What were you doing this time last year? Maybe it’s your wedding anniversary. Or your kid’s birthday. Or your puppy’s birthday. Or your own birthday. Maybe you lost someone special. Maybe you found someone special.
It was also, of course, International Women’s Day.
I was in Dublin. I’d gone to a small IWD conference there. I was in the midst of a job search, and also something of a crisis of confidence. I was looking for a job – *the* job – and this place seemed a good one to start.
I’ve always been introverted and nervy in groups where I don’t know anyone, but this was a small seminar, and I thought I’d be okay.
Turns out, I wasn’t okay. Through all my ‘face the fear’ mantra, I had completely underestimated how unready I was to test myself in those sort of circumstances. I had no comfort zone of colleagues or company or cohort. I’d gone alone.
Somehow, a fog descended in my head. I’d forgotten how to talk to people. I couldn’t soak up information. I couldn’t do anything except cling to the walls, occasionally throw myself haphazardly into a conversation, and then hope the ground would swallow me up. I had no way of conducting any human connection to any of the (mostly) women there. I drank a lot of Prosecco and hung out in the kitchen a lot, just waiting for the night to end.
I took myself to the bathroom and gave the woman in the mirror a good talking to. I knew I was better than this. I knew I was more capable.
I went back to my hotel and cried on the bed. I got a couple of FaceTime pep talks. And the following day I came home.
And that was the start of my journey.
You see, I realised there, that what I lacked wasn’t desire. It was skills. And I realised that, while I’d gone there hoping to kickstart a job prospect, I came home actually seeking a new set of goals.
I knew I had some things to fix. I joined Toastmasters. I pushed on with building my network. I gathered a coworking group of supportive, wonderful, strong, intelligent, creative (and slightly batty) ladies (their words, not mine). And I went in search of a new set of goals.
I needed to improve my networking skills. I needed to rethink what I was going to do next. It certainly wasn’t going to be “look for a job”.
Late last summer, I stumbled across Support Driven. I’ve no idea how I’d not heard of it before. I thought, and still think, it’s just fab. I’ve become a bit addicted. Hello, my name is Charlotte, and I love online communities.
I almost immediately signed up to their Leadership Summit in Boston last October. I volunteered to help out. I knew I needed something to push me around the event and get me talking to people. That, and a few months of Toastmasters under my belt, and some familiarity with the folks in the Slack channel by then, meant this conference was an entirely different experience to the Dublin one. I was able to relate, talk, listen and learn. I was able to connect. I worked.
Over the autumn and winter, I’ve been to a few other meet-ups, conferences and groups. And, you know, I think I’ve pretty much fixed it.
Which is why, this March 8th, I was keen to stretch my networking legs on the anniversary of my 2018 “failure”. But, the sad truth is, that I just couldn’t find a suitable conference that fitted in with my availability today. There are some later in the month, and I’m sure I’ll be hanging out at one or two of those. But today, I just wanted to mark the actual anniversary. I wanted to note how far I’ve come this year.
So, hello, Support Driven women! I put out feelers and within minutes I had some 20+ bites of interest from women in the community who wanted to get together to mark the day. And so, we did. I hosted a Zoom call, and we talked. We talked about support and work and puppies and mentoring and kids and characters and women in tech and dishwashers and jobs and each other.
We shared stories of how much we all value the community. It lets us keep up with trends, it allows us to give and gain advice and support, it allows us to share resources, build business, and, yes, to hire or find jobs.
I ran a couple of polls during the call, which I thought were thought-provoking. The most wonderful, though, was a simple word cloud produced from “What word would you use to describe yourself?”. For me, this sums up the entire Support Driven community, and, most particularly, its women.
The biggest thing, though, is that we concluded by wondering what came next. It was pretty obvious to me. Let’s do this again. Someone had mentioned earlier today that IWD shouldn’t be a commercial gimmick like Valentine’s day, just one day of the year to celebrate women. The momentum needs to be maintained.
And so, we are going to do this again.
We are, after all, driven women. Support Driven Women.
This article first appeared on my Linkedin publications on March 8th 2019.