On International Women’s Day #IWD2018, I share the story of what has most influenced my work choices in case it inspires someone currently facing a wide gap as my attempt to #PushforProgress and share role models! Thanks to Jenifer Boughey for allowing me to share one of the six stories she collected for her (successful!) MBA thesis – ‘Mind the Gap: Female perceptions and narratives of women’s journeys in communications/PR’. You can watch the video (including images of some of the wonderful places I’ve lived and worked around Europe) at: bit.ly/2toiwdk.
For me, being a leader isn’t a management position. Leadership is something you do and are witnessed to do. It’s an action. It’s practical. It’s a quality you demonstrate again and again over your lifetime. Virtually by definition: it’s a role model people choose – or choose not – to follow.
While my bio lists several senior international communications roles over two decades, I don’t believe that the jobs I’ve done define my leadership capabilities. That’s why building an international network of contacts and references, in real life and on social networks such as LinkedIn, has been so valuable to me. That said, when I needed a job in my late 40s, failing to tick a long list of generic boxes meant I was unlikely to be interviewed for the few potentially-appropriate roles in small-town Bavaria, Germany, where I lived. Let’s just say that the odds were stacked against me. But – having already struggled to get back to work after maternity leave 10 years ago when I was a ‘trailing spouse’ – I wasn’t going to let that hold me back again.
Although I’ve gone on to live in several European cities, I grew up on a tiny, windswept island on the west coast of Scotland. At 21, my first graduate job was with a United Nations agency in Geneva, working with people – literally – from every corner of the globe. When I look back, this contrasting experience has influenced many of my life choices and given me a passion for building relationships in a geographically-dispersed, networked world.
I’ve now spent half of my life outside my native Scotland – you might as well say outside my comfort zone in terms of culture, language, and approach. Only in retrospect is it clear to me that, although challenging most of the time, this is exactly the thing that has exercised and strengthened my ‘Thriving on Constant Change’ muscle.
So, when the Munich-based Communications Consultancy I’d helped run for seven years decided to close in Spring 2016, I created my own freelance consultancy, Justa Public Relations, offering a ‘public-relations-as-a-service’ approach, giving my clients access to as much or as little expert, native-English international communication as they need, without having to commit to a retainer or a minimum budget.
So, I applied for and received a business start grant and haven’t looked back, acquiring 10 international clients in the first 18 months. In the main, it’s because my clients wouldn’t normally employ someone like me, that they need to hire my consultancy services.
Other that believing that this was the right approach for me at this point in my life, I was also restricted by my location in Regensburg and family responsibilities while my husband travelled significantly. I also chose not to waste my time and energy finding the right job, in the right language, at the right salary. I already knew it didn’t exist!
In this way, I’ve taken control of my own destiny to use my knowledge, skills and experience in a digitally-transforming world.