MY CAREER ASPIRATIONS AND ACHIEVEMENTS (FROM AGE 5)

I have often envied those people who knew from a very early age what they wanted to be when they grew up and then turned out to be just that. That’s dedication for you. As a child and even through my school and university days I changed my mind several times. It took me a while to figure out who I am and what I want to do. I am pleased to say I got there in the end. Here is a look back at my career aspirations and where my journey has led me.

Career Aspiration Number 1: Astronaut
Sometime during primary school I remember being asked “What do you want to be when you grow up”? My immediate answer was “an astronaut”. I thought space was super cool after one of our monthly class topics and I wanted to walk on the moon.

Career Aspiration Number 2: Athlete
I was a good athlete in the early years. The fastest girl in the North West of England for my age at one point (100 metre sprint), something I have always been proud of. I developed a condition in my knees when I was 12 called Chondromalacia patellae and sadly that marked the end of my athletics career. I was devastated for a few weeks but eventually discovered the art department instead and focused on that. I enjoyed being creative. I quite often came home covered head to toe in paint, much to Mum’s dismay.

Career Aspiration Number 3: Singer
When I reached high school and life was an endless list of possibilities, I wanted to be a singer. Preferably the next Dolly Parton (even though I was born and brought up in Chester, 4057 Miles from Tennessee and the closest I had ever got to the Deep South was watching The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas on TV). I had found an old greatest hits cassette in the back of my Mum and Dad’s cupboard and that was it, I was hooked on country. Dolly was (and still is) my idol and why couldn’t I be just like her? The world was at my feet.

Career Aspiration Number 4: Model
I joined a modelling agency at age 16 and dreamt of becoming the next Cindy Crawford. I think looking back the agency was a bit of a scam. It took advantage of young girls dreams to make a quick buck through portfolio charges and I fell for it. I did get to compete in Miss Chester though, which was a whole lot of fun – and I came in 6th place, not bad eh.

Career Aspiration Number 5: TV Presenter
By the time I was almost graduated from sixth form (1998) Cat Deeley had burst on to the kids TV scene with Ant and Dec on CD:UK. I was now convinced I wanted to be a TV presenter. I had no idea exactly how I was going to do this but I wrote to the BBC and ITN for careers advice and they suggested a degree in Media Studies was a good start.
I wrote my UCAS application and applied for Media courses in Manchester, Sheffield and Edinburgh.

I received an unconditional offer from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh and after a quick visit with Mum to see what it was like I accepted. Looking back I had no idea at the time that this decision would change the course of my life forever. It hadn’t really occurred to me that Scotland was in fact a completely different country (even though its part of the UK of course) and that life up North is quite different from down in England. Turns out it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I settled into Edinburgh life pretty well. After the first 3 months of non stop drinking, partying and making friends I did actually manage to do some work. I quickly established a good group of friends, whom I ended up living with for the whole 4 years and who I consider to be some of my closest friends today. Its true when they say the university years are some of the best of your life. Its also true that there is still a good life beyond those parties.

In second year of university I saw an advert in Stage magazine for new ITV children’s presenters. All you had to do was make a video introducing yourself and send it in. Perfect, this was it! I made a video (I am quite glad I can’t find it now) and posted it in. I waited and waited and waited and waited and nothing. I realised maybe I wasn’t going to be a TV presenter after all.

Career Aspiration Number 6: Film Critic
During my third year at uni (I can’t quite remember which) I studied film. I remember writing an essay on film music. I was particularly engrossed in this article as I was writing about Jaws one of my favourite films. I really enjoyed that class and thought wouldn’t it be wonderful to write about films all day long. I shared my enthusiasm with my then boyfriend, who thought it was a great idea – until he saw my film collection. His version of film classic’s differed quite extensively to my collection including Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, Clueless, Dirty Dancing and Grease. Back in the days of VHS I had 200 videos which I dragged around to each flat we lived in. I couldn’t live without them. Turns out I loved sitting watching films but had never actually written a review of one.

Career Aspiration Number 7: Journalist
In my final year at university my dissertation loomed. How on earth was I going to write 10,000 words on one topic. I thought about it for a few weeks, trying to decide what to write about. I had started to enjoy my journalism classes so thought perhaps this was a new career to start thinking about. I quite fancied myself as the next Lois Lane – look at all the fun she had with Superman!

I was on holiday in Gran Canaria with some of my friends on the first anniversary of 9/11. I couldn’t prise myself away from the TV in our apartment. I started to ask myself if it was ok for the news channels to repeatedly show footage of people jumping from the buildings. This led me to think perhaps I could write my dissertation on journalism ethics and 9/11. I went home and started my research. I spent weeks watching footage, reading and looking at articles on 9/11. I visited New York and interviewed a journalist who had been in the city and helped with the rescue effort. Being such a harrowing subject it was emotionally exhausting. I remember crying when I was writing some of it. I can’t imagine what it was like to go through something like that or be a family member dealing with the aftermath. In April 2003 my dissertation was finished ‘Journalism and September 11th 2001: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Documenting Terrorism’. I dedicated it too all the people who lost their lives that day.

After writing my dissertation I wasn’t so sure if journalism was for me.

Career Aspiration Number 8: Marketing
Throughout my time at university I worked part time (almost full time) for various bars, restaurants and promotional companies. For the latter it was helping to advertise their brands. It was mainly alcoholic drinks and in particular one job sticks in my mind. The Smirnoff Tour of Scotland. I attended a casting to get the job and made it to reserve promotional girl. Luckily for me another girl who had been picked primarily had dropped out and so I found myself on the tour. For 3 months we travelled to different towns in Scotland every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, giving away a trip to Ibiza and lots of free Vodka. I quickly hit it off with the other girl on the tour Lia and we became firm friends. I enjoyed the job a lot and created so many great memories but in the back of my mind I always imagined being part of the team who created the promotion behind the scenes.

From working on many promotions I met many different people and one day was approached to help with the marketing of a new restaurant in Edinburgh. I took this opportunity as it meant I would receive a steady income and a chance to expand my experience.

I began to learn about email marketing and databasing. Working with other brands on marketing collaborations. I watched a lot of promotions fall flat on their face and fail, which was very frustrating and also some flourish, which brought a great feeling of achievement.

After a few months I was asked to expand my position to help with other properties in the group, which also included hotels. I was delighted. Working with my new mentor Steve, I helped to market these lovely 2 star inn hotels across Scotland from Dumfries up to Anstruther. I took care of all the advertising and helped with the marketing relationships with the tourist board and local attractions. I travelled up and down all week with my new puppy Labrador Molly in the car. It was great and I realised I had finally found a career I was happy in.

Sadly the owners of the hotel group decided to disband after a couple of years and I had to find a new job. They were very supportive and helped me look for a suitable new position. Fortunately I found a job in Edinburgh quite quickly. I worked for a several weeks with another company but the fit wasn’t quite right. Upon leaving my exit interview my phone rang. It was The Town House Company asking me to go in for an interview.

The Town House Collection
In March 2006 I attended 3 interviews for the position of ‘Online Marketing Executive’ for what was then The Town House Company (now rebranded as The Town House Collection). The first interview was a chat and initial questions with the lady whose role I would be taking over if I got the job and another colleague. My second interview was with Fiona Strauss, who would become my boss, and I had to give a 10 minute PowerPoint presentation on how I could improve their hotel websites. I had never experienced such an interview before and my heart was in my mouth the whole time. My third interview was a coffee and a chat with the company’s Operations Director Hans Rissmann (now our Managing Director). By this point I really really wanted the job. I had to wait 3 weeks for a decision from the first interview until the last. I remember getting the phone call and being ecstatic.

I started working for The Town House Collection in April 2006. My initial role was to look after the content on the website and to flex the rates on all the third party sites including lastminute.com and laterooms.com. I spent three quarters of my week flexing the rates on a daily basis. Taking our availability reports and deciding which rate we should be selling on a scale of 5 bands.

As social media exploded on to the web and technology developed I was spending more and more time looking at our website content and various online accounts and I was fortunate that the rate flexing was taken over by our reservations team. I had more time now to concentrate on the specific areas I was passionate about.

I was promoted to Marketing Manager in 2009 with the responsibility of looking after all our online marketing and helping with offline marketing, PR and design. I began to experiment with design myself and started to create adverts and flyers for the company. The company supported my interest in design and invested in the software I needed to progress. Since then I have completed an essentials In Design Course with Tidalfire and taken over the majority of design work for both our hotels – Blythswood Square and The Bonham.

In the last few years I have been extremely fortunate to be able to have the freedom in my position to concentrate on areas which I love and feel passionate about. Last year I was given the amazing opportunity to design the new company website myself. A project I am very proud of. The Town House Collection have only encouraged me along the way to help fufil my potential and I am very grateful for this. I feel privileged to work with such an excellent and dynamic team.

Its a far cry from being the next Dolly Parton or Cindy Crawford but I wouldn’t change the course that my life has taken. I am excited for the future and learning new skills and constantly evolving with the web and whatever new developments might be just round the corner.

Oh and just for the record, it would still be very cool to be an astronaut – if only I hadn’t failed Physics.

Natalie As Dolly
Natalie as Dolly

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