So, I am back in the UK, still looking for work, and as the green shoots push through and the opening up starts to happen, I have been reflecting in this series of blogs on things past and how I am going to try and embrace the new future.
I had some lovely replies and reflections from friends and old cohorts in the scenery game this week and it seems that I am not the only one to find succour and inspiration in the past. As I have said, for me, the past and the experience it holds, has given me the space to work the way I do. I have been working remotely in Italy for UK clients for over 8 years, and what is now the norm for our industry, has been the norm for me for a while now.
We made the decision to move to Italy when the world was more open, Trump didn't exist and we were in Europe, so the move for us, although geographically significant, was not a huge leap for the business. Sure, we lost some clients due to their need for meetings for every project, which would be impossible face to face, but I have seen them embrace the new virtual world since, very successfully.
Essentially though, the move was a financial one. It enabled us to work less, spend more time together, and because the cost of living is cheaper, and the eternal all consuming grey sky greyness that is owned by Northern Europe and not franchised out south of the Alps, the weather is ace too. We had done some basic maths to work out that we could work for 7 months of the year and maintain a healthy living without the running around stresses that we had before. It also meant that we would have more energy for the projects we did get when we landed them, so the clients benefit and so do we.
How would we survive in a foreign country with no tried and tested supply chain, no working knowledge of the language and working just as consultants not with the full back up of our own workshops?
Well I think it was not only because we had built relationships with clients and supply chains around the world, but also because we had built trust in our ability to always deliver in tough circumstances. We believed we would still get the calls. The calls still come and with some amazing people watching our backs like Kate Smith and Phil Swallow to name just two, we have had some great referrals, that have enabled us to live and work in Italy, until now.
I struggle, like a lot of people, in the confidence to think we are worth the referral and can we do the job, but as it has been pointed out to me recently, although people are kind, they are not referring us to their own clients solely through kindness, they are referring us because, they believe we can do the job, otherwise they would not risk their own relationship with the client. That was a big step for me to recognise that, and in so doing, recognising that the experience we all have is a currency, that it has a real value, that most of us are probably not aware of as much as we should be, whatever the profession.
So, we have the experience that is in demand, we have the lifestyle we wanted, and we were doing ok. As we have all recognised, I am sure, in the last year, things have changed irreversibly in the events industry in the UK. We will have lost venues, we have lost some of the seriously experienced skill base that was near retirement and they have sailed off, countless people who have had to understandably jump ship for financial reasons to pay bills whilst everything is closed and I am sure some will never return, the catastrophe that is Brexit, the major suppliers who drove innovation in the industry that have now closed permanently and the new dawn of virtual events. What a year! Italy is still profoundly closed so we had to do something.
So I have been on the UK for a month looking for appropriate work and looking at the possibility of a new career also.
For those considering new careers pre pandemic and pre Brexit, there has been the time to look at what the opportunities are. Last year in the UK saw the most new businesses registered for 10 years with a 12% growth, over 84,000, so a lot of people have taken stock and decided to start fresh businesses and I’m guessing, new careers. This is not everybody’s chosen path, sure, but that’s a lot of people making life decisions that I hope succeed for them.
As I have said changing career has been on my agenda too, I started 2020 with cash liquidity and started 2021 in very different circumstances, so do I want to be left vulnerable again? If this continues to happen, wouldn’t I be better off starting a new job and giving my family and our lifestyle a better chance of success? I looked at what my skill base is and wondered how transferrable my skills were, well, I didn’t do very well. I saw myself as a site manager mainly as that is what I thought was transferrable in my skill base. I have always wanted to work in film so I thought about location managers work as it would combine all my skills with the joy of learning new skills for the film industry. Instead of applying for location manager jobs and site manager jobs, however, I assumed I would need to start at the bottom and work my way up, so I wasted time applying for jobs like TV runners and labourers but with my full on CV of site managing experience. I didn’t have a CV until Nov 2020, so it is a whole new world that I was obviously floundering in.
So how was I to embrace the future? The truth is, I didn’t know, until I came across a post on LinkedIn by Annamie Athayde.
Annamie is a business coach, and she was offering two free ninety minute sessions, to try and help events people like myself adjust and make decisions about career transitions and above all, help provide clarity. I took her up on her offer,(which I believe is still available) and clarity has been provided in buckets. The process of working with consultants/coaches I have always found energising as they see your world very differently and view your journey as a road with options rather than the cul-de-sac of your own assumptions and mindset.
I had assumed I would have to start at the bottom to get into a new career, well we all know what assuming does!
My journey with Annamie is just starting, but the clarity I mentioned has made me address some fundamental processes about the way I think about myself. It has made me see value in what I have to offer despite there being very few offers around and to stick with it. So, no more applying for jobs that I wouldn’t employ myself for, no more worrying about imposter syndrome issues and no more assuming that I would not be appropriate for a certain job or industry.
Since beginning to write this I have landed a project, through referral, for a prestigious event company for an equally prestigious world event and the relief and feeling of purpose is all consuming. It has been 15 months without work and 15 months of trying and now I have the opportunity, I will be taking it on with everything I have. Do I still need to look at other career options just because I am working? Yes I think I do, but right now I need to put my energies where they have been for 30 years and take one opportunity and challenge at a time.
Photos: Richard Penhaligon