After leaving university with a First Class degree in French, I fell into working as a Personal Assistant for a Private Equity firm in London. Of course, I hadn’t planned that route for myself, but like many women leaving university, there was no clear path I wanted to take, and the easiest thing open to me was office work.
I supported an all male team in a busy London office.
At first it was pretty exciting, because being in the financial sector, I earned a lot considering how mundane the work was. It allowed me to buy a flat, take trips to the theatre, eat out, shop, and generally enjoy everything London had to offer.
But it wasn’t even six months in that I realised it really wasn’t for me.
Back in that first job, I made a very good friend. Someone who, like me, had also fallen into office support work. The only difference was that 15 years later, she was still there.
In me she saw her younger self: full of drive, energy, passion and ambition, and she warned me to get out as quickly as possible before it sucked my creative spirit dry.
It only took me four years to follow her advice.
When I finally left office work to start a new career path, I was laden down with self-doubt and fear. Years of working in support roles, under teams of men, had left me wondering whether I was actually capable of anything more.
THE TRUTH ABOUT WOMEN IN SUPPORT ROLES
I know many women who work in administrative support roles.
Some of them love their jobs, and have a sense of pride in what they do. I’m happy for them, and I’m glad they’ve found work that satisfies them.
But amongst the women I know, there are many, many who wish they were doing something else.
And yet they feel trapped. Sometimes by the money, yes, but most often they are trapped by their own lack of self-belief in their ability to do anything outside of calendar management, printing, filing and faxing.
And I find it desperately sad that so many women find themselves trapped by these feelings, because what I know to be true is that they are exceptionally gifted, intelligent, and creative women.
They are artists, musicians, dancers, writers, bakers, gardeners, tattoo artists, actors, painters, photographers, singers and more. So much more.
But their gifts remain hobbies and side projects, because they have zero belief in themselves as women capable of turning their passions into a business. They define themselves by the work they are currently paid for.
A MESSAGE TO WOMEN WHO WANT TO BREAK FREE OF THEIR SUPPORT ROLE CAREERS
I want to send a message to any woman in an office support role who harbours a dream of doing something else.
Do not define yourself by what you are currently paid to do.
The gifts and skills you pursue outside of your 9-5 are every bit as valuable as the work you are currently paid for. Please start to appreciate and value yourself more than you already do. Please start to see yourself as equal to the men you support. Please start to realise that you are capable of everything you ever dreamed of. Please start to show your gifts to the world. Please start to understand just how much you have inside you and just how much you are worth.
There's really nothing wrong with working in office support roles. That's not what I'm trying to say here.
But if you ever had a dream of doing something else with your life, do not limit yourself by thinking you've spent too long in office work and are no longer capable of doing anything else. I overcame my doubt and fear to start out on a new path. And I know you can do that, too.