It’s been 20 years since I joined the full time workforce, so I’m right on the half way point of my career. As a Gen X-er, I’m never sure how many different professional pathways I’m expected to tread throughout my working life (two? five? seven?) but either way, three key decisions stand out on the winding career route (aka career/family juggle!) I’ve taken to date:
An early career switch
After a BA in English and a year living and working in the UK, I qualified as an English and History teacher and spent four years working at schools in both Melbourne and Alice Springs. I enjoyed developing lessons and being part of a very collegial profession, but I hated the marking and found teenagers hard work (surely I’m not alone there?) Recently married to the love of my life, I was also sceptical about how I could combine teaching with raising a family.
I decided a career shift was in order and completed a graduate certificate in public relations before landing a PR manager’s role at a bayside independent school. When our first child was born a couple of years later I negotiated to keep working in the role during my maternity leave for one day per week from home. I naively thought this would be pretty easy (who knew babies took up so much time?)
Working bleary-eyed around my baby’s sleep times while I mastered breastfeeding etc was harder than I’d imagined, but it gave me the confidence that I could work from home while caring for our children. Yes – I could do it all (sure). Which was lucky, given I was one of a large number of women who are unable to negotiate permanent part time work with their employer following the end of their maternity leave.
Deciding to go it alone
Cathy Wever Communication – my own PR, writing and editing business – was born in 2003 and I spent the next 13 years working for a wide range of clients in industries such as health, education, travel, automotive, property, finance, media, defence and more. I was lucky that technology had recently made working remotely a truly viable option. Many of my clients I never met face to face, but I always met the brief, and never missed a deadline.
Saying ‘yes’ to almost everything and having a commitment to developing strong client relationships enabled me to grow my business and I was never short of projects. Working this way meant a lot of late nights at the desk and working during the daytime while my three children slept. It’s not a formula that suits everyone, but it worked for me and my family (did I mention I have a very supportive husband/partner?)
As the internet age took hold, ‘content’ emerged as an essential element of the marketing mix for virtually every company and brand. As social media and mobile technologies transformed the way we do business, more people began to realise the power of content to influence perceptions, build reputations and achieve customer engagement.
The subsequent demand for skilled content creators and strategists grew steadily and in the last few years as a sole trader I enjoyed developing and creating content for a wide range of businesses and brands including NAB, Domain, The Weekend Australian, Intuit, Australian Executor Trustees, the University of Western Australia, the Royal District Nursing Service and many others.
Combining kids with a career
There’s a lot of (unpaid) work involved in raising a family. Throw paid work into the mix and it’s always going to be a juggle – and there’s no right or wrong way to try and keep all the balls in the air. Here’s what I learnt while working for myself from home, while prioritising the needs of our three children:
- You can’t do it all. Domestic help such as a cleaner is vital.
- Be super efficient. When you have time to work, just work. Don’t hang out washing or do anything else on the domestic front.
- Embrace working in the evenings. Evenings are actually very peaceful and there’s no constant stream of email to distract you. I found I could be very productive when working after the kids went to bed.
Joining forces to create something bigger
During the Cathy Wever Communication years I often partnered on larger content projects with another fabulous self-employed content marketer, Clare Murphy. In 2015 we decided to join forces and launch our own content marketing agency: Content Empire.
Part of our motivation was the knowledge that working as a sole trader offers limited scope in the longer term. The insecure nature of freelance work also becomes less appealing as time goes by.
With a small team of staff and an extensive database of freelance content writers at our disposal, Content Empire is able to take on larger content projects and meet the growing content needs of businesses in every industry. From content strategy to social media campaigns to native advertising to microsites and blogs, Content Empire operates in a space that didn’t even exist ten years ago.
Working to build a bigger business in the digital era is both challenging and rewarding, but now that my three children are all at school, I am loving the chance to focus on the next stage of my career.
Exciting times are ahead…here’s to the next 20 years!