Living in a village with a three-year-old and a husband who is mainly away I probably spend a disproportionate time reading the internet (it’s been joked that I can’t go to bed til I’ve finished it!). Much of what I read is quickly forgotten… but last year one post caught my eye. Digital Mums and the hashtag #workthatworks.
I might sound like a dodgy American health blogger saying that it ‘called to me’ (I read those too!) but I clicked through. And then couldn’t stop reading. Digital Mums recognises the rise in small businesses needing to meet their business objectives through social media who don’t have the skills inhouse and can’t justify a permanent employee. Yet, crucially, they also recognise the rise in the number of women JUST LIKE ME, who after years working in traditional industries then having a family had a realisation that they could possibly have it all. But actually they probably didn’t want to make the compromises needed to do that.
My career has always been in sales in male dominated industries, first in logistics and for the last 10 years telecoms infrastructure- and while if you look at my CV and talk to my old bosses I’ve had a lot of success, I’ve always felt like I was cramming myself into that mould. Imposter syndrome really came to the fore once I had my daughter and returned to work four days a week in a business which unwittingly rewarded long hours and presence. So much so that I realised that continuing that career path wasn’t working for me so in Summer 2015 I left to set up a business as a Virtual Assistant (VA) to try and work around my daughter’s school hours. I figured that I’d just do some yoga while I networked to gain clients and if it all went wrong I could get another job.
Impostering again, when I first read about Digital Mums, I was actually doing quite well and the planned weekly yoga daytime sessions had been replaced by billable work. I thought, that while waiting for that to go wrong, I could do this course and add another string to my bow as I know social media (to the extent I’d had some shared responsibility in an old role) It wasn’t until I spoke to Nikki Cochrane — one of DM’S cofounders — that it became a must do for me. It immediately became my Plan A (and there was no Plan B, to quote a successful campaign!)
I started the course fairly confident of my abilities on social media, but this was immediately challenged when I was matched with my peer group. They were all so successful, intelligent, supportive and incredibly nice- the old imposter syndrome was creeping back in again. However, by Google Hangout week 3, we’d gone from applying lipstick before the call at 9pm to wearing pyjamas and drinking wine. Our WhatsApp group buzzes daily with questions, answers, life updates and pictures of wine… and I’ve realised that we’re peers for a reason.
The course structure and Live Learning ethos was also revelatory. I’ve done post graduate training courses and as a quick learner have always been able to binge study to meet deadlines. However, working on a live campaign for a social media platform for a small business is a privilege and not a responsibility to be taken lightly. I didn’t want to just succeed to pass the course- I wanted to succeed to give them brand awareness, bring in new customers and ultimately help them succeed. Digital Mums really does give you the skills to do this in a very structured way.
An unintended consequence of my training has been that I’m so passionate about businesses using social media strategically to meet their objectives, my VA business doesn’t just have strategic social media as a string, it’s already become the majority of my business, managing platforms for 3 clients. Although I’ve not yet graduated I’ve been able to put my learning into practice and deliver real results- one campaign gaining a 20% follower increase in two weeks. I’ve realised that analytics is a good antidote to imposter syndrome (and on the reverse side, if something’s not working, it’s within my skills and my responsibility to change it)
And above all, the reason that #WorkThatWorks appealed to me is that elusive work/ family/ life balance. I certainly haven’t got it sorted but I get to take my daughter to nursery at 9 and pick her up at 3. I don’t think she minds too much if Mummy is tweeting about Cloud Technology while she’s bombing around at soft play. I’m closer than I’ve ever been to realising that it’s not Imposter Syndrome, if my failure is down to me then my success is too.