The creation of a charity, from the very beginning.
You know that nightmare you have, when you’re in a really important job interview for a job you really, really want? You’re sitting across the table from two people who have the power to make or break your dreams with a single nod. You’re sitting in the interview and you’re doing fine. Well, even. You’re giving good, detailed answers. You throw in the occassioanl witticism and you’re growing in confidence until… you look down and realize you’re naked.
Well that wasn’t a dream for me. That was a reality. But I shall come to that later.
Since the age of 16, when you are told by various adults to start thinking seriously about your career, I have become acutely aware of the phrase ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know’. There are several reasons why I dislike this saying. On the one hand your teachers/parents/society are telling you to work hard, and on the other, successful business people, career advisors and general know-it-alls, tell you that it’s all about being lucky enough to know someone who knows Bill Gates. Also, as a Grammar Girl (*sigh* No, I didn’t “pay millions of pounds for my education”. No, I’m not a “rich-bitch”. And, no, I certainly do not “vote Conservative”) who was born and raised in a small Northern town and who is very proud of being working-class; the saying ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’, doesn’t really work for me at all.
If it’s not about ‘what you know’ I wouldn’t have spent three days crying in to my Maths book, desperately trying to understand exponentials and logarithms, punctuated by insane shouts of ‘MATHS ISN’T EVEN USEFUL TO ME!’. But I did. Similarly, if it’s about ‘who you know’ I can’t see Barry from the pub, who can name every woman who has ever featured on page three of The Sun, being any use in my quest to set up a charity. Sorry, Barry.
I know loads of people (mainly like Barry). I even know the General Secretary of Amnesty International. However, not all of them like me. “Impossible!”, I hear you cry. You see, I believe in being true to yourself, even if it costs you the ‘ultimate’ contact. Now, I would never be rude to someone, but neither would I agree with everything they said, if I didn’t believe it to be true or right. And some people don’t like that. Some people (my flatmates) say it’s annoying and I need to “chill out, woman”, but what good is a contact when they don’t share your vision, your passion, your beliefs? I’m pretty sure if I met Oprah Winfrey, she would like me, but if she didn’t, I refuse to let that stop me getting from where I need to be. Now some critics may say that it’s a sad fact but that’s the way society works. Well, sorry society, but I’ve never been very good at following the rules. If I can disobey my old Headmistress (imagine Margaret Thatcher on acid), then I can disobey you.
Don’t get me wrong! If Oprah Winfrey came along and we hit it off, had a few cocktails, it would be silly to refuse help that could ultimately help me to set up a charity that would subsequently help many others. Which leads me on to my nightmare interview. No, it wasn’t with Oprah.
A few months ago, I was in Doncaster celebrating my friend’s Mother’s Birthday. My friend’s Aunty was at the soiree and took a shine to me. This worked out on many levels. First, because she is one of the funniest women I’ve ever met and I spent half the night in tears of laughter. Second, because she is extremely generous and plugged my friend (her niece) and I with endless champagne. And third, because when she asked me what I want to do, and I came out with my usual charity spiel, it really resonated with her. I told her a bit about what sort of charity I was thinking about and the research I had done, etc., etc., and the next thing I know, she has booked me on a flight to go on a family holiday with her to Andalucia where I could meet her business partner to talk about how they can get involved. The next day was undoubtedly the best hangover I ever had.
Three weeks later I was in Nerja, in a beautiful villa for a whole week with my friend’s family. The business partner was flying out on the last day so I had six days to work on my tan, drink sangria and eat tapas till I burst. On the final day, I was snoozing besides the pool, in a bikini that I hadn’t had time to diet for, with a book in one hand and a can of stella in the other. It was at this moment that the business partner arrived and he and the Aunty were so excited to talk about the charity that they asked to discuss it there and then. He didn’t even want to unpack. So there I was, in what potentially could be the most important interview of my life, bulging out of a bikini, tinny in hand.
Luckily, after a long, frank discussion, they saw past the bulge and the beer and offered to pay me an annual wage when I graduate so I can work full-time on establishing the charity, along with full business support including a lawyer, accountant and office space. Obviously, I will forever be over the moon about this offer and cannot thank the Aunty and her partner enough. All I have to do now, is make it work!
Knowing the right people can give you incredible boosts and opportunities that could otherwise take years to achieve. However, the Aunty stated afterwards, rather flatteringly, that they were willing to take this risk because of me. From the word go she could tell that I was serious, knowledgeable and passionate about this cause. Maybe the phrase should be ‘It’s both about what you know, and who you are’?
So, my advice (for what it’s worth); Be nice to people but don’t compromise who you are. Network, but don’t stop working your arse off. And remember, if you want it, you can get it.