A Personal Story and Journey to SmartWorking – Helen Adams
What happens when you move country, start a family and then feel that it’s time to re-engage with your career, only to find that the landscape has changed in every possible way?
A journey begins that requires some deep soul searching, together with the patience to accept that you might not get it right straight away.
Amongst the many wonderful people I have met in Dublin since moving here in 2006, I usually get asked at some point, “So, what brought you to Ireland?” It’s a fair question and comes with a predictable enough answer, “Love actually”. No-one is that surprised and the conversation quickly moves on. I am one of the millions who has made such a journey; sometimes it’s a city, sometimes it’s a country and sometimes it’s continent. The journey can be for a whole variety of reasons too – family, health, economics, politics, new job, promotion, new opportunities and so on.
Starting out in a new country, depending on your outlook, can be thrilling, stimulating expansive and very rewarding. It can also be a culture shock, it can be isolating, you can feel homesick, you can miss what is familiar, and you can sometimes feel as though you don’t quite fit in. Before moving to Ireland, I had lived and worked in other countries and spoken other languages so perhaps the leap wasn’t so daunting. It was also helpful to have someone who could introduce me to family and friends. The simple truth though is, after a while, you’re on your own. You have to make your own network.
Starting a Family
In a very short period of time there were ‘suddenly’ two children on the scene. Whilst still managing the social and cultural blending aspects of my life in Dublin, I was suddenly very occupied, and with little, or no time to contemplate work or career. Sometimes unexpected positive outcomes can arise with planned and also forced life changing decisions. In my case, having landed in a new city, with no network of my own, I was suddenly thrust into a ‘new parenthood’ network and the bonus was that it came with a totally level playing field. Meeting new parents and finding people who I could relate to was not that dissimilar from the first few days of college; loads of eagerness and everyone just spilling their beans, no censorship and very bonding with tea rather than beer.
Career to Date
My background is in theatre, playwrighting, teaching drama and working for media and arts organisations. Professionally, the last major thing I did before leaving the UK was to take a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate of Education) at Goldsmiths, University of London, which qualified me to teach Drama in secondary schools. I saw it as a global passport to work. What I hadn’t planned for, was finding myself just several years after qualifying, becoming a parent and living in Ireland which was fine of course but what didn’t help was that my ‘global passport’ did not fit into the Irish education system as Drama is not taught as a discrete subject. There was no job to go back to, no qualifcations that I could immediately transfer into a job (as I saw it then) and so I had to start thinking laterally.
When my second child was just about walking I set up my own drama school, the Camden School of Drama. I cycled around the local schools, handing out flyers, selling my wares and chatting up parents with a babe locked under my arms. Looking back I always saw this initiative as more of a vocation, as a means of keeping my skills fresh and alive, rather than any form of entrepreneurship. I never thought of my skills as a commodity, something sought after, or something that could be ‘properly’ income generating. After a few brilliant years with some fabulous students producing some great work, I decided the drama school had run its course. I couldn’t make it financially viable and it was in danger of becoming just another passion project. I needed to get a job.
Moving Forward and Digging Deep
Around 2015 I was going around telling people that I was unemployable – at the same time as needing a job! I was a living contradiction. To challenge myself, and partly out of desperation, I hired a careers coach. By the end of that process, I realised it wasn’t a job as such I was looking for, but more a way of breaking a deadlock of thinking. I realised that I had to focus really hard to work out what I was good at, and try to find a way of packaging that to offer as a service to others. I discovered that once you open up the channels to allow your thinking to change, it’s easier to take action. After that you need to be realistic, and allow for things to build at their own pace rather than expect them to come to you.
My mindshift moment has allowed me to put myself forward as a storyteller. My clients need someone who can upgrade the written content of their website to tell their story or start from scratch, who can write and edit blog content, who can ghost-write fiction and non-fiction, and who can write copy for existing, new and emerging brands. I’m quite good on my feet too! I’m meeting some amazing people en route who also have a passion for storytelling and understand how it works; Jack Murray for example, CEO and Founder of All Good Tales. Jack had his own eureka moment in terms of how storytelling can impact the business of communications.
At the moment I’m in the early stages of writing my first screenplay, and working with an incredible script editor. Just a few weeks ago, I got selected by the Stewart Parker Trust in collaboration with Dublin Theatre Festival to attend a free two day event exploring the professional landscape of play writing in Ireland for emerging and established playwrights. I really want to go back to my ‘paused’ playwriting self and did actually have a play on at the National Theatre London a while back. I’ve even got an interview next week to work as a marriage celebrant – they put storytelling, performance and drama skills at the very centre of their approach to training. It seems there may be a few possible places to hang my hat in this now more familiar landscape.
I like to think that it’s ‘digging deep’, taking risks and being prepared to fail that’s brought me to this moment. My journey fits into the adaptive ethos of Abodoo. We all have a lot more to offer than we think, and we can all go about finding work, finding clients, finding employers by believing in ourselves a little bit more.
In many respects I’ve arrived at SmartWorking without fully understanding what it is.
Guest Blogger Bio:
Helen Adams (MA Contemporary Theatre Practice, University of Essex) is a storyteller, playwright, screenwriter and drama teacher. She is interested in all aspects of storytelling and offers writing services for websites, blogs, ghost-writing, brand stories and all areas of communications.
To get in touch please drop me an invite and note on LinkedIn.