by pamela welling
I have a confession- I am a closet Victoria Beckham fan, something it seems it is deeply uncool to admit. I’ve always liked her, even despite my musical snobbery and contention that the Spice Girls did all sorts of untold damage to the global image of all things England. Beckham is a successful mum, wife and entrepreneur. She’s grown up in the often harsh lens of the public eye, weathered some deeply critical press coverage, moved all over the world to support her husband’s career and managed to keep her marriage together despite said husband’s high profile infidelity. To my mind she could teach classes to the most experienced CEOs about successfully managing media storms, PR nightmares and when to take the communication high road…… and all this whilst maintaining perfect hair and wearing sky high heels. Frankly, I think she’s a super hero.
But the main reason I’m such a big fan is down to what I see as her commitment to staying engaged with her own professional evolution and ability to follow new sources of inspiration despite intensely negative push back. Beckham is into her fourth career, which is not bad for a woman not yet 40; she’s been a Spice Girl, a solo singer, a full time mum and now, a serious contender in a field that is notoriously fickle (viz. fashion). She might not be offering those workshops to the c-suite (yet) but in the meantime, here’s what I think we can learn about career change from Victoria Beckham:
1) There will always be negative press: Whether it’s colleagues who are jealous of your success (like one coachee I’m working with this week) or tabloids pointing out your lack of experience, there will always be people who are not happy for you. So how do you overcome that resistance? Like Beckham, you can be strategic about who sits on your personal board of directors (she surrounds herself with personal and professional friends with business smarts and a depth of experience like Simon Fuller and Elton John). You might not be able to call up Sir Elton just yet, but you can decide who is giving you informed advice you should listen to and act upon vs. detractors who don’t have a clue.
2) Follow your passion: Beckham followed her love of building a look and eye for impactful trends into a career into the fashion industry, a factor she credits as integral to the commercial success and critical acclaim she has garnered since launching her clothing line in 2008. Not every passion you have will bring you to career nirvana, but looking at the things that move you could be a good starting point. A quick audit of interests could help you feel more connected to what you are doing right now and help you identify what direction your compass could be pointing to in the future.
3) Use your network and get exposure: By signing on as a model and spokeswoman for various luxury brands, Beckham got exposure to the business side of the creative process. She was able to harness the lessons she learned and the connections she made when it came to launching her own fragrance, accessory and clothing lines. Identifying people in your network who have unique insights into an area of your interest is a good first step to building out your knowledge base.
Finally, despite her vast personal wealth and connections, Beckham was smart enough (and humble enough) to know she needed to start small to go big. She launched her fashion label with one simple product- the shift dress- and built her line from there. And this, for me is the most important lesson we can learn from Beckham- often when we think about change we feel the pressure to go big or go home and often times, although it feels cool to have big results immediately that just isn’t the smartest move.
So when you are thinking about your next transition, I challenge you to join me in being unafraid to start small, to take your time in investigating your options and admitting to your ‘uncool’ by flying the flag for the people that truly move and inspire you most, in spite of what the hipsters might think.