By Kelly Knight - 7 April 2022
My name is Kelly, I am a Marketing professional, a term I like to use which means “I have a broad and lengthy career across various roles with various employers”. I use the term ‘squiggly’ in the title of this blog for a few reasons:
1 – It’s a great word, right? And I kind of stole it...
2 – I’ve recently come across a new podcast called Squiggly Careers. The content of the podcast is just that. How to tackle all things squiggly during your career. Along with the recognition that a deviating path is absolutely ok. I recommend a listen
3 – Because I advocate said deviating career path. Mine was not linear. It wasn’t always focused. It has been based on gut instinct, and I wanted to tell you about it
Where shall I begin?
The starting point of my story was ‘I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up'. I didn’t have one big passion that led me to one profession. I wanted to be a hairdresser, an air hostess, and a lifeguard. I wanted to work in Journalism and would carry around a tape recorder and camera everywhere I went. Then I wanted to work in Hospitality. Then I wanted to work in Fashion and be a Buyer. When I was younger this was ok. I’d pick up a book on my new favourite topic and I’d learn new things. I’d pretend to be this person and visualise myself working in this industry. I’d like to let you know that this approach is still ok in your 20s and 30s and so on. This is passion. It is curious excitement. The learning element is what stuck, the most important bit – the willingness to learn.
So, from my early school years, through to my GCSEs, I was unsure of my career choices. I didn’t know this at the time. I had zero fear about where I was going. My GSCEs weren’t amazing. I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to do A-Levels, but instead, I studied an AVCE in Business. I can’t tell you right now what the difference was between the two qualifications. I aced my time at Sixth Form and actually remember taking an extended eight-week Summer holiday because I finished all of my work early – so much for rubbish GCSEs hey. So, the squiggly bit continues. What did I do next?
Becoming an ‘adult’
I then went to college to do a degree. I chose Business Management because I liked lots of topics – I am sure that doesn’t come as a surprise after reading the above. I studied Marketing, Human Resources, Economics, Finance, Operations, and all of the other topics they squash over the years. I didn’t take the traditional route – leaving home, living in Halls, days on campus, and finding friends through societies. I did that slightly later (squiggle pending). I studied two evenings a week while I worked full time. It took an extra year than ‘normal’. I worked in a Customer Service role for a Building Material company and then for a Car Manufacturer. I met new people, took on their training courses, and networked (I guess that’s what I was doing, although I didn’t realise it). I kept my CV up to date and I built my transferrable skills.
I popped out the other end of evening study with a 2.1 BA Hons Business Management Degree at the age of 24 and vowed to never study again. It was stressful, but I was proud. I graduated and then carried on working enjoying my free time.
Keep on studying
But of course, that wasn’t enough. Don’t ask me how, or why, but I then stumbled across the idea of a Postgraduate qualification in Human Resources. I think at the time I was working for a company as an Administrator and sat with the Human Resource team and loved them all so much that I started doing their admin work too. The company offered to sponsor my Postgraduate Diploma and I took the opportunity by the horns.
So off I went. To the University of Derby actually. Studying part-time again. I’d attend university one afternoon and evening a week. I worked full time. I started running and aimed to run a marathon. At this point, I also left home and moved into my first house with my (then) boyfriend. I was taking on a lot of new adult life scenarios. But I loved to learn, and I loved to study.
I remember being really close friends with those on my Postgraduate course. We had this internal connection, all understanding the pressure of owning homes, a career, and studying in the evenings and at weekends. We built strong bonds with our lecturers and soaked up their industry knowledge. During this pressured time, I, of course, took on the job hunt again to move organisations. I always wanted to work for a big brand. One that was recognisable who’s culture was credible. I had worked my way up from an administrator in Human Resources to an Officer level and had gained a broad range of experience. So, I jumped ship and moved to Boots. The squiggle continued. I worked in a generalist HR role, then moved to a Learning and Development role where I trained employees across the business on team building, communication, and leadership skills, and I mentored our new apprenticeship students. I was offered a place on a Management Development Programme (An internal employee programme for high performing individuals – she blushes, but seriously, you can see where passion and drive get you), which then opened the opportunity to get involved in projects across the company – so let’s guess my next step…
I applied for a role in their Marketing department. And I got the job.
Hang on a second…I’d just graduated at the age of 27 in my Postgraduate Diploma in Human Resources and worked in that industry for six years, then I move profession completely…huh? A complete plot twist to say the least. The funny thing is, 12 years ago when this took place, I don’t think I even gave it much thought. I was excited and wanted to try something new. I was driven by the psychology of people – be those employees or customers.
The next nine years look a little like this as a Marketer:
- Scrambling to understand marketing within a massive retail organisation
- Designing and scheduling emails to thousands, sometimes, millions of customers
- Working with external agencies to create editorial and advertising for magazines
- Then moving into a PR role for the largest beauty brand Boots had on offer. Spending a lot of time running around London with new friends I created at our PR agency organising PR events
- I then moved companies again and worked in an international role – what!? – I was learning all about new markets and audiences and cultures. Supporting in-country events. Handling paid media for the first time, building webpages, posting on social media
- And then I moved into content production, video creation, campaign delivery, and brand development
Follow your fire
If you’re not in Marketing the above may read a little hazy, but my point is, that careers are not always linear. We as individuals grow, we move upwards, and mostly sideways. We do not need to chase a job title or a salary. We can state our worth and negotiate for what we believe we deserve, but mostly, careers are about internal progression. Find roles and companies and colleagues that align with your values. That excites you. This, therefore, means you end up wanting to do a good job for the brand – not for the pay increase or the performance review. That comes organically. It’s ok to start at the bottom and rise. It’s ok to stick where you are for years and years. As long as you are slowly continuing to expand. You add new skills to the invisible backpack you carry around each day.
My final words: Do not fear the future. Do not expect it all to be perfect and flow. Stay aligned to your values and what is important to you and accept the opportunities when they arise. Decline (with a smile and gratitude) the ones that do not. With this approach, you’ll follow the right path.