Stepping up


I am an over thinker. I actually think many of us are guilty of that but in my experience women are worst at it! We analyse everything; what did she mean by that? Why did I say that? What do they think of me? If I do that, this might happen. The list really does go on. 

The truth is, we anticipate futures that simply may never happen and that in turn makes the thing too big and scary to contemplate and then you hesitate and that hesitation stops you from achieving your potential. I’m writing about this this week because I have been putting the business plan together for Sparkle HR.  In truth I have been putting this off for weeks. Of course I know in my head what it is I’m doing and let’s be honest that’s the fun bit. But making myself get detailed, and focus on things new and terrifying its not always as fun. It’s not always fun because I often don’t initially know the way forward or how to do something but burying my head in the sand or skipping forward 6 steps and panicking about what might happen doesn’t help either! 

Each time I’ve started to focus on my plan this week I have ended up going into overthinking mode. I have had to tell myself to stop. Focus on the now. In order to make Sparkle a success I need my business plan. In order to get to the detail and build a plan of actions and a timeline I need my business plan. Therefore to allow myself to do this I have to stop racing ahead. That’s hard. So many ideas and anticipation in my mind.  I saw a Ted talk this week which suggests that defining your fears instead of your goals can be more important for progression as we suffer more often in imagination than in reality. A sentiment I am going to hold close over the coming months. 

I also have to learn to become comfortable with not being in control. I would say I’m coping better now than I was in January. Would I say I’m entirely there yet? Hell no! I am getting better though, that’s progress right?! I’ve mentioned in a previous blog about utilising your friends; again, at times I am good at this but at other times (and usually when I’m in the grip) I sit stressing and worrying. I have a ton of brainy, talented, amazing and creative people in my life and I need to become better at speaking up and not trying to do it all alone. 

My goal for the next week is to complete my first draft business plan in order to focus on this during my coaching. Once I am happy with what I have I can get back to the exciting stuff! 

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing – Walt Disney 

Love Laura x

Being vulnerable – it’s a gift 

Over the years I’ve learned to become comfortable and at ease with allowing myself to be vulnerable. The more I’ve done it the more I’ve realised that this is actually a massive strength. Nothing bad has ever happened to me by being vulnerable. In fact the opposite. Great things usually come from it. 

So what do I mean? I’m happy to hold my hands up and say I don’t know, I’m happy to ask others for help when I need it and I’m comfortable with recognising when I could have been better.  I’m also happy to work my hardest to learn, to fill the gap and to be the best I can.  The quicker you accept that not one person knows it all and that nobody expects you to either, the quicker you allow yourself the freedom to progress. 

You see, I know there’s lots I’m great at and I know others recognise that in me too. Therefore I’m happy to share my challenges and the reason for that is simple, nobody likes a smart arse! Not really. I have learned so much from people by allowing myself the freedom to not pretend, to ask when I need it and to give myself time to think. 

You know I told you last week that I have recently completed my CIPD, well this is a great example actually.  I was happy to share with others whilst I was going through the process that I found it tough along the way.  I rang people to vent, cry, you name it. When I needed an outlet, I found one.  As a result of that more than a handful of my colleagues who are going through the same thing have subsequently reached out to me when they’ve felt the same way.  I’ve been able to support them. It’s infectious. It creates a safe space, and guess what, one by one we are all finding out that we have nailed this.  We could have all pretended this was a breeze – after all we have all been in the profession for half of our lives. Instead, the power of vulnerability has united us, great things are being achieved and I’m proud to be a part of such a successful team, I will miss this when I leave. 

To finish off this week I just want to share with you a few things.   I’ve had a good week and I feel back on track. I’ve made progress in a few areas with my business and that feels good.  My branding is finalised and I’m starting to consider my website.  Sparkle HR is becoming a reality day by day. There is still some key items on my to do list that I am yet to achieve and I keep beating myself up about this but they are now at the top of the list.  I had my third coaching session this evening with Lisa Jelly. We focussed specifically on my priorities and business planning. I am now clear of the coming weeks and what I need to achieve and Lisa and I we will be focusing on this together. 

If anyone is wanting a coach I would highly recommend her. She helps me gain clarity and calmness. In the spirit of being vulnerable I was all over the place in our meeting today and she helped me re – focus on the strategy.  I needed that.   We meet via Zoom for 90mins at a time. She offers a free 45 minute discovery call with no obligation to anyone interested. What have you got to lose?

Things in my personal life feel good at the moment too and all of that makes for a content me. 

This week I’m happy to say that I’ve achieved some great things but I’m also happy to admit that there’s been moments of  “how on earth do I do this?!” One step at a time, that’s how. 

Vulnerability is not about weakness, it’s about showing up and being seen – Dr Brené Brown 

Love Laura x

Desperation and Hope 

That’s a pretty dramatic title but hey I’m a dramatic kinda girl!

When I started my blog I promised myself and also documented it in writing that I would write honestly. This is after all, a blog taking you on my journey from employee to business owner and beyond.  It won’t be easy, I always knew that!  It is with that thought that I decided this week to write about how I have been feeling over the last 7 days.

This week has been tough. Returning from a beautiful holiday is never easy. Returning from holiday to 700 emails at a time when you are being made redundant, in a week when you are being formally assessed by the CIPD and you’re trying to focus on a bright future and when that future is so alien to you, I can tell you now is utterly hideous.

I think that some of my panic, worry and upset has been triggered by a significant milestone in the change process of my currrent employment. Group consultation has closed and the proposal is now final. Meaning being served my notice is one step closer and the reality and enormity of this huge change is slamming me in the face daily.  Yes I have my plan and I am well on my way to setting up Sparkle HR but this week I’ve found myself doubting all of that. I’ve doubted my ability, progress, decision making and sanity!

I think it is because I am not in a great frame of mind that everything seems so scary.

It’s not all been bad though. I’ve been listening to a podcast called Style your Mind by Cara Alwill, she is a life coach and focuses on women who want to empower themselves and build a beautiful life.  I’ve also used a site called Fiverr to source a creative to do my branding. So, she has my brief and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with. Sparkle HR is about to get a logo!

My point of telling you all of this is not to start your Friday off in a depressing way or to look for sympathy. My point is that I need to acknowledge for myself that it’s been hard and hard days will continue to come. I have to face in to them. I am also sharing because I hope that this helps others to know you’re not alone. I’m sure lots of people have been on a similar journey to me in the past and I know lots of people will be on the same one right now.

Find the moments of light in a dark week and acknowledge them. Feel proud of them.

So yes, it’s been hard, but there has been some positive baby steps forward and I’m determined to keep the momentum up and to squash the negativity and worry.

Decide the kind of person you want to be and go be them, but do not let a bad day become a bad week, month or year.

It always seems impossible until it’s done – Mandela

Love Laura x

The power of networks

Two blogs down and going strong. I’m really enjoying writing them. They are keeping me on track, making me accountable to myself and I’m enjoying all of your helpful offers of support or advice.  Still utterly amazed by the amount of views. Over 6000 views of my first 2 blogs. Just wow!

This week I’ve returned to work after a week off and the inbox had exploded! I’m not going to complain though because I’m off again shortly! Alongside the exploded inbox I have also attended 2 webinars.  A bit of personal development time for myself. One about how you might be holding yourself back and how to step up to your plans, the other about making the most from your LinkedIn profile.  Both were super useful. The first was hosted by Amanda Alexander and I literally came off the iPad after it ended, put my women of the 80s Spotify playlist on (yes I have that playlist!) and danced around like a fool. That’s how energised I was!  It’s ok to laugh at this point!  In fact, yesterday I had a call from Amanda to say she is offering me some of her time for a career momentum call. How fabulous. 

The content was so helpful though and funnily enough a chunk of it was about networking and I had already started to draft this blog so great timing really!

I mentioned briefly last week about networking. So I thought I would focus on that this week because in the last 2 months my opinion has changed massively on the value that this has.  I also said I would be honest about my highs and lows. I had a lot of time to think whilst relaxing in Palma last weekend. That was great to get some head space but I definitely have been through a range of emotions and then returning to work after a week off has been hard. Hard because when I’m there I am acutely aware of how much I will miss the place when I do go. That makes me sad.

Honestly. It’s emotionally exhausting and there’s still so much to do and let’s not forget that Monday to Friday there’s still the day job to take priority. My head has never been as full, or excited to be fair.  It’s an equal split of mega excitement and utter fear right now!

So before I get on to my thoughts about networking let me tell you a bit more about me.  I’m sociable, fun and I like to think I’m pretty funny too but maybe you should ask others that know me if that’s true or not! I enjoy meeting new people, I love learning about others, from others and equally I love supporting others.  I’m pretty good at making myself stay out of my comfort zone but like most I don’t like the feeling that at  times this brings. I have high standards for myself.  That can be a good and bad thing.  I put a huge amount of pressure on myself to succeeed. I’m the kind of person that’s loyal personally and in business and I try my hardest to keep friendships and connections strong. There’s a definite art to that and you most certainly do have to make a conscious effort to do this well.

So I’m sure most of you would think they are all great characteristics to apply when networking and I agree, they are.  But really, when I said last week I nearly didn’t attend my first I’m being honest. I felt so sick.  That’s an odd emotion really for something so simple. It’s bizarre how your body can take over in a way that I can only describe as ridiculous but hey it happens to us all from time to time. It’s what you do as a response to that I suppose.  It’s the age old fight or flight scenario. I didn’t want to go but I did, and I said last week how fabulous I felt as a result of making myself.  So yes, I have the skills to build effective connections and yes it is something I do daily and am currently doing more than ever.  Is it always easy? No. Will I face in to it anyway? You bet!

In the past I’ve always questioned how useful it was, I now wonder how much of that was my own excuse to not step up but I suppose I also never had a clear reason for being there and I guess now I do.   Don’t get me wrong, I network in my current organisation it’s not like this is entirely alien and a newly acquired skill but that’s internally and not externally. It’s different. You have a common topic internally. It’s a little more comfortable and familiar. There’s the common goal that’s easier to pinpoint. As part of her webinar, Amanda also made me realise that networking isn’t just face to face. This blog is building my networks, LinkedIn is exactly that as are all of the other social media platforms. I had never made that link in my mind. Networking is simply connecting with others. So, my challenge to myself is to connect with at least one new person a week from here in. I will keep you posted but I’ve definitely been doing that so far.  I’ve had a number of great conversations with new people this week 😃

Networking isn’t all about taking from others or attracting potential future clients either, it’s about learning, trying new things and equally offering support.  I never knew how supportive it could be. I expected it to be competitive. My experience so far is the opposite.  I have been blown away by how so many people want to help and are keen to share. In fact it’s infectious and I’ve found myself sharing my experience and helping others more freely than ever.  Why not? I’m a firm believer that good things happen to good people.

You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want – Zig Ziglar

Love Laura x

16th March 2017 a day like no other. 

So, since my first blog post has had over 3000 views (how crazy and amazing is that!) I’ve definitely decided that my idea to blog weekly is no bad thing. What has been amazing has been the support from people I know, people I don’t know, the suggestions of resources that might help me and well, In general the all round genuine kindness. You see…..being kind is so underrated and something that personally means a great deal to me. Therefore you lovely lot, do not underestimate the power of your kindness and the impact that has had. It has given me masses of positivity and reaffirmed that this is the right thing to do. Thank you so much and long may that continue.  From the bottom of my heart, I really appreciate it.  It’s also nice to know that so many of you like the name I’ve chosen. Sparkle HR feels like it is off to a good start 🙂

Last week I explained the main circumstance that has brought me to this place.  What I didn’t share though is some of the things that have helped me make the decision to take the risk and go it alone. You see, in my mind my two options were to look for a HR role in another organisation or to set up my own HR consultancy. Both daunting but I felt I had to choose one of the routes, one is more risky than the other and certainly not in my comfort zone. 

So how did I get to this place then? The place where I’ve chosen the unknown, the risk, the place of uncertain waters. Well it’s a mixture of things, all of which I will cover in future blog posts but too many for one sitting so let me tell you about the main lightbulb moment for now.

It all started on the 16th of March, just over a month ago. Not long really! It’s turned out to be a pivotal day.

  1. I attended my first networking event
  2. The idea of of starting my own business became a very real possibility for the first time in my life.
  3. I texted a friend to share that spark, the first time I had shared that with anyone.
  4. I bought a book called She Means Business
  5. I started a journal of ideas, thoughts and actions.

I found a local networking event to attend and did so on the 16th March 2017. What a great decision that turned out to be. I won’t lie to you, I nearly didn’t go, the thought of walking in to a room of strangers….successful strangers at that was very daunting. However, I pushed myself and I went. I’m so so pleased I did. I genuinely really loved it. I left buzzing and I met some great people. I’ve since been to more. I don’t feel apprehensive at all now (well maybe a little). In fact I look forward to them. In such a short space of time I’ve conquered a fear. I’m proud of that. It’s amazing what you can do when you make yourself.  That doesn’t mean it’s easy, it just means that every day I’m trying to be a better version of myself. I spoke to a number of people at the event, but one person, Nicola, really struck a chord with me. She has recently done what I am now about to do. She chatted openly about her journey and she shared so much and when I left I had her words ringing in my ears “I’ve never looked back, I love it”. That night after finishing work. I bought a journal.  You remember in my first blog I told you I was a bit of a control freak, well Its no surprise that my first entry on the evening of the 16 March looks like this….

On the 16th I also texted my lovely friend Sophie – I will tell you more about Sophie in a future blog because quite frankly she has been amazing in showing so much belief in my ideas and I feel I have a lot to share with you about her, our friendship and her support. I will definitely share all of that with you because she has been and continues to be an awesome cheerleader. You know I said last week, I dream of a group of cheerleaders. Well, don’t leave Sophie on her own. Come join in! Infact, going on the support from my first blog I would say I have a superb group forming 😉

I texted her to say

Hey Soph. I’ve been to a breakfast networking event today. Totally loved it. Got so much from it. Was wondering if you were free one night for a chat as I would love to pick your brains on going it alone as an hr consultant. It’s something today that’s sparked in me as a potential next move but I’ve never considered it so would love your advice opinions etc. Hope London is good. Xxx

Her response was very Sophie and exactly what I needed. Someone to simply give me permission to go for it.

Oooh how exciting! That’s very very cool. It’s actually a really good move and I’ve loads I could help you with/tell you about so def up for a chat xx

And so if I’m honest. In my heart. I knew that was it. My decision was made.  Thanks Sophie ❤️

On the 16th of March I also bought a book written by Carrie Green called She Means Business. Which by the way I can not recommend highly enough. I stumbled upon her originally because my friend Sophie (as mentioned above) sent me a link to one of her TED talks – programming your mind for success. Anyway, I bought the book and it has been amazing. Carrie runs something called the Female Entrepreneur Association and my goodness, you know when you can totally relate to someone and what they say. Well, that’s been the power her book, free resources and webinars etc have had on me and my life so far. It continues to be my bible!  You should check her out. She is a strong, powerful, successful northern woman in her 30s. What’s not to love! 😉

So that was the 16th March 2017, a day that started out as any normal day but has turned out to be one that could change my world forever! 

I will share more next week, I hope you all have a good weekend. I’m currently enjoying a lovely weekend in Palma with my sister. Bliss.

Love Laura x

My current screensaver on my phone is simply this (and the reason I started with that picture in this blog) 

“I can and I will, watch me” – Carrie Green

Life’s not a journey, it’s a dance 

It’s easy to get swept along with always striving towards the next goal. The next thing in life. Feeling like you are in some kind of race to achieve the next bit and never really appreciating what’s happening in the moment. I learnt this only 10 months ago.  Simply because I watched this short clip at work. 

When something resonates with you I suppose it just does. I’ve re watched this clip over and over. If you know me I’ve probably discussed it with you or shared a link. I’ve even got the music. It just makes me feel calm. Calm in my life is always good! So what I’m about to tell you in this week’s blog is mainly about my progress this week but I don’t mean it in a way of a checklist or rushing to the next bit. I am trying to enjoy each part and learn what I can. Making the most of the dance. Even when the dance feels sad or frustrating. After all, at least I’m still here to dance. 

Right now I’m on the train heading to London. I have a meeting today about my upcoming redundancy.  Hardly the kind of day that fills you with joy; in fact just writing it is making my heart sink a little. However, it is a necessary part of my dance right now.  The good things about being made redundant are many if you choose to see it that way. Some days I feel optimistic,  others not so much but let me tell you some fab stuff that has happened since I found out my life was about to change direction. 

My career in HR started at 18. I kind of fell into it when I didn’t do as well as I had hoped with my A Levels.  When I say fell into it I mean it seemed  like a career choice that interested me and I got lucky in securing an admin HR role to start my journey. Although I kind of fell into it I have loved it since day one but twenty years later I have never validated my knowledge and career by becoming CIPD qualified.  For a mixture of reasons really ranging from the cost and time to excuses and the fear of failure. As my career has progressed though, it’s been a niggle at the back of my brain. I knew that I needed the qualification if I was to leave the bubble that has been my current employment and I also felt like I was missing out on a whole community of like minded people in the outside world. So, a long story short I asked back in November if work would support me with this qualification. You know what? They said yes and so in March this year I set about gaining my qualification through something called the experience assessment route. Believe me, it’s not a breeze. It challenged me in many ways. There was an impact report, a self assessment section, a case study and testimonials from people you work with not to mention the 3 hour professional discussion. (Think interview!). I put my all into it though; it’s given me a fresh outlook and inspired me to learn more and it’s been a hugely positively experience made only better by finding out last Friday evening that I passed. Yes that’s right. I can now officially say I did it! I am CIPD qualified and I feel great that I’ve achieved that. Not because somebody made me but because I wanted to do this for me. I maybe should have pushed myself years ago but it’s done now and I’m very proud that the final part of my missing jigsaw has been placed. 

I’m also currently trying to find the right coaching qualification to study as it’s something I enjoy but again have no formal recognition for so I’m super excited about starting this part of my dance too. Linked to coaching is also mentoring and I’m a volunteer mentor for a programme that the CIPD run called Steps Ahead. The aim is to support people into employment. Help with CV writing, interview skills and that kind of thing. I’ve met with a mentee this week and that felt good to be using my skills in such a positive way. It’s great to give back where you can. 

Something really challenging me this week is getting my branding for Sparkle HR right. I have some initial drafts that I love but they are not entirely right and it’s such a new area for me. Many times this week I’ve had to pause and tell myself it’s ok to find this challenging because the good thing is it means I’m also learning. The logo is still not completed but I’m feeling ok with this. It doesn’t need to be perfect first time. (No Laura, it doesn’t!)

So, back to the dance. My advice to you is simple: don’t rush through life striving for the next thing. Step back, gain some perspective and enjoy the moment. You only have it once after all. 

Today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. – The Dalai Lama

Love Laura x

Am I an imposter?

In reality I am not. I know I deserve the success I have achieved. I’ve worked hard, I’ve pushed myself, I’m commited and a strength of mine is my self awareness and desire to improve and learn.  Just writing that makes me cringe though; it makes me feel like someone will say “no this isn’t true, what on earth are you talking about”. 

Have you heard of imposter syndrome? If not, let me paraphrase what the good old Internet says about it. 

Impostor syndrome is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.  Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women.

Ever since I can remember I have doubted my ability, I’ve always pitched myself at the bottom of the pack and secretly deep down have often believed it’s luck over ability that has got me to where I am.  Now, don’t get me wrong, as I’ve got older and as I have continued to achieve success I have become better at recognising my own talents and skills but I still get moments of feeling like an imposter, as though I might be found out!  This happens randomly, it can often happen if someone praises my work. In my head I can be thinking “oh god, one day this will all come crashing down around me, they will find me out, I’m a fraud!”  I have no idea why I think this, 20 years into a HR career and it’s not happened yet!

Having the courage to set up my own business is a reflection that I now feel able to do this, I believe in myself more than ever before but I do have to keep the imposter in my head in check. Equally important though is my realisation that a lot of people feel how I feel from time to time and that is ok. It’s ok as long as you don’t let it impact on your achievements and success.

Recently I was chatting to a friend about the advice we would give to our younger selves.  Mine was that I would tell myself to stop worrying, believe in myself and that I could do it, that I was worthy.  You know what, that’s great advice and I would tell my younger self that over and over. I would also add that regardless of the journey you take to get to your goal it’s equally as valid as the next person’s. The reason I say that is because I know what my trigger has been for these feelings. It’s things like: making the decision to not go to uni, having a bog standard education, and socialising with people from different social backgrounds to myself. It’s those things that my younger self felt somehow inferior against. 

Well 18 year old me, look at 38 year old me! You should be proud. You’re not an imposter and you did it. Here’s to the next 20 years…..

A strong woman looks a challenge dead in the eye and gives it a wink – Gina Carey

Love Laura x