I’m lucky enough to interview lots of people about how they reached their current roles, and I’m always astonished at the diversity of routes to success. Very few start off knowing where their career will lead – and I too, have not had a linear progression to my PR career.
It’s twelve years now since I started Tigerfish PR, and about twelve years before that I emerged, blinking and dazed into my first job in a PR agency. I thought I’d share how I got my first ‘break’.
Let me start with a confession. I’m a scientist. I’m the slightly perplexed possessor of a degree in Chemistry and Maths from University of Exeter. OK, anyone who knows me will now be sniggering. “Cooking and sums” is a more accurate name. I regularly found my colleagues far more interesting than my own research, and was banned from the organic chemistry labs following an episode which involved a fume cupboard, an elaborate experiment and a burning desire to see what someone else was doing. Prof Whitehurst, my long-suffering personal tutor, declared one day “Amanda, you’re a lovely person, but you’ll never make a chemist”. Now I can’t comment on the first part, but he certainly was right with the second part of his comment.
But undeterred, I took a job as a researcher into catalysts at NEWI (North East Wales Institute) on Deeside, and then landed a role as assistant lab manager at packaging company, Thames Case, a Unilever subsidiary in Essex. I spent three years there, running machine trials on the massive corrugator, testing the strength of cardboard boxes, trouble shooting on customer sites and training the sales team. Let me tell you, what I don’t know about B, C and E flute isn’t worth knowing. Double wall? Don’t get me started. I still ‘feel the quality’ of the packaging in the supermarket.
Yet I knew it wasn’t for me. I handed in my notice with no idea of what the future held – except it wasn’t in a laboratory.
Which is where the DSS (as it was then), really came up trumps. I was invited to join an inspirational scheme aimed at “career changers”. There were people who had HR, accountancy, steel foundry, law backgrounds. There were secretaries, scientists and social workers. We spent a few days learning interview techniques, cv writing, job hunting skills – and the event culminated by all the participants suggesting alternative career paths for their fellow delegates. Genius! I’d never even HEARD of PR, but it was like a bright light in my head.
I can remember standing in a phone box in Chester, phoning up Manchester agencies. I started at the ‘A’s and got a job with the ‘B’s. At Burgess Daring to be precise. I owe the legendary, sadly late, Bill Daring a massive debt of gratitude.
And so quarter of a century later, I still absolutely love what I do. I relish the challenges, the clients, the whole ever-changing comms environment. Ironically, my science background has been incredibly useful in understanding the background of many of my manufacturing and engineering clients, and that early career taught me to never NEVER underestimate the abilities of anyone in an organisation.
Are you doing what you love to do in your work-life? And if so, how did you get there?