Today marks the 10th anniversary since I left full-time employment. It has been a rollercoaster with really amazing highs and gut-wrenching lows which at times made me feel like I would break. Several times I have found myself updating my credentials on LinkedIn, Brighter Monday and opening a Fuzu account to test the waters and look for work. Because it is tough being a consultant.
Over this decade I initially thought I would change careers completely leaving communications. Instead, I found myself sharpening my skills through shifts across various disciplines in the field. I walked away from copywriting to journalism. I wanted to make a genuine difference by bringing important and underreported issues. Which I did solely for 5 years, till the infamous emails started to flow in;
“We are so grateful for all of you. Your dedication and drive to tell some of the world’s untold stories are what made (insert name of publication) great…….Sadly, we have come to the end of our chapter and we will be closing the magazine…….”
The bite of digital publishing trumped conventional print publications. Very many publications closed, over the five years I worked as a journalist. I had to figure out how to find a new fulfilling and financially reliable option to fall back on. PR came knocking on the door. I had never done it before, but I gave it a shot. Someone asked me if I could do it, I said yes and gave it a shot. My experience in branding, copywriting and journalism started to fall into place as I Google searched and read books to get more information on the craft. After serving as MC for various events, organising and conducting press tours, I realised PR wasn’t my cup of tea.
Then soon copywriting came calling, again I hopped in and out of blogging ( and also desperately tried to figure out if there is a viable business model for blogging in the market to which the answer was nooot quite).
It wasn’t just radio commercials people needed; they needed TV commercials, and media campaigns, website copy and backend management. They trusted me to deliver, which was exciting. Finally, my Higher Diploma in IT paid off, I could dust off the programming cobwebs and get up to speed. I was now beginning to see the value of all the things I had learned. I was introduced to a new breed of clients with new demands of the digital content development age. And with it was a new challenge for growth, social media management, needs to sharpen my photography skills. I soon realised social media bores the life out of me and is something I’d rather hire someone else to do. But photography stole my heart, though I don’t practice as much as I should.
But what I didn’t know awaited me was the biggest challenge of my career yet. The challenge of setting up an entire communication department and running it for a USD 4 million funded organisation. It was intimidating but exciting all at the same time.
Like the Late Nelson Mandela said, “It always impossible until it’s done.” My friends, I did it. Setting up and running a communication department and the development of a strong communication strategy that propels an organisation’s vision is second nature to me now.
It’s been endless learning, an experience I am so grateful I had. The experience has had its highs and lows but when I stand atop Mount Decade, I look back at the bottom of the hill and laugh. Several times I almost fainted and rolled back down tumbling to my death, but there was always something that kept me going:
- Family and Friends
Every time I second-guessed myself for not being qualified enough and inexperienced because of my academic certification or lack of experience in the area, I had a friend or a sibling who reminded me who I was. They always reminded me of how far I have come and how much drive and potential I have. It would sometimes take weeks to months to shake off the 8 months of chasing clients paycheck, having poor paying clients (in this market it never seems to go away), or just confusion of how to brand and sell my services. But I would shake it off, re-strategise and go back out to the field.
- Self Belief
This ties into my first point, without any belief in yourself you can’t survive not just in building a career but in life. Life is violent, brutal, relentlessly challenging. You get more scars than warm fuzzy hugs, but you always need to figure out how to get back on your feet. For me, my self-drive propelled me, but I am grateful when that self-drive dried up, I had family and friends to turbocharge me again. You need self-drive and people who genuinely care about you and will call you out on your self-pity and tunnel vision to challenge you to be and do better.
For most of my life, I genuinely believe it is my mother’s and sister’s prayers that kept me going. I have taken a more deliberate walk in my faith and I am finding my way. It does provide a sense of purpose in all I do. I know I am doing it not just because I am alive on this earth, but fulfilling a God-given purpose -which I am discovering day by day.
I believe what I do is all about positively impacting my world. Whether it’s a news article about techpreneurs taking Africa by storm, or victims of post-colonial torture, I am learning that it makes a difference. Parliament may not debate it but raising the voice of these people publicly means something. Everyone’s story needs to be told and heard. The impact may not be felt now but later. I am still learning that. As I now work with organisations to set up and run effective and impactful communications I see the impact it has on their financials and operational environments. That is why I still have hope, hope that what I do, with what I have, where I am, plays in the broader scheme of things of improving our world significantly.