• Rachel Ireland

Allowing your life & business to evolve naturally

I had to update my CV last week, to apply for some freelance work I was really interested in. I hadn’t been asked for my CV for over five years.

So as I began the painstaking task of trying to remember everything I’d been doing with my life and presenting myself as someone who had some semblance of a cohesive career path, I had this feeling, just for a moment, that everything made sense. Even, perhaps, that everything had happened for a reason.

And if that were true, could I possibly believe that everything in the future would be okay too?

I’ve tried so many times to summarise what I do and what I love into a single sentence.

I’ve been to workshops about writing your elevator pitch, and yet when someone asks me what I do, I don’t even know where to start.

I often wish I did just one thing, but I don’t, or was only really interested in one topic, but I’m not.

As I looked back at my career, the decisions I made that I feel I need to defend; the changes I made, the ambitious projects I took on – on paper all seemingly so dispersed and unconnected, I can now see a faint dotted line connecting it all together and I wish I hadn’t worried so much about a traditional career path.

I worked for West Yorkshire Police as a video editor. It was my dream job at age 24.

I worked for The Prince’s Trust as a fundraising manager. It was my dream job at age 28.

I took voluntary redundancy to go self-employed. It was my dream job at age 34.

I started a social enterprise. It was my dream job at age 40.

Things change. People change. There’s no point fighting it.

When I went self-employed it was initially to be a writer. I was writing my own stories and plays at the time and the first project I took on was to organise a performance of my play at the local theatre. This involved getting it funded, recruiting actors, technicians, organising rehearsals & selling tickets. The performance went well but it didn’t directly lead to anything else.

So I started applying for freelance roles in theatres and arts organisations, and, not having much success, had many moments where I worried I’d made the wrong decision.

But then I started to get enquiries about writing for local charities, following the reputation I’d built up at The Prince’s Trust. Could I write copy for their website? Could I help them to write bids? Of course.

That led to researching potential funders and leading on writing bids.

That led to being commissioned to write fundraising strategies.

That led to gathering participant feedback and writing evaluation reports.

That led to writing bigger bids and managing projects.

That led to developing growth & sustainability strategies.

That led to being invited to run training workshops.

That led to being called to run creative workshops too.

That led to me starting my own not-for-profit.

That led to being consulted by start-up not-for-profits.

That led to mentoring start-up not-for-profits.

That led to me creating online training for not-for-profits.

That led to being invited to speak at events.

I felt like adding a note to my CV. I know it doesn’t make sense, sorry! But yet it does make sense, perfect sense.

It’s been the same with my social enterprise, The Creative Map. When I started out, I was delivering creative workshops in care homes and for volunteer groups. Next, I was asked to run some staff wellbeing sessions. Then we were funded to use creative activities to help people gain the confidence to get back into employment.

I catch myself trying desperately to steer my businesses in one direction, only for them to almost develop a mind of their own and go a completely different way.

Of course some of this is allowing your work, your business, or your career to go where the market need is. There’s no point spending all your time promoting something no one wants whilst ignoring the one thing everyone is asking for help with.

I think there’s a risk in ‘following your passion’ that you can sometimes miss the opportunities right in front of you.

I fought for a long time to only do my creative work, pretending my consultancy role was in the past. Yet when I let go and allowed my career to form its own path, it led me to this beautiful ‘in-between’ which effortlessly combines my creative and business expertise in helping people to turn their creativity and passion into a successful not-for-profit.

Our lives and careers are not supposed to form a nice neat line.

Instead of trying so hard to control it, what if we just let it drift sometimes, let it evolve, let it change, and let it guide us to our perfect next move.

You can find more details about workshops, courses & mentoring here on the website.

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