"Honestly, the thing that kept me there for so long was the annual bonus. There was always something I was saving up for – the new kitchen, the holiday etc. Years would go by and I was still there, sticking around for the bonuses."
"It feels good to be of value and to be appreciated for helping others to do something they couldn’t do without me."
Overview of earlier career.
Studied English and French at university. Jennifer had no clue what she wanted to do for a career but knew with certainty that she didn’t want to be a teacher or journalist. She fell into a short-term administrative role for a technology magazine in Dublin (Jennifer’s home town) and loved it. She then relocated to London and found it hard to break into magazines so ended up in other industries doing Executive & PA work for 15 years. Worked for a financial services business the last 11 years.
The trigger for change?
“How the hell I fell into working in a financial services business (a shipping finance business), I don’t know! I felt like the fraud in the team because everyone loved the products but I found them dull. Honestly, the thing that kept me there for so long was the annual bonus. There was always something I was saving up for – the new kitchen, the holiday etc. Years would go by and I was still there, sticking around for the bonuses.
The wake-up call came for me when I slipped a disc. Pain management included 4 epidurals over 2 years and 60-70 physio appointments in an attempt to avoid surgery. A couple of years ago, just a few days before Christmas I woke up one morning and just couldn’t stand up. I was in agony and decided enough was enough. I begged for surgery and my request was approved for early January. Even on the day of my surgery I was receiving work emails on my blackberry. Not one of them said ‘good luck with the surgery’ and certainly no-one from my immediate team sent me flowers after more than a decade of working there. I realised there and then that I had had enough of this culture of profit over people. I had a degree like all of my team members however I didn’t feel respected for the work I’d done to keep everyone’s seemingly more important work moving.
Towards the end, just to prove a point and my own worth, I applied for and won awards for my work such as “Most Networked PA in London” and a Pitman Training’s “Super achiever” global award.
After the surgery I couldn’t work for 6 months and had to lie flat on my back for 2 long months which gave me lots of time to think. I’d gone through a divorce a few years earlier and I’m sure the stress had also impacted on my back. I’d had a great boss who really valued my work for about 7 years before one of my peers was promoted. That new boss didn’t appear to value or respect my work or experience and it felt like I had had been given a demotion of sorts.
It all culminated with me deciding to resign because frankly, life is too short.”
“I had a staged re-entry into the workplace and then resigned and began to work out what to do.
I set up my own business to train entrepreneurs to do their own social media marketing. I’m using the combination of all the skills I’ve learned in my life – from my English degree, to my networking skills to my love of training people. I am using a life-time of skills.”
What Jennifer has learned? Advice she might offer to others in a similar situation?
“Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean it is you.
I asked myself the question - If I die tomorrow would I die happy? No, not while I was in my old role. If you asked me that question today I would say yes because I would die feeling truer to myself, feeling valued and definitely feeling respected.
Sure, I’m earning less than I was in my old career but I work autonomously and do things that I love for the majority of the time.
You need to work out why you are not happy in your role and then write a list of pros and cons. I was going to leave before the credit crunch hit and then I felt that I couldn’t. There are always reasons not to leave. You need to listen to your gut and even if you can’t afford to leave at that moment, you can always sow some seeds. Otherwise before long 1 year will turn into 11years and then 20 years before you know it.
You’ll always have your friends and family but they might not understand your journey or what you actually need to feel valued and respected at work. Lots of my friends and family thought I was sorted and should never leave mostly because of the bonuses and their impressions of the industry. You need to make the right decision for yourself rather than letting other people influence you or one day you might wake up and say ‘how did this happen?’ It is so easy to get carried away by other peoples’ expectations.
Knowing yourself is important. I’m an introvert so whilst I can run big events and workshops I need to give myself time to re-charge alone and as an introvert I train most people on a one-to-one basis which I totally love.
When it comes to my mindset and setbacks I try to talk to myself as kindly as a good friend would. Also, a good friend can be objective and help you figure out different paths so that you can make your own choices.
It is important when you are doing things for the first time or changing your world that you surround yourselves with others who are doing the same. I’ve found a new group of local entrepreneurs who started their businesses around the same time as I began mine and we meet a few times a year over coffee or wine and support each other though good and bad weeks.”
What would Jennifer do differently if she had to do it all again?
“I wouldn’t change quitting for sure.
Perhaps I was a bit naïve when I started my social media training and consulting business. I did the website and thought interested people would just start to trickle in! But I realised fairly quickly that I still needed to do the face-to-face networking. At the time, I didn’t realise the importance of things like email marketing. I also naively thought that my friends and family would be very supportive and would recommend me everywhere but that hasn’t happened. I’m still not sure why. My customers are coming from my own efforts or from difference sources. That was a big learn.”
How it feels on the days when she knows she has made the right decision?
“It feels good to be of value and to be appreciated for helping others to do something they couldn’t do without me. By training the individuals behind companies to do their own social media marketing I feel like I am increasing their confidence. I can relate to my clients who don’t know where to start with social media because I was once exactly where they are but have learned lots of tips and strategies that can make a difference to them and their businesses. It is exciting for me to do that.”
“Perhaps not leaving earlier?
But if I had left earlier I wouldn’t be doing what I am now – I might have been doing a similar job in a different company and I might have liked that more than where I was but it wouldn’t feel like doing this does. I have found my sweet spot.”
Jennifer Corcoran is the CEO and Founder of My Super Connector which is a social media consultancy. Jennifer helps professionals and entrepreneurs to share their stories online. She does this by polishing up their profiles and teaching them how to connect with finesse. Check her out here: