From the corporate world to micro-business

Benvon Crumpler left her corporate role in 2019, struggled her way through COVID and has since navigated her way into an opportunity where everything is different.

Here she tells her story, the challenges and decisions she faced and how she joined a business she’s long admired.

What is your current role?

I am Chief Operating Officer for a micro-business, which is a female-focused recruitment marketplace called 2to3 days supporting women who want to work flexibly. In a business like this that means I do everything from co-developing the strategy through to updating the website, from writing sales pitch decks to organising & running events, because we are a tiny team.

It’s totally different to what I have done before. I had never worked in the recruitment industry, I haven’t got an HR background, I’d never worked in a business this small.

When I joined I had a lot of the right skills and experience, but in practice I had never done a lot of the tasks and have had to teach myself a lot from new software to how the industry worked. It’s really different, but that’s what I wanted. I wanted something that was going to turn me on my head, and push me. I also wanted to be part of something with a purpose that chimed with my values.

Why were you looking for change?

In 2019, I left the corporate world, where I had held senior roles in media and entertainment. I was 50 and bang in the middle of the menopause. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it’s only with hindsight that it explains a lot of things. I didn’t know why I was so anxious and living on my nerves. I wasn’t being my best self at work. So when I was faced with a challenge I was buckling. If I had been able to acknowledge this as being menopause-related then I could have got support, the organization could have offered support. I think there could have been a different outcome, but instead I spiraled into a negative downturn. I wish I’d known what I know now.

How did you manage your transition?

I had to dig deep. I only realized afterwards how much of my identity had been wrapped up in that corporate life. But I became quite feisty about making a change, and part of that was an interest in working for a much smaller company.

I used my network, even though I felt like I had at times really neglected it having a full time job which involved travel, a growing family and sole carer to an elderly parent. However, almost without exception I heard back from everyone, and they all wanted to help. I became very structured about approaching people every week and going with clarity about how they could help me. Leaning on that network was what ended up getting me into my first non-corporate, self-employed role in a fantastic brand consultancy, within a couple of months. I loved it, I was working with interesting people, was well-respected and learning loads. Until March 2020 that is, when because what we were doing involved touring and third party venues, the opportunity collapsed overnight due to Covid.

Getting help

I wanted to keep developing myself and connecting with the wider world so I joined a cohort of 100 midlife women on the (free) online Visible Start programme. It’s an 8-week initiative designed to build confidence and provide fundamental knowledge & skills to start a career in digital media. It was sponsored by WPP and run by Univisibility. I enjoyed the camaraderie and shared sense of community and the connection back to the creative industry. I then joined the Brave Starts programme. A hybrid programme of online content and workshops with a small peer group, designed to provide career guidance for the over 45s, led by careers professionals. I enjoyed the whole learning experience, met other like-minded professional mid-lifers but most of it all it reminded me that I have a ton of transferable skills.

I’d had enough of the demoralizing job search. I wanted to be part of something. I had followed the 2 to 3 days business for many years, keeping my eye on flexible roles in interesting companies. I felt an affinity with it, so when I saw that the founder was advertising for the Chief Operating Officer role, I applied. It proved to me that good things can come, if you persevere.

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