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  • Writer's pictureAmy Neilson

My Story: Throwing Out The Rule Book

Inspired by an article on no longer aiming to climb the career ladder, I thought it was time to share my story.

This is for any young women (or men), still feeling like their 'job' they have is all they have to offer the world. I've gone one step further and thrown the concept of a 'career' out the window.

I realise I'm not breaking new ground here, with new entrepreneurs killing it around the world, but if this story resonates with one person, it'll be worth it. It's a story I wish I had known 20 years ago...

Following The Path

As long as I could remember I got told I had to do well at school, in order to go to university - no one in my family had ever been. I had to get a job and be the hyper successful, independent career woman the generation before me had longed to be. It was a privilege! I better not let it go.

I did what I needed to. But I was always confused about the final destination. Commuting to school in the middle of central London from age 11. Being made to pick 4 subjects - at the age of 14. Exams that you had to use a certain rule book to pass - because even though certain answers were right, they weren't the ones they were 'looking for'. What a minefield.

All to make it into a fancy big office that I didn't know yet.

"You Raised Some Eyebrows"

At 16 we were thrown into compulsory 'work experience'. Which basically meant you were an unpaid inconvenience for some poor company for the week. I chose a PR company that I thought sounded like fun. And it was - for the most part. I also had a vision into pointless meetings - and how oddly people communicated with each other in this kind of world. It was like they were all acting. But I did well, was well-liked by the team and journalists.

On my last day the (scary) boss lady, sent a note to my mum (not me) saying that my work wear had 'raised some eyebrows'. There was a heat wave in London that week and (surprisingly) at the tender age of 16, my workwear wardrobe wasn't extensive. Wow. I felt like a fool. I was terrified of going into an office I didn't know ever again.

Good Boss, Bad Boss

Years of working for various different 'bosses' over the years, some brilliant, some absolutely terrible, has taught me that a considerable amount.

A note for any 'bosses' out there. Remember your employees are just humans trying to do their best. Be kind, trusting and communicate. You will get a hell of a lot more out of people who respect you. If they are crippled by your toxicity and fearful of being told off, you'll get a hell of a lot less.

I still don't claim to know a thing about HR, but I have been that middle manager, seen a team struggle and the boss beat them down even further. To what end?

P.s. ask yourself what insecurities you might be projecting on to them.

Be aware that the way you treat someone will be leave a mark, sometimes for years to come. Every client, partner, supplier I now work with I treat with a huge amount of respect. Consider the analogy of going on a date. They treat you like gold and the wait staff like rubbish. Alarm bells. Treat your employees the same as you would treat your customers. If not better. They are your gateway to a bigger and better business.

Good bosses... you know who you are, one in particular. If you're reading this, know that you changed how I viewed work relationships, beyond measure.

Throwing Out The Corporate Rule Book

I always wanted a varied 'career' and boy have I managed that. FMCG, travel, financial services, the luxury sector - you name it. Have I had a successful career on paper? Probably. There is no doubting that. So, this isn't a story of failure.

In fact, before I made a big move, I got offered an incredible role between New Zealand, Sydney and Paris. Who could turn that down? Me.

Did I always feel like there was something better, than these odd corporate rule books, so many of us were living by? Absolutely.

Cue COVID... and I got made redundant for the second time by the age of 30. Ouch. Standing on a balcony in Australia, sipping a gin, hearing that Tom Hanks had COVID in the resort next door. It was a surreal moment. I was with my (now) husband (who I'd only been with a year at the time) 2 step kids ...and my Mother In Law.

I didn't know if we were going to be able to get home... or how I would afford to live in a few weeks time. F**k.

I knew it was time to take the plunge. It's easy to do when you have nothing and nowhere else to turn.

I'm forever grateful for Scott Ede who told me he'd love me if I worked at MacDonald's as long as I was happy. My identity was so wrapped up in having a career... I was flummoxed. No one would want me if I didn't have a good job...surely?

Business No. 1

I spent lockdown crafting the business I'd dreamt of starting for years. A Fitness, Nutrition and Mindset Coaching business to absolutely transform people's lives.

Was I qualified? I wasn't a nutritionist or dietician - but shit did people ask me for a lot of advice on fitness and nutrition.

I'd studied with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition the previous year alongside my corporate job. At university studying Human Geography I'd written countless papers at university on the Geographies of Health, Epidemiology of Obesity (yes, a mouthful I know - pardon the pun), the Ethnography of Consumption Spaces, the Psychology of Spaces and Food Security. I thought that was a pretty good starting point.

Helping people navigate nutrition at the start of the pandemic was how it all started.

I knew our food and consumption landscape was already a mess... and now it was changing even more considerably.

While I was spending lockdown walking, cycling and eating incredible food (because I could cook at home) - I was getting messages from people suddenly struck with fear, anxiety and an unprecedented lack of accountability we'd never seen before. Chips and Netflix? Sure. More wine? Yup! Why don't we bake to pass the time? People were hurting and I knew I could help.

3 Years later - amidst an obesity epidemic I've helped people lose over 300kg (possibly more) through Amy's Fitness & Nutrition. We've reversed high cholesterol, reversed obesity, normalised blood sugar levels, transformed people's confidence, their moods and more. It was a terrifying plunge to take at the time, but with a stack of undeniable proof that what I am doing is working, it's a bloody brilliant feeling.

Business No. 2 - You're Here!

Alongside getting this business up and running, I had friends in the industry and local area desperately asking me how to market and pivot their business through the pandemic. After numerous favours, support in return for cases of wine - people were actively asking to pay for my support. This was a foreign concept to me.

I'd always had to fight for jobs. With CV's, interviews and complicated questions about my life trajectory - that ensured I'd be 'locked in' with them for as long as they wanted me.

Here were people offering me money, to help them with their businesses. They hadn't seen my CV. They just knew me, my skills and my knowledge base. They knew that they would get more than their money back in knowledge and value.

My clients now range from small local start ups to international hotel groups. I help them with everything from building confidence in themselves and their business, to deep strategy work and navigating this ever-changing world of online media. I love working with each and every single one of them and have yet to be 'told off'.

Now, through Central Marketing Co. I help other business owners and corporate teams, with methods I know work. Where's the rule book? There isn't one. But it's working.

How Life Has Changed

3 years into starting my own businesses and life has changed quite a bit.

I haven't looked at a CV in 3 years. No one has asked to see my degree... or even asked if I finished school.

I kid you not. I wouldn't say I work exceptionally 'hard' despite waking up to work at 4am some days and probably overdelivering when I need not. Work you enjoy doesn't feel 'hard'.

I go for walks and dips in the lake whenever I feel like it.

I am earning more than I ever have. It has taken a while to get my head around. For years it felt like I was cheating. Everyone is throwing around 'imposter syndrome', but I can relate. I had a crippling feeling that someone was going to come along and tell me what I was 'no good'.

Unlearning The Rule Book

I huge thanks to my friend and coach who pointed out being 'told off' was most of what I'd known, so it made sense to expect it. As an ex-corporate accountant she had a similar feelings of guilt. That we shouldn't be this 'successful' without being wrapped in a high rise office and surrounded by suits.

I am incredibly grateful for my 'career' as it has taught me a hell of a lot, but...

I am very happy to say, the corporate rule book I was dealt as a young woman, is well and truly shut.

Not every day is the dream. You put a lot of pressure on yourself as an entrepreneur. But surround yourself with good people. Know your value. And in the words of Alex Hormozi just keep stacking that undeniable proof in your favour, until the worries and doubt melt away.

Raising Eyebrows

I'm still raising eye brows. With my knowledge, my motivation ...and my wardrobe. Do I need a flash title? Haha... no thanks. I've been a Head of Marketing enough times to know the headaches it comes with. Do I call myself a CEO? No, but I earn more than most I have worked below.

Like a female Steve Jobs, my workwear has become a staple set of Lululemons most days. Marketing meetings and events? Jeans and any fun relics I fancy digging out of my corporate wardrobe. But what I wear is my choice.

I'd love to see the face of my first ever 'boss' seeing me post a picture in a sports bra... I bet it'd 'raise some eye brows'.

How You Can Work With Me

If you've keen to find out more about which areas you should be focussing on or if you are ready to book a strategy session, get in touch...

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