The Digital Conversationalist

Andrea T Edwards

Why it’s OK to go backwards in your career to ensure you keep moving forward

At the end of 2012, I came to the conclusion that I was too early trying to establish a business that offered content marketing in the Asia Pacific region – after years of trying – but timing is everything and I got my timing wrong. So I decided to reach out to my contacts to see if any work opportunities were available.

This was a really hard moment for me and I felt like a failure. It was definitely a challenging time personally.

But in not succeeding in my business, another impact was a massive loss of confidence in my ideas. That was probably the hardest thing to overcome.

In my outreach, Andrew Pickup of Microsoft – who’d just been appointed to head the comms team for Asia and who I knew from my London days – came back to me and said he needed someone to run analyst relations across Asia. So we met and I didn’t say yes straight away, because this is the role I was doing 20 years before (when I first met Andy), and it felt like a massive step backwards.

As I drove away from our meeting I realized one essential truth that has guided me for all of my career and life – focus on what you can control. Here I was with a wonderful opportunity, working with a company I loved, AND it would provide the opportunity to look inside one of the world’s great companies and see where it was in regards to its thinking about content marketing.

So I got home from the meeting, reached out to Andy and said yes, I’ll do it!

Thank you Microsoft

My time at Microsoft was amazing. The people, it’s role in the world, and the chance to do ground-breaking work with a community I loved – the analysts. I did this job for just over two years, and it got me connected with so many fabulous people, professional connections I wouldn’t have been able to develop myself, and it’s where the concept of social leadership first made sense to me.

My colleagues were special people, and groups started asking me to train them on social leadership, which was a chance to start building training materials for when the time was right to try my entrepreneurial journey again. I am still using this content to this day – if a little more evolved.

Most importantly, it gave me my confidence back – especially confidence in my ideas. I had lost so much faith in myself, so it was an amazing benefit of doing this job. I loved this time and will always be grateful for it, especially because of the people I met.

Roll the clock forward, and that moment of stepping back became an opportunity to leap forward over the next few years, and I know it wouldn’t have happened without that experience.

So for anyone who is struggling to find work right now, or those not willing to step back in your career because you think it will hurt your progress in the longer term, and especially those who’ve had a big kick to their self-confidence, don’t be scared to step back to move forward.

Attitude is everything

But you have to go into your work with the right attitude. First up, it will help get you through for now and give you a sense of self-worth. Equally, wherever you go, you will build awesome relationships and make new friendships, which will be an asset in your future. And if you start positioning yourself beautifully on social media as an expert in the field you do want to be in, those doors will open faster.

During my whole time at Microsoft, I never stopped blogging or sharing information on social media about content marketing. I kept that side of me going, regardless of anything else, because I never lost sight of where I wanted to go.

If I had lost that, I think it would have been really hard for me to stay positive and optimistic, let alone being able to leap when the time was right. And eventually it was. Social leadership was my way of owning my journey, rather than getting lost on a path I didn’t want to follow long term.

The problem with ego

It’s a painful kick in the ego stepping back, but the longer you hold out for the perfect job, the higher chance other negative impacts will kick in (like lack of confidence, self-belief, etc..) and that can make the journey longer and harder. Some will get stuck in the depths of depression too.

If this time is breaking you or you find yourself slipping into depression because you can’t get the work you think is owed to you, it’s a good time to reassess and open your eyes to bigger and broader opportunities.

Check out this article: Agency worker’s LinkedIn rant about ‘picky’ staff leads to job offers for a bit of inspiration of what stepping back looks like, and what can be open to you with the right attitude. See how cleverly he uses social media too? A critical tool in the current environment.

Remember, when you own your voice, you own your future. Equally, when you own your voice, you get to contribute to our collective future. Owning your voice is one of the most powerful things you can do right now to get the right attention, and once you start working, you keep going and using your voice to define the path you want, beyond where you find yourself today.

I can’t promise it will be quick, but I can promise it is worth the effort if you never lose focus of the bigger dream. Always be building towards what you want. Don’t ever think you’re stuck. You are in control, but it’s up to you to take that control.

Let me know if you’ve had an experience of stepping back to move forward? Or if you would never be willing to even consider it?



Coming soon – Uncommon Courage

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