I first came across Lauren Currie in 2016 when I was feeling a bit lost. I had just closed my retail business, my dream that had not worked out as planned and was looking to the next opportunity. Dealing with failure is hard and exposes vulnerability, and in my case, in a fairly public way. My first encounter with Lauren is documented in an old blog post written at the time. We tried to get an in-person Upfront course going in Dundee a year or so later but unfortunately, we just couldn’t get the numbers to make it viable.
I continued to follow Lauren’s progress on social media and enjoy her blogs. An entrepreneur, yes, but with a mission. To do things better. Her content and attention were increasingly about the visibility of women on stages and panels, in board rooms and in public discourse. She absolutely walks the walk and started the Upfront movement. Allowing people to experience stages. Building public speaking skills. Ultimately, helping people, specifically women, find their confidence.
2020 has brought lots disruption and necessary innovations and I was delighted to see one of them was Lauren taking her Upfront course online. In some ways my confidence has improved since my teens. I don’t fear public speaking, I can contribute in meetings and I can advocate for myself. But it doesn’t feel comfortable and I know I can be much better. I don’t think I allow myself to fully explore my potential and I often pause from sharing or publishing what I really think. I worry far too much about others think about me.
I signed up for the six-week course. I took the four payment instalment option and for clarity, I paid full price and have not been given a discount or incentive to review or recommend this. (I can provide a link to get a discount, so ask me if you want it! It takes the course from around £385 to £308). I paid personally and did not approach my employer in this instance. I signed up before my son was back at nursery, knowing that we would be spending a week in hospital for planned surgery, that we would spend a week on holiday and with the commitments of work. I know there is never a good time to fit learning and development in – there is only making time.
Lately I have had the pleasure of joining a group of intelligent, capable, hard-working, beautiful, thoughtful women on a confidence course. They work around the world and in all kinds of organisations. I don’t know, but I can imagine, they earn vastly different salaries and I know they are of different ages, stages, backgrounds and nationalities. And listening to this group of women has made me angry. So angry. The kind of angry that sparks hot tears and sets your stomach spinning. Not because they were saying anything awful, they were speaking truthfully. But because they were reflecting the deepest, darkest thoughts I have had, and my female friends and relatives probably have too. They were sharing how a lack of confidence was holding them back in aspects of their life. It is debilitating. It is destructive. It is devastating.
And here’s the thing that really drives me crazy – this lack of power is completely embedded across institutions in society to keep women feeling like this. How dare our childhoods do this to us? How dare society malign us? How dare we allow our gifts to be hidden away while mediocracy reigns? We are missing out on talented leadership, original thought and creative innovation that can solve the types of challenges that are really puzzling us in the world and we are owed the voices of these women, as much as women are due to be heard.
So, I am angry, but I am taking action. I am halfway through Lauren Currie’s Upfront course and it has my rapt attention. Lauren talks about finding a positive and joyful view of issues as anger disengages audiences. It makes a lot of sense. Especially when I think of the speakers I enjoy the most – they are charismatic and they give me hope. Thankfully, finding positives in a situation, focusing on things I can control and practicing gratitude for life’s gifts are things I have been working on for most of my adult life. I can find hope in many places, but I have been needing the final piece to take action and speak up – the audacity.
Mice, rats, spiders, enclosed spaces and clowns are all things that people fear LESS than public speaking. I’d take my chances with a 60-second pitch at a networking meeting over being locked in a cupboard with a clown and I’ve been to some strange meetings… Public speaking is a common fear encountered in the workplace – people can feel very vulnerable and uncomfortable. Thankfully, organisations are increasingly supportive and provide training and support for their teams. As a well-understood fear, colleagues are generally sympathetic to glossophobia.
What I have begun to observe amongst my peers is a growing incidence of scriptophobia, the fear of writing in public. As a social anxiety, this fear is rooted in worries about being wrong, looking silly or being negatively evaluated. While most people may not describe themselves as having a writing phobia, many will admit not enjoying it. Presenting information coherently in writing is a skill that often we do not need to practice once we have left school. Especially now that communication is often in text messages, email or social media. Long-form content, such as letters or reports, are rarer. Nevertheless, there are times when public writing is necessary, and it can cause stress and worry.
If you run a business, you will need to put your thoughts into writing. Tenders, case studies, award nominations, website copy, blogs, marketing materials and press releases are all forms of content that can help you grow your audience and increase sales. If you are running a small business you are likely to be trading services or products based on your skills, and these probably don’t involve writing.
In the 17(!) years I have been working I have had many, many jobs. For the purposes of this post, I will list them.
- Avon lady
- Weavers Café Saturday girl
- Debenhams Sales Advisor
- Debenhams Supervisor
- WH Smith Sales Assistant
- Libra/ Jenners Sales Assistant
- Waitrose shelf stacker
- University of Dundee jobs
- IT Receptionist
- IT Clerical Assistant
- IT Communication and Information Assistant
- Innovation Portal Marketing Assistant
- Dundee Clinical Academic Track Administrative Co-ordinator
- IT Communication & Information Officer
- Time Lifestyle Boutique Founder & Director
- Discovery Credit Union Marketing & Communication Officer
- The Circle Facilities & Services Development Manager
Alongside the first half of this list, I accumulated qualifications: Standard Grades, Highers, Advanced Highers and an Honours Degree in Biological Sciences.
Let me start with the conclusion, that each of those experiences has shaped who I am today. I have experience, skills and knowledge that I use every day that I started accumulating a very long time ago.
Most businesses are at least on board with having a website now. Some will run their whole operation via a website. Others will use it as a place to find the address and contact details with maybe a brief description of what they do. I use business websites a lot in my work – I ran my website in my own business; when I was targeting some partner businesses in my last role I would research them beforehand; and as a buyer in retail, I used them to find suppliers. Websites I commonly encounter usually have a home page, about page, contact page and some sort of services page. There may also be a link to a Facebook or Twitter presence. Frequently now, though, we are seeing blogs on websites.
For this reason alone, other people are doing it; people are bolting on a blog to their website with some vague notion they will write the occasional article about their business. Your nephew might have told you, you need a blog. Your friends who know something about marketing all have blogs and you have heard that some businesses even have blogs that create their own revenue stream.
You think it’s worth a shot and send an email off to the web guy or girl to add a blog to the website or think about signing up to one of the many blog platforms and ‘have a go’. But before you do, I ask you to think about these points.
It wasn’t so long ago I wrote about preparing for an interview and a new job. A little over two months, in fact. But here I am, ready to start again. I have been offered the most wonderful opportunity to make a big difference to communities in Dundee and I am really excited about taking it. I am going to work for Circle Scotland CIC, or more informally, The Circle.
I know how hard it is to build Facebook reach for a business page. It’s something I have worked very hard on in the past. Like most things worth having, it’s right that it’s difficult and it’s right that you have to do a good job to get results. If it was easy then everyone would be doing it and how would you stand out from your competition?
Understanding how media companies work
Facebook offers a huge opportunity to reach an audience with no cost to entry. For FREE you can start a business page, share content and reach people based on their age, gender, geography, and interests. Facebook, however, is a business. It has to pay salaries and create a profit for its shareholders. Just like yours. It also has a duty to its members to serve content that they find interesting. This is why they regularly change things. Facebook want to offer a better experience to its members, keep members logging in and to encourage interactions. Otherwise, they have no platform at all.
You got the job. You negotiated your salary. You have a start date and you are looking forward to the new role. What should you be doing before you start a new job? For me, I will be spending my last week off getting organised and planning a sensible routine for new job. I also have some preparation to do.
1. Stay in touch with your new employer
It might take a little time to check references, a contract issued and arrangements made so you may not start immediately. Do try and stay in touch with your new employer. Check if you can help chase up references. Ask if you can pop in and say hello before the start date. Your new colleagues will be curious to see you too. This will help with tip two.
After a period of being my own boss I was a bit worried about my first job interview in over 4 years. I have built confidence in giving presentations but I haven’t had to answer to anyone for a while and I really had to get back to basics in terms of interview techniques. Good news – I just accepted a job offer and I am really excited to get started. I wanted to share what I think went well and helped me get the job.
1. Know the sector
Although I am an experienced marketer I have never worked in the social enterprise sector before. I therefore found out what I could about these organisations. I didn’t set out to become an expert but I wanted to know what the challenges were and address these in the presentation. I also didn’t want to look naïve with some of my suggestions. For example, if you are presenting to a high street retailer, you shouldn’t ignore how that connects with e-commerce.
The last six weeks have been absolutely crazy. I have gone from shop owner and company director to unemployed lecture-crasher. I have gone through disappointment, despair and desperation. A closing down sale, seeing stock and fixtures packed up for auction and the realisation that I wouldn’t be doing what I loved anymore. The numbers just weren’t working and it was time to pull the plug. Reluctantly and regrettably.
Now that the worst of it is over I am now feeling relief and am ready to embark on yet another chapter. With no regrets and a whole load of life experience that you can read in the fine lines accessorising the skin around my eyes, I am thinking about my next transformation.