The Winging It blog series of inspirational stories continues with this fantastic piece by Susannah Clark. I first met Susannah about 10 years ago – we’re both fellow PRs – and she struck me at the time as not only someone that was excellent at her job, but someone who you’d also happily spend a few hours down the pub with.
Susannah has gone on an inspirational career journey since that time – from Directing at leading London agencies to becoming Head of PR at MoneySuperMarket and most recently, Vice President of Global Comms for King – the people behind Candy Crush (adult bouncy castles at Tower Bridge in London anyone? That’s Susannah’s handy work).
Today, Susannah embarks on a brand new job in a sector she’s never worked in before. Is she nervous? Yes. Her secret ingredient? A gut feeling and a healthy dose of winging it…
“Go with your gut” – isn’t that the advice that’s always given? Well, right now, my gut is totally twisted with nervous anxiety.
This isn’t entirely unusual for me and strangely, nor is it an entirely unwelcome feeling (although, I certainly wouldn’t call it ‘fun’). This gut-wrenching, butterfly-fluttering feeling strikes me, without fail, just before I embark on a new part of my career.
It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting in an airport lounge waiting to board a flight to Stockholm. Tomorrow morning, I will start a new role, in a new industry and those old, familiar questions are racing through my head. “Will I actually be able to do this?”, “What if they don’t think I live up to my reputation?”, “How will I learn all the new acronyms, industry jargon, contacts?”, “Where are the loos? I don’t even know where the loos are!!”.
But, I’m trying to take heart in the fact that I have never, ever had the answers to all (possibly any!) of the questions as I started a new phase of my career.
In fact, when I started out in public relations and communications many years ago, I couldn’t even answer the question, “What is PR?”. I had taken a job straight out of university as a fashion buyer and discovered it made me miserable. I persevered for a year until, by chance, I ran into an old school mate of my sister’s, got chatting and discovered that she was looking for an entry-level PR exec. “This is it, this is your chance to find a job you really like!” my gut told me, despite having literally no idea what it involved. Lo and behold, I talked my way into an interview, and I got the job. Cue now-familiar day one terror and anxiety…
Since that first role many moons ago, there have been many times where I’ve had to overcome fear of the new, trust my gut and give it a go – from cramming like a student to learn all about technology for my first PR role (previously, I could barely switch on a computer), to leaving a wonderful agency in Australia where I was comfortable and thriving to seek a new adventure in London; moving from the consumer tech industry to the world of personal finance, and having to learn how to do corporate communications along the way (“you’ll work it out,” said my gut – and funnily enough I did), before getting to grips with the games industry and global communications (yep – had never done that before either before I got offered the job).
And now, as I sit in the lounge waiting to embark on this next phase of my career, I realise that the not-knowing is what has always driven me forward. There is nothing quite like a small measure of panic to sharpen the mind – it forces you to work harder, to learn and to try new and different things.
So, I’m once again going to go with my gut and recognise that every time I’ve had this same nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach, it’s led to an amazing adventure. I might even find out where the loos are.
Image credits: Susannah Clark; Dallas Clayton