What a difference 12 months make. I’ve been in a reflective mood these past few weeks as I mark a year on in my decision to walk away from the security of full-time employment to setting up my own company.
The decision itself wasn’t that difficult. I was unhappy and frustrated with my lot and came to the conclusion that the only way I could make the changes necessary was to branch out on my own, challenge myself and ensure that after hitting every hurdle, that I picked myself up and pushed on.
So what have I learnt quitting a corporate job and starting my own business?
I’ve learnt to take a compliment, I’ve learnt to ask for help and advice, I’ve learnt to network like a demon and I’ve learnt to truly value what I bring to the table.
Because here’s the thing – us women are expert at constantly undervaluing ourselves. We place massive amounts of pressure and expectation on ourselves, so much so that we end up being fearful of taking a risk because we might fail. Someone might judge us or, heaven forbid, see us slip up. The humanity of it all!
I spent my career with an outer shell of being brave and confident but inside I constantly questioned myself.
Am I good enough, do I work hard enough, do I deserve this?
And the words of a senior leader that I worked with constantly echoed in my head after I turned down the opportunity of a promotion because I thought I wasn’t experienced enough. He told me that when men go for a role they only need to feel a 4 out of 10 to give it a shot. Women, on the other hand, need to feel 8 out of 10 to do the same.
This feedback came several months after the opportunity had passed and I met it with a mixture of enlightenment, frustration and anger. If he as a senior leader knew that’s how things worked, why didn’t he push me and encourage me to give it a shot and, more annoyingly – why the bloody hell did I undervalue myself so much?
So there I was, a year ago, at one of the monthly meetings with DrivenWoman talking through my situation and looking at what would truly make me happy. And that feedback on the value men and women place on themselves became like a light bulb moment for me. The only person that could do anything about changing my situation was me.
There’s no point blaming others for me not having the confidence or the courage to believe in myself and my ability.
If I don’t believe in me, who else will?
And this is the fundamental basis in which I made the decision to step out of the shadows, from hiding behind the comfort of full-time employment and giving my waking hours to a job that undervalued me. I shone a spotlight on myself and found brand me.
I quit my job with nothing to go to.
Within six weeks, I set up Swell Communications and was working with my first client. At times I had no idea what I was doing. There has been much trial and error but I have chosen to see each of those experiences as helping me to get to where I am.
I have had lots of feedback from friends and colleagues about being brave, being fearless and about being inspirational. If my journey can make others feel inspired, feel brave and feel fearless then that’s a good thing. I know what I was trying to do was to follow a path that gave me the most happiness and my only regret is that I didn’t take the jump sooner.
In the past 12 months there’s been numerous clients, some repeat, who work with me because of what I bring to the table. I’ve had the opportunity to stretch myself and work in sectors that I’ve never worked in before, I’ve even had my first international client.
My secret to success has been about changing my mindset.
I’ve stopped comparing myself to others, I’ve found my cheerleaders who lift me up or spur me on and I have a thirst to constantly keep learning and growing. Mostly I’ve learnt to be true to myself, to value my skills, my experience and my authenticity. Because when I do that – things are Swell.
Natalie Davison is a DrivenWoman member and founder of Swell Communications, a straight-talking public relations company.