle in terms of my career aspirations.
Publishing a book is a business decision for the publisher, but on top of this, it requires some awareness of the digital age, as well as more traditional printing processes. It requires marketing savvy, knowledge on the effectiveness of author branding and platform building design, sales and more besides, not to mention nerves of steel and a very thick skin. Did I mention it also requires dedication, discipline and determination?
At the very least, I’ve learned enough to put me in the driving seat when it comes to getting my book published, but that’s not the best part. By putting myself out there, trying new things, not being scared to admit I may need to learn new skills, or change my thinking on others, all while pursuing my passion, I’ve inadvertently opened up a world of new opportunities.
There’s nothing quite like using all your learnings to progress yourself and help others into the bargain. Having people ask for advice in areas I would never presume to be knowledgeable got me thinking “what are my true, core skills? Which skills are relevant?”
The experience has left me positively recharged and excited. Excited because I may have equipped myself to travel in a new direction in my career if I so desire. Even if there is no new career, no published book (hysterical laugh), perhaps this whole process has just given me some invaluable insights and new shiny, polished tools to my existing skill set. Either way, it’s not a bad place to be in.
The message therein is, wherever possible, follow your passion and endeavour to stay relevant. What would you do if you were suddenly made redundant? Would your skill set still pass muster for a new employer? Is there more you could be doing to improve or refresh your existing skills? Do you think there is a new direction you may like to travel? If you’ve been in a cosy career situation that has required little in the way of self-improvement, why not make this your challenge?
Even if you find you have been out of work for a while, there are always experiences you can create or participate in to keep you in touch with your peers. Further education, retraining, new hobbies, learn a new language, teach yourself new technologies, read more books – there will always be a positive way to couch your experience. Of course, if you haven’t guessed it by now, staying relevant is just another way of saying ‘I am committed to continuous improvement/self-development/career development.’
At least, that way, if you fall, jump or are pushed off one career ladder, you have every opportunity of climbing another.
If you would like more information on Evie McRae, please visit create.eviemcrae.com or if you are interested in the work of fiction mentioned in this post, visit eviemcrae.com.