As I sit writing this in my office by the sea, the view might be the same as 2020, but what I see when I look in my diary is very different. While on paper everything looked great for me and my PR business, behind the scenes I was hurtling towards burnout and simply putting on foot in front of the next.
I had multiple client accounts, a small team, a decent income and a stream of media coverage coming through the door each month, but something was missing. The reality was I had fallen out of love with my career but didn’t know where to turn next or what to do. When you have worked in an industry for over two decades, have an enviable media contacts book and have even written a book about PR, walking away just seemed like too big a step, so I carried on working, but day by day my enthusiasm was waning and the path I was treading got harder, and harder. Yes, I was still getting the results, taking on new projects and promoting my book that came at the end of 2019, but for me the shine I love so much was missing, and there was a dullness to my work that I hadn’t felt in the past.
As lockdown hit for the first time in March 2020, my life started to change in a way that made me panic at first, but on reflection it was the push I needed to face up to my situation and make changes that were long overdue. One after I watched emails drop into my inbox to say that given the pandemic, they could no longer work with me. One, two, three, four, they kept coming and while a part of me knew this was kind of what I had been wishing for, it was happening sooner than I had planned, it was out of my control and with each resignation came added anxiety and stress.
However, all was not lost.
I had signed up for a six month coaching training course in late 2019 and something that, at the time, was going to be an added extra to my existing business, became a lifeline during lockdown and had totally changed my life, my business and my outlook.
With very few PR clients on my books, and only so much gardening and walking I could do, the course was a perfect distraction from what was happening around me, and I was able to throw myself into the learning in a way I would never have managed had I maintained my previous level of work and commitments.
This wasn’t a quick fix course, but a thorough, intense learning programme that involved four hours of live teaching (on Zoom) a week, reading, studying as well as taking on pro-bono clients to build my experience and hours so that I could qualify come October. I love every minute of the course, the trainer, an ex-client, was fantastic and I made some amazing friends with the other women on course, and in hindsight this was the best time to be part of something new as we were all coached by each other at a time when support, clarity and vision were so important.
Fast forward to 31 December and with my formal qualification under my belt, several lecturing jobs at UK universities book and a coaching practise established, I retired from the media relations work that has served me so well, but was holding my back. I know work with PR and media professionals as a coach and mentor, and empower them to create the businesses, careers and lives they want so they can thrive, not just survive, and I love it.
Yes, it was scary, yes there are days when I wonder if I will ever get back to my old salary but every single time I finish a client call, lecturie or mentoring session, I beam and know that I am now finally doing what I am meant to be be doing and being true to myself and hat makes a massive different to my productivity, home life, job satisfaction and peace of mind.
Now, if you are sitting there and nodding your head as my words resonate with you, you can do this too and I have some tips so you can create a more planned exit route.
1. Think about where you want to go next?
You might know you aren’t happy with where you are right now, but what is it that you want to do? Maybe you have always wanted to be a nutritionist but are stuck in an HR role you have grown out of? You might be a primary teacher who secretly wants to channel your passion for art into a career in graphic design? Maybe you have been a stay at home parent but know this is the time to retrain as a yoga teacher, something you have always wanted to do, but never had the time. Whatever it is, get a pen and paper out and map out your ideas, all of them!
2. Look at finances?
Believe me, just losing 90& of your income overnight isn’t fun, so do your sums and work out what you are earning now, what you need to earn and how you can replace the salary you have now with your dream job.
3. Make a plan
At the moment things are changing faster than ever, but it’s still a good idea to have some kind of exit plan in place when you are looking for a change in direction. Detail where you are, where you want to be, salary, outside influences, where you can get help and loans and even if it is one side of A4, have something down in black and white to show you that the road ahead is possible. You might also want to add in some dates and a timeline. It took me about a year to go from having a PR agency to a coaching practise, that was alongside COVID-19, not something I would suggest, but it worked for me, however, I think that having some idea of where you are going, with some key milestones in place, can really help.
4. Ask around
If you don’t ask, you don’t get, so let people know about your ideas, because you never know where that could lead. If you are working for a business, you might have to keep it under the radar a little, but maybe you have a friend who has done something similar, or you have a contact you think might be open to having a chat about what they do, and don’t forget, social media is awash with free groups that can help give you support and insight.
5. Do some preparation work
If you are serious about changing, you can do some work behind the scenes to get yourself started. Smarten up your CV, take a few courses (again there are a lot of free resources out there) and really try to firm up what you want to do. You can also set up new social media profiles for your new journey and this is a fabulous way to make new connections and to be part of the conversation.
6. Get a coach
Even coaches have coaches, and having someone you can talk to, bounce ideas around with and get some accountability can be a massive help in making progress and reaching your destination.
7. Believe in yourself
I know that change can be scary and the unknown is intimidating, but getting out of your way, stepping out of the shadows and being brave has got to be better than staying stuck! Go on, give it a try and good luck – you’ve got this.
Natalie Trice is an award-winning coach, mentor and university lecturer who has been a part of the world of media for the past 23 years. By blending her vast experience of working at top London agencies and with international broadcasters, as well as running her own successful consultancy, with her formal coaching training and skills, Natalie empowers PR professionals and creative female entrepreneurs to step out of the shadows and into the light to create the businesses, careers, and lives they want. Natalie lives in Devon with her husband, two sons, and is often seen on the beach with her dogs, Coco and Dotty.