Let’s not beat around the bush (an interesting saying!), 2020 has been a tough year and it’s not over yet.

But I wanted to share my story, it may just provide some hope to those facing redundancy and/or are thinking about changing professions.

Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start… bonus points if you sung that with me). So, this time a year ago, I had just had the ‘redundancy news’. Unexpectedly and with immediate effect. It wasn’t just me, there were a few other Programme Managers let go, ‘last in, first out’ – you know the drill. Anyway, it was hard.

At the time, I was attending the Entrepreneurship module on my MBA course and tasked with modelling a business plan and business canvas for a small new business, of our own idea, running through the numbers, viability, business proposition, break-even point, funding needs, the works. Having just unexpectedly found some time in my diary… I volunteered for this group task. This presented the opportunity to really contemplate. If I did start my own business what would it be? Which route is for me? Hadn’t I worked extremely hard to be in the position I was in, in the corporate world? Anyway – I mapped out a Customer Experience Agency – not really knowing a huge amount about them at the time. I stood and pitched the idea to my fellow uni cohort and to my surprise was inundated with questions and the positive feedback that this was something that companies needed. With ‘I’d hire you, Sharon’ ringing in my ears, I did the due diligence and found a CX agency was very viable if I stuck to the business plan.

My strategy was to continue applying for senior level corporate roles, but to establish the agency in the background and ‘see where it went’. Anyway – lockdown hit. The interviews in my diary fell away. At this point, I was thankful for the ‘distraction’ of the CX agency launch. I began exploring the credentials needed, the experience; and found to my delight that many of the projects, programmes and strategies delivered across my career, were actually strongly customer and employee experience related. They were badged under operations, but my own customer centric core had meant that they were all heavily delivering CX and EX.

With the wind now behind me, I passed my CCXP exam, completed a CX Strategy certification at uni, became a member of the CXPA, and began networking with my new CX peers (I have NEVER found a more welcoming community!). Everyone now on lockdown meant plenty of opportunities to catch webinars, meet new contacts and get stuck in. I won my first two CX clients (thank you Mark Parker!) for my new agency, and I was in business! Rock n’ roll!!!

I had my first CXM article published in March – and had it framed immediately. My CX journey had well and truly begun. I was then offered the exciting opportunity to pen a chapter in the CX2 book (thank you Naeem Arif!) along with 23 other global CX professionals, and nearly split my face in half with the biggest smile – holding that first published copy! A bucket list item – an author!!

I was a judge for the UK CX awards, delivered several global keynotes and was invited to join and then be a captain for the CX World Games (thank you Christopher Brooks!). I also joined the Customer Institute as a Director, and joined a project with the CXPA; shaping the future five-year framework for the structure of CCXP.

I’m now the Chief Customer Officer for an amazing tech company MKL Innovation, and still run the CX consultancy – MKL CX on the side, coaching, training others on CX all over the UK, and delivering CX strategies, audits and projects.

An absolute whirlwind of opportunities. So, what are my titbits for you?

Turning your back on a profession that you thought was yours for life and where you’ve worked your way to the top – can be tough. BUT – there are always transferable skills, and you may just land in your dream profession (like I have!) by exploring your passions and rediverting/tweaking your skills. You don’t have to start from scratch. Much of what I do now, overlaps closely with my previous skillset – I still deliver Customer facing projects and programmes – though now it is badged CX – and so much more intentionally centred around the customer. So – go for it. Take small steps if you need to – but take the step. You can always go backwards, but you’ll never know if you don’t try!

Again, if you are thinking about starting out on your own – its rough. It’s a leap of faith. You need to believe in yourself, follow your passion and ensure you have people around you who will lift you up, have your back and support you. I’m not sure I would’ve done it had I not had the 2020 forces in play and the support network I have – but I can’t tell you how happy I am now. I work incredibly hard (but then I always did in the corporate world) but now, I have no office politics, and my success and failures stop and start with me. An Accountability Partner helps (thank you Katie Stabler!).

So, lastly – please have hope. A redundancy or difficult situation doesn’t have to be doom and gloom, take the time to ponder. It could be the start of something truly amazing – just like it has been for me. Good luck (and take the step!).

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