How To Make Your Career Resolutions Happen, From 5 Women Who Did It

We're all guilty of doing it. We start out the New Year with a flurry of half-articulated ideas for transforming our lives. This is the year we get that pay rise. This is the year we write that book and start that business. This is the year we quit our job and follow our dream.

And sometimes, this is the year. Other times, it's just the year that didn't deliver on those promises. It happens: Life gets in the way, other concerns take precedent, things fall through, and rocking the career boat seems too risky.

For these five London-based women, however, those career resolutions — from launching a new business to transitioning to a different field — did become a reality. Here, they share the steps they took to make it all happen.

Photo: Courtesy of Lizzy Bassham.
Lizzy Bassham, director of Lizzy's at the Coal House and Lizzy's on the Green
Resolution: Open a café

What's your background in food?
"Having been an actress for nearly 10 years, I had always subsidised my career with a home baking business, delivering cakes across East London to Climpson & Sons, Wilton Way Café, Cooper and Wolf, and Palm 2, to name a few. One day my flatmate's dad saw an A4 notice on essentially a 'shack in a park' asking to email if interested in taking it on. I applied and got it! It changed everything. Nearly four years later, Lizzy's on the Green has just won the Time Out Love London Award for best café in Stoke Newington and has become the heartbeat for a community. I love it."

How did you know the time was right to open a larger brick-and-mortar café?
"Lizzy's on the Green was well-established and the support from all my customers was breathtaking. I was approached to apply for a huge space in the London Wildlife Trust's Woodberry Wetlands nature reserve, with an opportunity to expand the kitchen and take on events. The time was just... right. My proposal was based entirely on ethos and what people love in a café, not how much money I could throw at it; running a café has to be about community and not cash for me. I knew I could offer that and thank goodness the London Wildlife Trust saw that and gave me the opportunity to open Lizzy's at the Coal House. We opened on 1 May 2016 and had 3,500 visitors in the first week alone."

What's been the biggest "pinch me" moment since opening up the Coal House space?
"Meeting David Attenborough! He opened the Woodberry Wetlands and was my first customer at Lizzy's at the Coal House. He was hilarious and very kind. What a legend. What a year."

What's been the most rewarding part?

"People love and appreciate the quality of the produce and the care and attention put into every dish and coffee served. The atmosphere is always buzzing and fun. I am most proud of my team, who have become a powerhouse. We couldn't have estimated how busy the café would be this summer and every day they have brought me and all the customers joy.

What are your goals for the year ahead?
"To get Lizzy's at the Coal House open in the evenings. We are ready for dinner service and it's time to let the restaurant fly. I also want to establish our kitchen garden on the roof of the Coal House to grow edible flowers and herbs for the dishes. I would also love to have a full programme of summer events at Lizzy's on the Green."

Any career advice you'd like to share?
"If you genuinely care for the coffee, the food, the customers, and most importantly your staff, you can't go wrong."
Photo: Courtesy of Victoria Haynes.
Victoria Haynes, founder and CEO of Hope - Your BFF!
Resolution: Launch an app aimed at keeping women safe

Tell us a little about your career background.
"I have been working in the tech industry for more than nine years; initially starting in sales. I then became a founding member of a global marketing and communications team which then allowed me to take a role advising start-ups on marketing and communications. Finally I made the leap myself and started my own company."

What prompted the decision to launch an app?
"Over the course of my career, I have always been learning and pushed out of my comfort zone. Just as I started to feel that I knew what I was doing there would be a new challenge. After working with 16 tech start-ups in Africa and seeing them succeed on a global scale, I knew I had to give it a go myself. I had been living in San Francisco for two years at that time and it is hard, if not impossible, to live there and work with amazing companies and not get the bug to be a tech entrepreneur yourself. I quit my job and went on a hunt for 'the idea'. Many people solve problems they themselves face and this was the case for me, too. I came home after a night out and I was worried about a pal who was a little tipsy and after trying to message and call her with no response, I thought, how do we live in a world driven by technology, and we are still worrying if are friends are okay? The next day I spoke to my friends about getting an app that we could use to stop us worrying. The options were too invasive (location tracking on a map all of the time), and I couldn’t find anything that would solve the problem we had, so I started to build Hope."

When did the app actually launch and how long was the process of getting to that point?
"The app launched last month! Since the initial idea two years ago, I had been working with freelancers along the way, but have had a full-time team since August this year."

What's the best career advice you've ever received?
"Focus on focus, make sure you work on the things that really move the needle, and don’t get distracted by things that are not important. If I were to give advice, especially to anyone in the start-up world, it would be to value every connection! Be respectful and follow up, you never know where the next intro or favour will come from. Surround yourself with great people to help advise you. Listen to all and any feedback, but remember you know your product best so don’t be afraid to respectfully disagree!"

What's next for you, career-wise?
"I want to grow Hope into a global brand that is the go-to for millennial females. Hope will be the interface to the internet for our users, not only a virtual best friend but a personal concierge and the social glue between their family and friends. Our users are able to shop, book tables, and order an Uber at the moment but we plan on doing much more! To achieve this I will need to build a really strong team with amazing and inspiring people with a cool culture. I am super-excited about this!"
Photo: Courtesy of Laura Hogue.
Laura Hogue, OT and newly minted personal trainer
Resolution: Switch gears and become certified as a personal trainer

You've worked as an occupational therapist (OT) for about a decade. What prompted you to explore a new career as a personal trainer?
"In the last few years with demands increasing on the NHS, I found myself increasingly frustrated with not having the time or ability to help some of my patients to help themselves, which is something I feel very strongly about. It made me re-think my career and its longevity. I decided I needed to add another string to my bow if I didn't see myself doing OT long-term. After some soul-searching and consideration of what I enjoy and where my strengths are, I decided to become a qualified personal trainer."

Have you always been interested in fitness?
"Fitness has become a massive passion and part of my life in the last few years. I know I'm such a happier, more balanced, and more confident person when I feel good about myself, which is what fitness gives me. I strongly believe that fitness is the best therapy for the mind and body. I want to help others help themselves from the inside out."

How did you begin the process?

"I found that the guys from LDN Muscle were now running an academy and enrolled before I could talk myself out of it. From start to finish, completing my Level 2 fitness instructor and Level 3 personal trainer qualifications took approximately three months. A lot of it was self-directed learning, with about three full course days at each stage and some online tutorials. I qualified in November 2016 and can honestly say it's been one of the best decisions I ever made!"

How do you juggle the training with your OT work?
"With difficulty! I think I underestimated what it would be like working full-time in a pretty demanding job whilst also having clients to train, including writing programs. But I love it so I will make it work. I hope to reduce my OT hours and up the personal training clients this year."

What's the best career advice you can give?
"If you have something you love and are passionate about it, believe in yourself and take a leap. Start small to get your confidence and try to focus on achievable goals so you don't feel too overwhelmed. I often use SMART goals with my patients and clients, which is really helpful to focus on where you are going and the road to get there."

What has this process taught you about yourself?
"I probably have more determination and courage than I give myself credit for. I have never been one to not to take a risk if I feel I will learn something from it, or shy away from a challenge. However, going back to studying on top of working full-time was hard. I think I've proven to myself that reaching my own goals has given me a sense of self-worth and fulfillment I didn't have before."

Is it a challenge to turn a passion or hobby into a professional pursuit?
"Absolutely! It's scary and exciting, which actually means it's worth giving it a go. The best feeling in the world is surpassing your own expectations."
Photo: Courtesy of Holly Mcglynn.
Emma Gannon, podcaster and author of Ctrl Alt Delete: How I Grew Up Online
Resolution: Write a book and launch a podcast

How did you start out 2016, career-wise?
"In January 2016 I left my job working at Condé Nast as Glamour's social media editor to go solo, which was scary! It was essentially my dream job but the itch to work on my own projects and grow my 'side hustle' eventually took over. I had my book coming out in the summer and launched my podcast in April. It grew quickly and I started to take on freelance consulting, speaking, and writing work."

How did the book come about?
"I had an idea for a book while on a plane to Australia (that's what being without the internet for hours and hours did to me). I jokily tweeted that I had an idea for a millennial memoir and a literary agent called Robyn Drury tweeted back a jokey response. We DM'd and I sent her my very rough proposal. She liked it, helped me finesse it, and once we were happy she started sending it out to publishers (which I found was the MOST nerve-wracking part!). I got the book deal only four months after signing with Robyn! It all happened so quickly. I wrote the first three chapters as part of the proposal and then finished writing the book after the deal was made. Robyn was brilliant to work with every step of the way."

What were the biggest challenges of building your brand and writing a book?
"The biggest challenge for me was often not knowing which direction to go in — the fear of spreading myself too thinly. I am lucky enough to have so many different things that interest me, but it was hard at first to find that one central vision. Everyone has that initial moment of: 'what am I doing?' It means experimenting, getting things wrong, sometimes saying 'yes' to the wrong things or wrong people, and playing out different parts of yourself. The aim is to work out what you want to prioritise and focus on, and a year on, I'm definitely getting there."

And the biggest reward?
"The biggest reward for me is being able to work for myself, to my own schedule, and to have my own vision, launch my own creative projects, and have the opportunity to collaborate with so many incredible, talented people who inspire me."

What has this career leap taught you about yourself?
"It's taught me the importance of working alongside people you trust; without having good friends (both personal and professional) who can give me honest advice and guidance it would all be a lot harder and scarier."

How did you know the time was right to make the leap to published author?
"I'm always writing something! I've had a few ideas rejected in the past — it just so happened that this one book idea felt timely and topical and sort of an extension of my six years writing on my blog. It's the book I always wanted to write."

What career advice would you give?
"Learn to put barriers in place, whether that's saying the occasional 'no', or stopping yourself from replying to that email from your boss at 11pm. Burn-out is real and we have to take care of our mental and physical health. You can't do your job in the first place if you're not healthy. 'Busy' isn't a badge of honour."
Photo: Courtesy of Iria de Ana Portela.
Iria de Ana Portela, founder and creative director of the Iria de Ana London handbag and small leather goods range
Resolution: Launch a fashion label

What made you want to launch your own line, instead of working for another designer?
"I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I studied for five years at business school in Santiago and Rome, but it wasn’t until I decided to study a master's in fashion at Istituto Marangoni in Milan that I understood what my business would be! I worked for amazing designers for many years, and it was awesome. I wouldn’t change it for anything. I started as an intern in New York City for Diane von Furstenberg, and then worked for CH Carolina Herrera, Purificacion Garcia in Spain, and Amanda Wakeley in London. I was lucky enough to be able to stay in the luxury market and learn, learn, and learn. It was hard work with very long hours, especially at the beginning of my career. However, the time was well-spent as it allowed me to get a basis on which to build my business."

Your handbag collection launched last summer. How did you get to that point?
"I knew it would be hard, but still wanted to try. I can’t refuse a challenge, especially when the reward, to me, is absolutely priceless. I had the best Italian leathers and the best craftsmen to create whatever I wanted. The Spanish artisan I’ve been working with for the past six years has been working for decades with the finest luxury brands. My British craftsman (for my small leather goods), meanwhile, is a veritable genius who chooses fantastic British leathers and is able to solve almost any problem I put in front of him. So I started designing, I knew what I wanted: handbags and personalised small leather goods. I had one of my dear designer friends — who has absolutely impeccable taste — on hand to provide a critical eye. I chose the leathers and hardware by hand and ordered the samples of the bags. The first samples that arrived weren’t what I had in mind at all. I was distraught! I had to make changes to the design, but when the second samples arrived, they looked even better than they did in my mind. It was beautiful to see!"

What's been the hardest part about launching your own bags. The most rewarding?
"The hardest part was the solitude. At the beginning I was all by myself, doing everything — from accounts to social media — besides my basic work as a designer and product developer. Little by little I was able to get freelancers to work with me and at the moment I have most (not all) of the areas covered. The most rewarding? Can’t choose between two: my first sale, at a dinner in a Japanese restaurant, and, most recently, when my husband invited me out for dinner producing the beautiful black cardholder — with his initials on it — to pay. I love what I do and I’m so happy that I get to share my creations."

What advice would you give to other designers who want to launch their own line?
"I can’t express enough how important it is to study hard. Study anything you want, but study and learn from others. A mistake is only a mistake if you don’t learn from it! And when you feel you want to go on your own, do it! A good friend once told me that, in general, we would need at least three years to make any business work and we need 10 years to make a name. So, the sooner we start the sooner we’ll get there! 'What if I fall? Oh but darling, what if you fly!'"
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