It’s amazing how this year (2020) has encouraged us to reflect.
I was so excited to read Sara Blakely’s post about she started Spanx #HowItStarted. It gave me an immediate sense of unity, of togetherness. That even the most successful of us started off small, often using makeshift this and that to get going and borrowing from friends and begging others to see that we weren’t completely mad, that what we wanted to achieve was wroth while and life changing. Not just for us but for the hundreds and even thousands that were going to come into our lives from that day on.
It inspired me to tell my own story. One that I tend to keep to myself, but on this occasion, I will tell you.
My story is an unorthodox one. I have built a career in high profile PR but that's not where I started. In fact, far from it.
At 21 I joined the NHS. Not as a new PR interim or a fresh graduate, but as an ambulance driver. I hadn’t gone to university. I loved the idea of being a journalist. I would write stories, imaginary features, magazines and the like as a child. Yet after college, I was encouraged to go and earn a ‘decent living’ so I did something I thought was worthwhile. My dream of working in the press had to be shelved. Money was tight in my family at that point. I put my ambitions aside for the foreseeable future and served my county of Surrey for the next 9 years.
Ten years later, I find myself expecting a child. Single, with a mortgage and no job. (I had been fired from a part time logistics job I had at the time, for being pregnant. Yes, that did happen in those days.) Six months after my son was born, I walked into a cleaning agency and asked the woman behind the desk to give me a job. She smiled (I might have got her on a good day) and she said she was short of staff and agreed to hire me. I told her she could have me on the books for 7 days a week on one condition. I bent down, picked the little carry chair off the floor that held my baby son and said, ‘he comes with me.’
She agreed again.
For the couple of years that followed, I worked, every day. Cleaning houses during the week and offices at the weekends. I dreamt about working in an office. I would walk around these big open plan oceans of industry, note the collection of family photos on each desk, the brightly coloured pens in equally brightly coloured holders and abandoned cups of coffee from the Friday afternoon before. I wondered who these people whose desks I cleaned were and wondered if I had missed the boat. Their world seemed so different than mine.
(me and Jon on holiday 2010)
The turning point was what happened next.
The house next door to me where I lived was let out to some drug addicts. The next two years were dark for me. I spent almost every night curled up in the darkness in my little house desperately trying to get my baby to sleep while the parties, violence and the shouting rolled on from next door. I found used needles in the garden, had human waste pushed through my letter box to the point that I had to tape it up. My car smashed on a regular basis.
A single mum with a small baby, I was vulnerable to taunts and games by the group of youngsters next door in the street. But it didn’t get me down. I fought with authorities to have them moved, the police often called out in the middle of the night. I could have spent everyday crying, but I didn’t. All I could see was that it wasn’t going to last forever. I got to work, took the opportunity to study with the Open University and worked on my ambition where I had let it go all those years before. While Jon slept, I studied.
(I always think that headline should have been 'who.' It was my most shining moment)
Eventually I moved to a new house. Got an office job and studied more. I got a job working as a reporter for an overseas Media company. I love it. I would work in the middle of the night, running editorials over to my chief. I became on one of a handful of UK correspondence presenting UK news to a Canadian audience at a time with the internet was still a fairly new thing.
I was paid very little, but the experience and the knowledge I gained about the press industry was immense. It taught me to work fast, accurately and meet relentless deadlines, even when exhausted. As the years went by, the jobs got higher up. First in Communications, then PR and then Publicity up until eventually, I was asked to join the Surrey 2012. I was given a taste of the high-profile world, and its where I stayed.
(Carole Middleton in Hello! Magazine 2018/2019)
Since then, I have set up my own PR agency which now represents some very high-profile celebrities and business figures. One of the most notable being Carole Middleton, mother to the Duchess of Cambridge. I worked closely with Kensington Palace and at the end of 2018, I became the talk of the press and earned the title of firm gatekeeper of the Middletons.
Me, the former ambulance driver, single mum had become the publicist who launched one of the biggest PR campaigns in recent years and put Carole Middleton on the front pages launching her first ever interviews since joining the Royal Family.
(I often thought the headline should have been 'who' rather than 'what'!)
This year, I have decided to embark on another journey – to show people how they too can build a career regardless of background, education and age. I was in my 40s when I became Head of PR at Party Pieces and Publicist to the rich and famous. I learned the craft and studied hard on my journey up the ranks. My service now is to help others do the same. No dream is ever too far out of reach.
Next year, will be the year when we regain our confidence, we dust off our imaginations and get running again. The future will be exciting again and I think its that attitude that has always kept me going.
Never giving up, never giving in.
I am glad I never stopped.