Turn this year around and find a career that completes you with the help of these inspirational girl bosses.
Following the lull of lockdown and a slow summer of self-reflection, the new season may be a prime time to take your career in a new direction. Whether it’s a slight detour or an entirely new pathway, leaving your comfort zone to venture into the unknown can be a daunting undertaking, yet one that can garner the biggest rewards. With many of us racking up 90,000 hours at work in our lifetime, it’s safe to say that where we spend those days can make or break our overall happiness and wellbeing.
With September and October known to be the busiest months for job hunters, according to recruitment website glassdoor.com, we asked four successful women about the journey to their dream job and how you can snatch yours, even when it feels out of reach.
LARAH YEARWOOD, EDITORIAL ASSISTANT AT SECRET ESCAPES
We all love a sunshine break every now and again, but being paid to travel the world is an occupation most can only dream of. “I didn’t go on many holidays growing up but I love the idea of seeing the world and documenting what I experience as I go,” Larah says. “I always knew I wanted to be either a food or travel writer so going to Nottingham Trent University to study magazine journalism was a no-brainer,” she says.
With a Masters degree in her back pocket, Larah set out to make her name in the publishing industry with internships at The National Student as Food and Drinks Editor and Love Incorporated covering travel, food, and money. Although her career was gaining momentum, Larah’s hope of venturing to far-flung locations wasn’t quite as smooth sailing as she’d hoped. “After my internships, the job search went cold and I didn’t work for 5 months and began questioning if I was good enough and if this was the right career for me. I ended up working at my local Primark to get some money and, while I was grateful to have income, it made me realise even more that I needed to pursue travel writing. I knew I had to push myself, not give up and have faith.”
And boy, did it pay off. When popular members-only travel company Secret Escapes advertised for an editorial assistant, Larah’s determination shone through and it bagged her the position of a lifetime. “I realise I’m at the bottom of the career ladder but one day I’d love to be an editor. As a young black woman, I’m inspired by successful women such as Clara Amfo and can identify with how she overcame certain struggles to get to where she is now. Journalism is a very difficult industry to get into and without having a Masters degree it can make it even harder. But, my advice would be to just keep going. There’s no shame in getting a temporary job in the meantime to pay the bills but don’t give up on what you really want.”
EMILY WOOD, MAKE-UP ARTIST
As one of the most sought-after jobs in the beauty industry, for Manchester-born Emily Wood, make-up artistry was on the cards for as long as she can remember “I think it’s quite rare to know what career you want when you’re little but I always wanted to be a make-up artist,” she explains. “My sister is an actress and we used to put on plays where I’d do the make-up and she’d excel in the performance.”
But, with growing social pressure and a hometown with limited opportunities, Emily was keen to explore less traditional avenues. “People thought I was a bit weird so I suppressed who I really was to fit in and make life easier,” Emily says. “My friends were academics with university in their sights and I desperately tried to be the same but as I’m dyslexic with OCD, I struggled and found that I was drawn more to visual creativity instead. I toyed with studying Fine Art before deciding to do a make-up course at Cassie Lomas Make-Up Academy.”
After wowing Cassie with her exploratory eye and a bold portfolio (created with her friends), Emily was snapped up by her mentor’s agency before making the life-changing decision to leave her hometown. “I moved to London two years ago and it has opened the door to so many possibilities. As such a diverse, liberal city, I felt comfortable to come out as gay and join the LGBT+ community in both my work and personal life. This has allowed me to be a part of the anti-perfect movement (focusing more on how you feel and express yourself rather than just how you look), and take on projects that align more with my values,” she tells us.
As a self-confessed “anxious bean”, Emily’s equipped herself with the right tools to manage her imposter syndrome and find more joy in her dream career. “I have very low self-esteem and can leave a shoot feeling like I haven’t been interesting or creative enough,” she says. “Therapy has helped, but also having a bit of a plan is key. For example, don’t just do a winged eye because it’s trendy – think about the story, the lighting, the set, and what the make-up will bring to all of that. Don’t be afraid to try new and daring concepts and create with intention – think about what aligns with who you are and it’ll shine through your work.”
AZZA AGLAN, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST
The road to success is rarely smooth, but for Azza Aglan, it’s been a winding path with a few bumps along the way. “I’ve had a few different careers and studied very different things to get to where I am now – it’s not your typical career pathway,” she explains. “My very first degree was Egyptology – as an Egyptian myself, I was fascinated with archaeology and worked up and down the Nile. But after three years I followed my passion for sociology and did a Masters degree in Anthropology. My professor at the time was interviewing Islamists in prison which is how I got into research projects.”
After meeting her English-born husband, Azza re-located to the UK permanently and decided to re-train with a Masters degree in Methodology whilst juggling a young family. Ambitious? Perhaps. But it was during this time that Azza learned some invaluable skills. “We didn’t have any family support around us so I had to be flexible, patient and do things slowly,” Azza says. “I prioritised my family, worked and studied part-time and didn’t have too much fixation on a destination or goal, I just did what interested me and took opportunities as they came which was far more enjoyable. If you’re too anxious and put pressure on yourself to hit targets by a certain time, you’re depriving yourself of exploring and when the roads are so specific, you don’t bump into other areas that may be better. I was also an immigrant so I was up-rooted from what I know but it taught me curiosity and if you harness that you can reach places you didn’t know were possible.”
By working her way up to senior roles at The University of Manchester, Azza missed the human interaction of research and focused more on the mental health aspects of her work. A hop, skip and a doctorate later, she was a clinical psychiatrist, working with some of the most vulnerable trauma patients. “I feel very privileged to be in the room with people that have been through the most harrowing of experiences. But you can’t be the container for that person without continually working on yourself. How can I ground that person if I’m wobbly? Even though it feels like it, it’s not a race so don’t compare yourself to others – we all have different journeys, life stories and issues even if you can’t always see them.”
ROCHELLE GRAY, SPECIALIST SPEECH AND LANGUAGE THERAPIST AND BEHAVIOUR CONSULTANT
When it comes to rewarding jobs, Rochelle Gray’s is up there. Not content with one profession, the dual-certified therapist has two qualifications under her belt and a sister company to boot. “I work part-time for the NHS where parents self-refer if they’ve noticed their child is having difficulties and from there they’ll be given a care pathway and also for my own clinic where I will do one-to-one work with both the children and the parents and dedicate more time to their very specific needs,” she explains.
With a very clear initial career path as a clinical psychologist, Rochelle’s trajectory took an unexpected turn. “Towards the end of my Bachelors degree I worked with a family who had an autistic child and I’d never seen anything like it,” she says. “From there I got training from the family and their consultant and it was incredible to see the results so I stayed with that family whilst I did my Masters, added another family, and found it so rewarding.”
A little encouragement and three degrees later, Rochelle had the opportunity to move to Dubai to be the clinical director or an autism centre for two years. “There wasn’t a lot of inclusion at the time and culturally having a disability in the family can be seen as quite shameful so there was a lot of discretion exercised to families.” After moving home to complete her post-graduate degree in Speech and Language Therapy, Rochelle joined the exclusive 6-strong club of dual-certified therapists in the UK and noticed a gap in the market. “A lot of parents were asking me where they could access certain tools and products that would help their child further at home so I set up my sister company My Therapy Toolbox. If there’s a way I can help then I will find a way to do it – it’s worth it to see how their quality of life is improving.”
With a burning ambition and a natural ability to problem solve, Rochelle credits her career to unwavering perseverance. “I’ve definitely encountered setbacks but I’ve always found a way around them. My biggest piece of advice would be to reach out to local companies, shadow consultants, and make small achievable goals to where you want to get to.”