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Non-linear Career Paths: Redefining Success

By Amelia Barnett

The Non-linear Career Paths event delivered a powerful message, challenging the conventional notion of a linear career trajectory and emphasising the value of embracing a squiggly path to success. The panel featured three remarkable women who shared their unconventional career journeys:


Karen Underwood a former dancer turned funeral director, who later founded X-Press Legal Services, which provides reports and data for conveyancers and property solicitors.


Rebecca Woolington an HR specialist and founder of HR Central, which provides HR support and talent acquisition for SMEs in the UK.


Nicole Clewer a lover of all things social media having worked on both sides of the industry, she founded a marketing and communications company, Clewer Communications.


The panel discussed everything from how to deal with being the only women in the room to their work-life balance. The three things I took away from this are the importance of a good support network, failure as redirection and saying yes to new opportunities.


When asked about a work-life balance, the panellists answered honestly and said they do not always have it. Building a business from scratch demands hard work and dedication. They attributed their success to a reliable support network, emphasising the crucial role of supportive partners and like-minded friends who offer grounding and encouragement during challenging times. Seeking help is not a failure; it is a stepping stone for future success.


Nobody wants to fail, but sometimes failure is required to guide you to what you are ultimately meant to do. Nicole created Dot Dash Activewear, as she wanted to create high-quality active wear for her personal training clients. She was nominated as a finalist for the Drapers Independent Award, and featured in Marie Claire, Women Health and Runners World UK. Although she had some incredible successes, after a few years working on her business, she knew it was unlikely to last due to various considerations. With the lessons she learnt from this "failure", she pivoted to building Clewer Communications. Nicole’s story reinforces that failure sometimes is the nudge you need to create something better than what you had before.


All three panellists agreed that some of the most unlikely opportunities have come from just saying yes. Rebecca worked in the offshore industry as a HR manager and consequently spent time out on oil rigs. She recalled some great stories, which followed the theme of her often being the only woman in the room. However, it was evident that she loved her time there and learnt so much that would help her with her future career. Opportunities present themselves all the time. Try saying yes to more opportunities, even if they do not directly align with what you think you want to do. You never know what may come from it.


These inspirational women found success through twists and turns they would not trade. In a world where careers are often seen as linear progressions, these stories break the mould, reassuring us as students that the unconventional path might be the key to realising our true potential.


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