2020 wasn’t the year anyone was expecting. It was certainly an interesting time to pivot career. In some ways though, perhaps it was the perfect time. If ever there was a time to undertake a lot of learning, the year in which I had a lot more time on my hands with the removal of many of my usual activities provided ample opportunity.
Curiosity and comfort zones
Curiosity is definitely one of my defining characteristics. I never would have decided to explore a new career direction if I wasn’t willing to learn new things and put myself out of my comfort zone to do so. One of the best examples is building this website. I’ve been involved in writing and revamping websites before, but I’d never really done the very technical stuff. Although based on a WordPress template, I’m proud of the tweaks I’ve managed to make by researching and writing bits of HTML. This took me a lot longer than it probably should, it was something I could have paid someone to do, but in 2020, I had the time.
After a few months of blogging, I attended a workshop on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Of course I’ve heard of SEO and appreciate its importance, but wasn’t sure what I should be doing with my own website. As it turned out, quite a lot that I had no idea about! Cue a lot more research, learning and website improvements.
New ways to network
Networks have been a big part of 2020 for me. Anyone reading this blog regularly will know JCI and Toastmasters are a big part of my life. They were my first calls when developing my new career and dealing with lockdown. When everyone was forced to go virtual, I felt I was already ahead of the curve. I’d had plenty of experience meeting online thanks to being in international teams through JCI. My Toastmasters club quickly adopted and adapted to online meetings. Experimenting together with online presenting and giving each other feedback enabled us to become good at speaking in a virtual world as quickly as possible. I’ve been able to put those skills into practice delivering online training and emceeing numerous events.
Of course networking itself has had to be done virtually and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many new people I’ve met this year. Partly this is thanks to the new networks I’ve joined, notably Women on Boards and the Professional Speaking Association. Plus thanks to introductions from other connections. I’ve very much enjoyed getting to know new people through group discussions and one-to-one virtual coffees. As I’ve written about in the past, these networks have been incredibly helpful to me and I got satisfaction from the contributions I could make.
I attended a virtual conference where one of the key points made a speaker was about how vital your network and the quality of your relationships are. This year has been a clear demonstration of this. On one particular day I didn’t do much at all that I’d class as traditionally “productive”. I spent a lot of time messaging backwards and forwards with friends. I also participated in a lively debate on a topic I’m interested in on a group chat. And I was happy with that use of my day. 2020 has changed my perception of productivity and priorities.
With a change of career direction, my priorities were always going to have shifted. Then the pandemic came along and forced everyone to make some major changes to our usual lifestyles. One of the biggest things that has changed this year has been spending habits. I’ve bought hardly any clothes and no handbags (for those who know me well – a major obsession of mine). I have spent money on office equipment and upgrading my tech. I expected to have spent more on travel (that being a big driver behind pursuing a flexible portfolio career). That’s still on the priority list for next year.
I never expected this year to be easy. The pandemic has made it much harder than I ever could have imagined. I’ve had huge highs and some pretty difficult lows. There have been wobbles where I questioned if I was doing the right thing. And excitement about the possibilities and opportunities for the future. I’ve learnt to manage how I work, adjust when things aren’t going to plan and be kinder to myself.
I’m really happy to have been able to get back into blogging. It’s something I always enjoyed in leadership positions in JCI and Toastmasters. I can’t thank enough those people who read these articles and give me feedback. It means a lot to me to know people enjoy them and find them helpful.
It’s been a year of change, a year of connection, a year of curiosity. Bring on 2021…time to properly put everything I’ve learnt in 2020 into practice.