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I am who I am: ‘I’m not a square peg’

'This is the power of networking.'

We all have a reason for visiting profiles

I know that you have your own reasons for reading my profile. It may be to put a profile picture to a name. After all, isn’t that what social media is about, making connections with others more personable, rather than looking at the black-and-white, straight from a Curriculum Vitae (or resume)? Getting to know the person. Finding out about their attitudes, what their views are on current affairs, seeing what are their passions and whether you see yourself working alongside them, or doing business with them.

Do you want to read on?

I am going to share with you a little of my backstory in terms of why I joined LinkedIn. You will discover I am a polymath. Maybe this is where you stop reading, as it has answered the question of who I am; and if so, thank you for stopping by. But if you are more curious, please read on.

I used to be a square peg

I was once a square peg. This was when I initially created my LinkedIn profile. I did it at a time when it was fashionable to showcase your professional side. Describe what your current role was and connect with your friends, colleagues, former colleagues and recruitment agencies, as one never knows what career opportunity could come about. You never knew who someone else knew and how they may be able to assist and recommend you for a new opportunity. This is the power of networking.

Back in those days, I was also a member of what I term, ‘the conveyor-belt lifestyle’ club. I ticked my boxes. I had achieved a good academic education and now was working my muscles to climb up that proverbial ‘Corporate ladder.’ However, at the same time, I knew that I could not see myself committing to a long-term career in accounting and finance. Yes, I could become a CFO, but would I be reaching the ‘self-actualised’ man of Maslow’s Pyramid? No.

The Beginning

I was fortunate early on in my career after graduation to work for a multinational business: Orange Business Services. This was actually, the only company that I worked as a permanent employee. I started as Treasury Assistant and stayed for five years, progressing on to my third and final job. I learnt some great lessons. From one of my first mentors, I learnt the importance of taking risks and not being afraid to make a mistake. I soon learnt there was growth from acknowledging errors.

We all need to step up – The ‘I am wasted talent letter’

My newfound confidence helped push me forward in developing my career, as there came a point in those five years when I got bored. It was the classic case of not feeling challenged. My response at the time was to write my manager, who was based in the USA. The email was titled: ‘I am a wasted talent.’ You may think this move was bold or risky, but it got a result. Within a month I was promoted to what would be my last role at the company and I also received a wage increase. This action highlighted some of my attributes:

1. I clearly communicated my message.

2. It showed that I knew how to take initiative.

3. I could make a decision and follow it through.

4. I have the characteristics of honesty, integrity, and perseverance.

A new opportunity – ‘the future is bright’

My position was eventually made redundant at Orange and no, it was not because I sent another email about being a ‘wasted talent.’ My role was outsourced to a country abroad, a trend to increase a business’ bottom line. This turned out to be a mixed blessing. I was able to take a break, and think about what it was that I wanted to do. That year, my father passed away. One thing he kept saying as he was dying, was how he had lived a good life. So I took the opportunity to create a good life.

The accessories seller

I had an inkling about two years before my job was made redundant, that I wanted to do something entrepreneurial. I liked the idea of being my own boss. Building an empire. I briefly tested the accessories business, but the accessories business was not for me. Yes, I like accessories. But I found that building a business is not only about making money for money’s sake, and I would be reminded of this with my other ventures.

The Interim Professional

I decided to enter into the Interim market at the beginning of 2007, after returning from a two-month break traveling around Canada. Initially I thought it would be a great way to earn income as well as figure out what my ‘niche’ was. Interim proved to be a great career move. It enabled me to work in different industries, and to gain and develop my skill set at a much faster pace than remaining in one role at a company, while waiting for a new opening. I have worked around the UK, and also worked in the Netherlands and Germany. You cannot beat experiences where you have the opportunity to work with different cultures. Yes, people take different approaches to work.

Market downtime

Of course, the market may change due to the economy. One big crash, the financial crisis between 2007- 2008, impacted my livelihood. I was lucky enough to work during this period but afterward I was an out-of-work contractor. I had no income. But I came back.

I can teach. I can do, too

In 2009, I retrained as a teacher. I discovered that I had a gift—that I could inspire and support people in their learning. Around that time, I also reentered the Interim market and became a portfolio professional. At one time I consulted as a full-time contractor during the week, while as a Visiting Lecturer, delivering Business and Corporate Law to accounting students one day a week.

The learning curve: ‘Nailing the niche’

It is completely different when you are the boss. The owner of the business. Making the executive decisions and thinking about marketing, customer acquisition, as well as providing services. The emotional side may not be mentioned in the standard business book; there is usually no mention of how lonely it gets being the owner of a business. A gap that others have seen as a business opportunity, with the continued growth of people online – especially on Facebook, teaching people how to build a business. One of my business takeaways has been about how you cannot cater to everyone; you need to first nail your niche or micro niche. I learnt this with my tuition and training business, especially when I was delivering training. I had built a reputation teaching my niche subjects, company law and business accounting.

Providing 1-2-1 tuition, as well as working with sole traders who wanted to understand the basics of forecasting in business. One of my clients went on to invent fitness equipment This was after I highlighted how, on the down months, he could create specialised packages and make even more profit. In terms of geographical areas, I sometimes traveled to my clients in wealthy neighbourhoods, like Belgravia in London. So word was getting out. I was also interviewed by MSN Money.

Knowing my worth

On one of my gaps from working, a friend asked me to help run their business. Initially it felt like a great idea, as I had no income. I had feelings of demotivation. At least I was getting out the house and earning a living again. At first I did not realise that I soon would be learning a valuable lesson about life and business: knowing my value.

The value I needed to realise was my lifelong investment in me. This included working for corporations. By developing and honing attributes such as tenacity, creativity, and good negotiating skills, I once tripled my earnings. But at the time I was not aware of this. Later on in this business relationship I went from helping to run the business to becoming a co-owner. And like what happens sometimes in both personal life and business, relationships break down. We parted in business. I learnt two major lessons: One, not to forget my law studies where I learnt the ingredients to form binding agreements, and two, always know my worth.

How could I ignore my wellbeing?

When we go through life’s challenging times, we need support and guidance. You may find this in religion or spirituality. I went through a challenging time when I had been out of work for a long period. This was not for the lack of not trying. It had become demoralising on a fortnightly basis, attending my appointment with my local job advisor, stating what I had been doing to seek work. To get a paltry sum – less than the equivalent of £150 per fortnight. This was to cover my food, travel expenses and sundries. This is not to say that I did not appreciate the benefit. But I questioned myself: had I not been ticking those life boxes? I learnt some great life lessons here, including humility and how my net worth was not equivalent to the job I performed. To be kind to myself.

I found solace in the self-help world. I got inspired to go down this rabbit hole from the inspirational posts popping up on Facebook. I discovered Gabby Bernstein through a female entrepreneur group. I read her book, Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Discovering Self-Love and Miracles, and I was hooked. I started to think more about how I approach everyday issues from a mental and spiritual perspective.

I’m single not dead: the birth of SophiaWorld

The words, Single Not Dead had caught my attention, one day when I was browsing tweets on Twitter. I found it to be comical and reached out to the editor, and before I knew it, I was writing my first guest blog post. It was about returning to the dating scene after being in a long-term relationship. How in the game you had to take the approach of the hare, instead of taking the slower pace of the tortoise, which is not too dissimilar to the rhythm of our current times, the rhythm of the fast pace and instant reward. I received a lot of positive feedback from the post. A friend suggested to me that I should start my own blog. I had been toying with the idea of creating a website I could use as a tool to self-promote and share my freelancer skills. The blogging prevailed. I was tagged as a lifestyle and wellness writer by an editor. I found writing therapeutic. It was an outlet where I could share my everyday insights and thoughts about life.

I do love talking to people

Networking for me has always been about building relationships. I love chatting to people, hearing their backstory, and finding that moment when they made a big decision that changed the course of their life. Everyone has a hurdle, a challenge that they encounter, even the entrepreneurs, celebrities, and glitterati. I thought, why not interview these people. So I launched the Go-Getter Me podcast, a medium that was said to be also a good marketing tool. I have interviewed some amazing people. The premise of the Go-Getter is to share that even those people whom we look up to, admire, or may aspire to be, that they too encounter their own trials and tribulations—and how they battle through them to succeed at achieving their dreams. Inspiration can save a person’s life when they may be losing hope. One of my initially reluctant interviewees turned and said to me, ‘Thank you Sophia, for being persistent in having me on your show. If I can help an individual, then that is great.’ And in that moment, I discovered my purpose, one that was bigger than just my individual interest: to inspire people to feel confident and comfortable, to be their best selves.

Something Big: I asked three times

I have heard that in one religion, when you are seeking to convert, that you must ask a spiritual/religious leader three times and will be rejected three times before you are allowed to convert. The repeated request to ensure your commitment. After a little while of seeing the impact my blog had on both me and my readers, I knew I wanted to increase its exposure. One way was to contribute and get published in a globally recognised publication. Huffington Post, now referred to as the HuffPost, was one such platform. I had the vision and believed that it would become a reality. So I wrote to them a total of three times, asking to contribute. After my first two attempts, I did not get a response. The third time, on the advice of a business mentor, I wrote directly to Arianna Huffington. Then an email directly from Ariana! To say that she would love to see my article, Falling In Love with Me, Again, in her publication. So as my dearly beloved, late father would say, ‘Don’t give up if you truly believe in your vision.’

I am a polymath

As you have read, I started my career taking a linear approach. Ticking those boxes, following the ‘conveyor belt lifestyle.’ I started to wake up, realising that it was not exactly right for me. Then I went out to explore and discover what was my thing, my niche. I learnt that I had to embrace my multiskills. How I could be doing things well simultaneously. So after I had finished my teacher training and immediately secured the post of the Visiting Law Lecturer, I was also contracting as a full-time Treasury Operations Accountant.

Now I have the freedom to design the format in which I do work and you can, too. You may find it in being location-independent, whilst travelling, or you may prefer a flexible work environment. You, like I, have value. Something to offer.

Thank you for reading. If you would like to read more from me on wellness, lifestyle, and emotional wellbeing, please go to my LoveHappyBody headquarters. There you can also see my page dedicated to my book Be Happy. The mini-guide is available at Amazon.

If you are seeking consultancy, or help with work formats, you can send an email to [email protected]

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