Guest post: "I spent decades dodging opportunities – now, I'm my own boss"
Workfest speaker Esha Johnson describes how last year’s event inspired her to quit her job and set up her own business
If you're looking to kickstart your career, come along to Workfest on 14 May - a day of expert advice, practical workshops and inspiring speakers
Entrepreneur and counsellor
Posted on: Mon 04-Apr-16 15:21:10
(12 comments )
Before Workfest 2015, I was angry and unhappy at work. I'd worked for 14 years as a senior sexual abuse counsellor for children and young people. The job was comfortable, until the work demands created an environment of discontent. My moods were so bad my daughters began to complain about the eggshell atmosphere; my husband was so worried about my health and emotional wellbeing he told me to quit. In the end, work became so stressful I was hospitalised. I was burnt out.
The risk of leaving seemed overwhelming. I craved something new, but I feared losing my steady income. In the back of my mind I kept thinking, "Who wants what I have to offer?" I was scared of not being good enough. At 55, I'd spent so many years hiding behind my children or filling my time investing in others. I'd served the needs of young people seeking counsel, support or a place of refuge for 20 years.
I think there is a battle between the desire to fully invest in your children, and to pursue your career goals. When I was working while my children were young, I desperately wanted to be a stay-at-home mum. I hated someone else telling me about my daughter's first steps; I didn't enjoy waking my children up early to take them to nursery; I dreaded hearing my youngest scream as I left. I feared the prospect of taking time off when my children were ill and resented the fact my employers didn't appear to care about my children’s welfare. I would have preferred to be my own boss, but I was paralysed. I hid my dreams, and focused on my children’s instead. I dodged opportunities, my fear of getting it wrong preventing me from taking risks at all. As time passed I started using my age as another excuse.
I had no more excuses. There I was, sitting in a room filled with energetic entrepreneurial mums, many doing what I wanted to do - being their own boss - and enjoying the journey. I left buzzing, and felt that finally I had goals I wanted to achieve for myself.
It wasn't until I attended Workfest, purely by chance, that I realised the extent of my hidden ambitions. I considered myself a good counsellor, one passionate about empowering others but, somehow, I'd never managed to empower myself to follow my dreams. From the outset, I was blown away and greatly inspired. The dreams I'd been too afraid the act on started to surface.
I had no more excuses. There I was, sitting in a room filled with energetic entrepreneurial mums, many doing what I wanted to do - being their own boss - and enjoying the journey. I felt encouraged and uplifted as I realised that it's never too late to start. I remember lifting up my hand, and stating that by Workfest 2016, my business would be up and running. I left buzzing, and felt that finally I had goals I wanted to achieve for myself.
After Workfest, I left my job, becoming a private practitioner so I could set up my business, Luminous Counselling. I continued my community work as both a mental health advocate and mentor. I enrolled on business training, found a business mentor, searched for an artist to develop some characters I'd created and established a focus group to gather feedback. I've been learning to network with likeminded people and re-vamped my workshop, 'Exploring Your Creativity Through Poetry'. I wrote a children's story and have many ideas for more. With a new lease of life, I also decluttered my house, lost weight and embraced a healthier approach towards my future.
The best thing is the knock-on effect: our family started a working group that meets monthly to share ideas, advice and support for each of our businesses. A number of women, inspired by my decision to give up a salary and branch out alone, are now moving toward fulfilling their goals.
I believe some women, including myself, suppress their potential to invest in their children. We don't realise we can have both. Workfest helps women figure out how you can balance children with your professional ambitions. It helped me to value myself and realise that I am good enough, I can do this, there is room for me. My goals to set up my own counselling service, develop a parenting safety teaching pack and become a writer are all achievable. I'm now my own boss – and I have no regrets.
By Esha Johnson
I really enjoyed reading this. I'd love to work for myself, but my job (which I love) is only possible within a large organisation. Who knows what the future will bring though .
Wow. It sounds like you must have had all the resources in you all along and this just gave you the push you needed. Once you made the decision you really followed through. I'd be interested to know how you came up with the action plan. Glad to hear that you are still continuing to provide help for people who really need it.
Is this advertising? I don't understand the reason for your post.
You did what exactly? You quit your job and then got the NHS to hire you again as a private self employed counsellor?
What's changed? That allowed you time to write poetry?
It all seems very odd.
and how does that help people who don't have the advantages you do someone who is on benefits? a single parent with no support and three children?
im uninspired by this
It doesn't say that the OP worked for the NHS, then started her own company offering services to the NHS though, does it ? And even if she did, why is that specifically wrong?
I also don't see how every blog or whatever can be inspirational to every person in different circumstances .
I definitely don't have any potential, lol.
Just hoping not to screw up too bad.
I was a few rows behind you when you made your (much applauded) promise at Workfest, and I'm so pleased to hear that you followed through. I also got a huge boost from that day and have since started a professional services firm with two former colleagues. There have been ups and downs in the past year but I certainly don't regret having made the jump.
Best of luck with meeting all the goals you've set...
I love this! Definitely understand your point about undervaluing yourself - I think it's a problem that particularly affects women, and it's so important to remember that you don't need to wait around for someone to 'appoint' you to do something. Asking "why not me?" is an excellent way to counter this
I get it. I find your experience inspiring and motivating. Congrats Esha, and thank you for sharing.
what an inspirational story! I keep thinking i'm 'past it' for starting up a new career (seems silly as i'm only 38 and plenty of years left in me hopefully) but i think it is the fear factor speaking. I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to believing in myself. Well done Esha for doing this and for inspiring others so much!
Great post Esha! There will always be those that want to knock others down. No post will ever speak to everyone but there are people out here that really want to hear your voice, so shout out!