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My Jobs, My Career and Why I’m Glad I Did It All

Guest Blog Told to Us by Tracey Tait

When you’re asked about the jobs you’ve had, it gets you thinking.

The lovely Kelly Oliver Dougall from Cygnet North East asked me to write a Blog for her and it certainly got me thinking and remembering.

My first ‘job’ was many moons ago now…

Cue the wavy screen and let’s go back in time.

From The Humble Beginnings of a Village Shop
My Nana owned a village shop and from the age of 12 I helped out. From working behind the counter – no self-service in this shop – going to the Cash and Carry, stocktaking, weighing and bagging up potatoes to my favourite helping behind the sweetie counter. The jars and jars of sweets that could be weighed and handed over in small white paper bags made me smile.

And since those early days, my jobs have taken me from working in a shoe-shop, the civil service, a brewery, paint manufacturing, marketing for a well-known sports brand, a retail outlet, the semi-conductor industry, universities and a national charity.

A Career Path That Wasn’t So Straight-Forward
My career path was more of a (very) wavy-line with (lots of) variety than a distinct straight-line. I didn’t know what I wanted to be.

The idea of being a vet was prominent for years when I was at school, but I couldn’t get my head around maths or physics, essential to helping poorly animals apparently so that door was shut to me.

My First Job
And so I made the decision university wasn’t for me and at aged 17 I started full-time employment. I worked in the Civil Service and the department I worked in dealt with the NHS.

From collecting data on hospital waiting times, drafting answers to questions asked in Parliament to the Prime Minister and receiving and replying to letters from patients that voiced there concerns about the treatment they’d had from the health service.

Every day was varied and I loved it. The people were funny, helpful and they taught me so much and I was learning all the time.

This was also my first experience of speaking on the phone and others could hear me speak. At 17, this was daunting but I soon realised that the others were getting on with their jobs and not listening to me and what I was saying. If they were, so what. I was getting on with my job and they were getting on with theirs.

After a few years, I moved on. Ready for a new challenge and to earn more money. I wanted to buy a house.

Not Quite Making Beer But Pretty Close…
Scottish & Newcastle had a large site in Edinburgh and I was working in their purchasing department.

Just as computers were being introduced. Talk about a steep learning curve!

No more manual type-writers with sheets of paper and carbon copies, it was all going to be done on computers. Crikey! Typing this has made me feel so very old, but back then I took to it like a duck to water because, to me, it made sense.

We could all see, thanks to the new fabby-dabby computers, what was going on across the department. Really helpful and you could see how what you did fitted in not only across the department but across the business.

That early introduction to computers and what they can do really helped me, because even now I still enjoy learning different computer packages and software. Yes, I do get frustrated at times and need to put 10p in the swearbox.

Purchasing was about more than just buying. (Which is what my family and friends thought I did for a living).

Relationships with your suppliers, your relationships with the departments you were buying for and understanding what you were buying were important too.

And there was always negotitation. Lots and lots of it.

Again, being that team player was so important and recognising that I didn’t know it all. It was okay to ask for help.

Watching Paint Dry
I stayed with purchasing and worked for Hammerite Paints when I moved to the North East. Again, team work, relationships and communication were vital.

But I also had an obstacle to get over.

Lost In Translation
I’m Scottish and my lovely colleagues were from the North East and spoke with broad accents. And so, communicating in the early days was tricky.

I very quickly learned to slow down when I talked and NOT to use Scottishisms. They didn’t translate well and a few of them got me into trouble. Oops!

Sadly, this job was also to be my first experience of redundancy and the impact it has on individuals and a business.

My job was saved but losing my boss and my work-mate was hard. I remember crying for days after seeing their empty desks when I came in to the office after the decision. Answering the telephone to someone asking to speak to them was hard too.

I’ve been in similar situations since, but somehow, I’ve always avoided being made redundant, but what it’s taught me is that you have way more skills than you think and so much to offer a new employer.

Getting the help you need when it’s time to change jobs, be it through choice or not, is always a good idea.

The Difficult Times That Gave Me A Light-Bulb Moment
Once you sit down to write a new CV or even look back at what you know, you have so many skills. Skills that you take for granted or don’t realise you have.

And writing my CV after the redundancies and sending it off to recruitment agencies, that’s when new opportunities came my way.

Just Do It!
I started at NIKE, on a temporary contract, in their finance department processing expenses and other finance related tasks.

This gave me a fab insight into finance. An area of business, to be honest, I avoided like the plague. Numbers scared me.

But again, I could see how my role fitted in across the business and the other departments it linked too.

Nope? No Idea But I’ll Take The Job
Six months later I applied for a post in the Retail Marketing Department. I’d heard of retail, I’d heard of marketing but retail marketing??? Nope, all new to me.

And so I started to learn about it.

The next time you pop into a shop, be it a supermarket, a clothes shop or your corner shop and you’ll see retail marketing at work.

The displays, the banners, the promotions, the windows with their stickers or mannequins in a particular pose wearing certain outfits, are all playing a part in retail marketing.

And again, so many people and relationships are involved.

From the agencies creating the ideas, the printers, the manufacturers, warehouse workers, the staff in the shop and not forgetting the customer. They’re all involved.

Gradually I worked my way up and was offered a job as a Marketing Manager for their women’s product for the UK and Ireland. (I got a company car!)

Being a Marketing Manager was like putting lots of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together. Making sure that all the bits were in place and available at the right time.

It was a job with long hours, steep learning curves, amazing people and one that taught me so much about me.

The long hours meant I was away from home a lot. I missed nights out with friends, I had lots of early starts, (being at Newcastle airport at 4.30am for the red-eye to Amsterdam took its toll) but again being part of a team and those all-important relationships were key. Vital to getting the job done.

But I remember the buzz I got launching a new campaign. Working with marketing agencies, the retailers we supplied, our sales team and getting creative to sell products.

From shop windows, articles in magazines, posters, banners, events… The list goes on.

I didn’t realise that this job would be the one that would eventually lead me to starting my own business. The seed had been sown.

But it wasn’t ready to sprout yet, and so I continued with marketing as a path to follow and I became the Marketing Manager for a Retail Outlet in the North East leaving NIKE behind.

Bringing all my previous marketing experience with me but this was a brand new project. Not an established brand.

Lights, Cameras, Action! I Did This Too
The retail outlet was still being built and so I was dealing with builders, architects and interested retailers in being a part of this brand new venture.

Oh how I rocked the high-vis vest and protective headwear look. oh yes!

For the first time, I was now involved in creating a launch for a new venture, creating and putting together a TV ad, radio ads and being interviewed by press and radio about the venture.

Lots of deep breathing but with each interview it got much easier.

Being a part of a team creating a TV ad was mind-blowing. It takes way longer than you think and the planning that goes into one is phenomenal.

Never Work With Children Or Animals
The ad featured a couple – a young man and a young woman – but 24 hours before we started filming out young man pulled out.

And so we had to start our search again. You know in the movies where the happy ending literally doesn’t happen until the last moment? Well, that was us.

We saw numerous actors but they didn’t fit the bill. We were starting to panic and we only had one more young man to see.

Taking It To The Wire
The relief when he walked and we all looked at each other and smiled. Yes!!! We could start filming the next day after all.

To say I was a tad stressed out was an under-statement!

But the filming went ahead in the beautiful Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town, South Africa and two days later we had filmed our TV ad. My FIRST (and only).

It aired 2 months later and our grand opening went without a hitch. Okay, the hitches we did have weren’t noticeable and the marketing campaign got me nominated for an award.

The award is the equivalent of an Oscar in the retail world, with the award ceremony taking place in Las Vegas.

By the time the award ceremony took place, I was working for another company.

And Then The Seed Started To Grow
I then took 4 years off away from work after the birth of my son, left the corporate world behind and worked part-time working on a funded project using sport to build confidence and self-esteem in young men and women.

The seed was now growing and this is when I made the decision to study, re-train and work towards working for myself.

I’m now a business owner and my experiences from the jobs I’ve had, my marketing career and the people I’ve met and worked with have shaped me and my business.

Writing this and looking back has been really interesting.

The things I’ve done, the things I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do and yet, they happened. Skills learned and developed over time, experiences, challenges and hidden talents that bubbled up.

What Would I Say To My Younger Self
You have more skills and talents that you think you have, and if you see a job out there that you like the look of, idea of, think you’d like to give it a go then don’t hold yourself back.

If you’ve left your job to set up your own business, and would like to speak to someone who literally has done it AND got the T-shirt, let’s have a chat.

Book a call with me here Let’s chat!

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