I am repeatedly asked how I became a Happiness Consultant and why I created Growth & Happiness school, so below is my journey shared for your pleasure. I've done it in a Q&A format based on some of the popular questions I've been asked over the years. Hope you enjoy!!
MOST JOB TITLES ARE EITHER DIRECTOR, DESIGNER, ARTIST, DOCTOR….WHERE DID HAPPINESS CONSULTANT COME FROM?
It’s my sole creation and I love it :) I decided to own it totally following my time as Head of Happiness for a tech start-up. I was ready to help other companies and individuals make work happiness a priority and so it felt right to have a title that suited my portfolio career and my personality.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN LUCKY ENOUGH TO FIND WORK THAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
Ha! I wish it was that simple. I started out many moons ago as an Account manager at a digital ad agency in Manchester, UK. I enjoyed the branding and strategic thinking but felt like I was just a go between communicator between creatives and client. No real purpose. Plus I was selling stuff I hated, sugary cereals, dull diet bars etc, morally I felt really icky and unhappy.
Then I moved into branding strategy and trend innovation for a retail focused trend agency. Being a naturally curious person I loved dissecting consumer habits, motivations and trends. As an ideas maven, curating these insights for clients came easily. The travelling was pretty amazing too, it’s where I fell in love with Japan. But the highs sat alongside the lows as I felt again that my creativity was stifled or restricted to client budgets/needs/imagination. It wasn’t really about opening their eyes to newness and purposeful ideas, it was about the sales treadmill we were all on. I wanted to stretch myself in new ways. By this stage I now had my second underwhelming boss, who did very little to boost team morale or create any culture at all. It was always an afterthought to meeting targets. Everyone was plodding along making the best of it until they found better positions elsewhere. In mind I thought...This can’t be it!
In the quest to find my true calling, I spent my evenings retraining in footwear, fashion, history of design, personal branding and styling. This was for a mix of things; feeding my appetite for learning outside of my job, increasing my (body) confidence, learning about the psychology of presentation, first impressions and personal branding. I was able to fire up some enthusiasm for the day job, once I knew in the evenings I could escape into books, fashion and shoes.
For a long time I thought you needed to ‘produce something tangible’ to be considered 'creative' - so I started my own semi-bespoke footwear line with high hopes of becoming a shoe entrepreneur. I always loved shoes, being pretty tall and lanky, unlike clothes they always fit nicely. However as we went into recession, I lost my financial backing and up to my eyeballs in debt from shoe production, it was a bitter pill to swallow to close up shop.
But I took a step back and looked at the wider picture, it was in fact a major blessing. I realised that what was more exciting than actually making shoes was the energy I got from working with people to create finished products /outcomes, problem solving, motivating the creatives I worked with to strive for more and to build their confidence
That’s when I created my portfolio career. Going freelance and providing branding and strategy advice for companies as well as putting all the styling, fashion and personal branding skills to work on individuals.
For individuals I helped them rejig their personal brands to get work post redundancy; elevate their confidence and presence in their new entrepreneurial status. My clients really opened up to me, they found me approachable and calming and whilst we were meant to be talking fashion, the conversation always veered towards work...the good, the bad and the ugly. Amidst trying on shoes we talked issues on confidence, career transitions, lack of visibility in the workplace, bad bosses, poor cultures, new leadership position woes, the works...I was the changing room work agony aunt. But I felt alive for the first time!
WHAT MADE YOU REALISE YOU WANTED TO MAKE SHIFT FROM PERSONAL BRANDING AND STRATEGY INTO HAPPINESS AT WORK?
Giving advice and seeing the transformations instantly made me feel like I was doing something with purpose once and for all. I couldn’t get enough of it. Just building connections with people, being their sounding board and catalyst for new ideas came naturally. But I was aware that whilst I was a natural listener and coach (apparently Samantha means listener), I wanted to know more about how to create change that lasted.
Alongside this I also had a few ups and downs with my health. I have Sickle Cell so a few painful crisis, meant a lot of time in hospital and bed but thankfully online learning became my release. I studied anthropology, psychology and human personality behaviour through online courses and then I followed that up with coaching training at CTI co-active coaching. Once I had the tools to understand how to get the most out of a one to one session with someone, it was like a brand new world.
WHAT DID YOU DO NEXT?
I started teaching at The School of Life in 2012. This exposed me to a world of philosophy, psychology and sociology to help make sense of everyday problems and questions about life. My bookshelf quadrupled in size learning from everything about The Stoics to emotional intelligence to the positive psychology dons and more.
My main clients would bring me into their workplaces to give talks, coaching sessions and so it began...my love affair with creating growth and happiness at work. My portfolio of work at this point encompassed branding and strategy consultant, lecturer and professional development coaching.
Then I got a lucky break in 2013! The opportunity came to work with a remote working company - they were trying to scale and grow quickly, lots of staffing issues, no HR department or people strategy at all - basically trying to run before they could walk. I spotted my dream, I pitched to them a roll out of a new kind of people development structure otherwise the company would collapse. I told them about all the skills, experiences and strengths I’d amassed so far and offered to put it to use in a way that would benefit their people. I became their Head of Happiness - rolling out everything from people processes, choosing the right software for HR and employee engagement, developing the internal coaching programme, personal happiness chats, organised events, retreats, personal & professional career planning - the works. The trial morphed into a permanent consultancy for over two years. I followed up with group coaching training at ORSC to really help cement tools to help teams and departments with wider issues around toxic teams, conflict and collaboration
SINCE THEN YOU’VE WORKED WITH A WHOLE HOST OF AMAZING BRANDS FROM TECH TO CREATIVE AND HOSPITALITY, HOW DO YOU MANAGE THOSE SKEPTICS WHO QUESTION HAPPINESS AT WORK?
I am on a quest to make happiness at work a deep, meaningful, rich and conscious experience vs the current practices and gimmicks that have created some harmful consequences and glossed over some really important points.
Pushing and optimising for happiness in the workplace solely seems to have come at the expense and ignoring all the other parts of what make us human as well as understanding the future of work and the role that tech is playing the workplace... thus it feels fake, fluffy and insincere.
I work with clients through my signature Growth & Happiness model and investigate where they sit in terms of the Four Pillars of Happiness and then create wellness strategies and programmes that help to tap into what they are missing. Whether it's guiding better communication in teams, elevating confidence in leaders or identify new work happiness processes with soul and substance it's all about a holistic approach. The clients I work with want to go deeper than bloated perks or papering over the cracks. The expectation that to be a successful company all employees need to be ‘Instahappy’ at work is also unfair and unrealistic.
So what I present to the critics is a way to see the threads in the tapestry that make up work happiness in a unique way. I help them move away from the piecemeal and slap dash approaches that simply keep people happy just to make sure the wheels keep turning. Instead creating nurturing work environments that stimulate and develop individuals to be their best which in turn helps companies grow and has a positive ripple effect for the rest of society. Happy employees = Happy companies = Happy communities.
YOU’VE GOT A FANTASTIC PORTFOLIO CAREER! HAVE YOU FINALLY FOUND WORK HAPPINESS?
I’ve always wanted work that leverages all different parts of me and also helps me live the life I want and travel abroad. It's a dream come true to be creating a portfolio of work that means one day I will be podcasting and mapping out a workshop, the next day Q&A sessions with my happiness consultants in training or speaking publicly. It’s been a journey and not always been easy. However taking the time to distill your skills, take chances, seize opportunities and step into your best self is the only way to take control of your work happiness. But it’s daunting, I’ve had many nights crying wondering if I’m heading in the right direction and also fending off other peoples' negative perceptions of what I should be doing with my life. But it makes you stronger and that’s the strength I hope to empower others with through my workshops and my Growth & Happiness school. I’m very excited about what I have cultivated for myself and my clients and I’m just thankful everyday I get up and get to work.
YOU HELP OTHERS FIND THEIR WORK HAPPINESS RIGHT? HOW DO YOU DO THIS?
Yes I love holding workshops like How to Build a Portfolio Career, Love It or Leave It® and Freelancer Bootcamps at The Guardian. It’s a honour that at any given time 50+ people are trusting me to give them insight on how to find their transferable skills, craft jobs they love, leap from one job to another and grow in confidence to build businesses or portfolios that work for them.
As well as finding new jobs, I had tons of questions on how to deliver happiness in the workplace . So after over a year of consolidating my knowledge and insights I created my signature course 'Create Growth & Happiness ®. This comprehensive training programme takes people through everything you need to create sustainable happiness in a company as well as the skills to do this in a portfolio career and make sure you feel up your own happiness tank along the way.
SO I GUESS YOU GET THIS QUESTION ALL THE TIME BUT HOW DO YOU STAY HAPPY AS HAPPINESS CONSULTANT?
Haha definitely but I love it! For me happiness is the journey and the people along the way. I’m grateful I have friends that I love, work that nourishes me and regular opportunities for adventure and mischief. Whilst I do work extremely hard and love what I do, I always make the space to rest and play in my work and life. I'm a sad Sammy when I don't. I know that with my Sickle Cell also it’s important for me to listen to my body when I need to rest, although I'd be lying if I wasn't stubborn and ignored it sometimes. However my happiness levels skyrocket with lazy lunches and dinners with people I love, massages and quirky new shoes (my vice). My motto is you can’t serve from an empty well so you have to keep replenishing the tank. So it’s important to Be Happy First® in order to help others be happy from a place of peace vs begrudging it or feeling worn out. Trust me I've done it and it's not fun. All too often we don’t pencil in playtime let alone me-time. As a shout out to people like myself who maybe coaches, consultants, carers, assistants, wellness specialists, startup founders, managers, yogis...I created Be Happy First®. It's includes my guiding principles on how to support yourself, make space for play, find that internal anchor, embrace the unhappy icky times and build your own support foundations.
If you have any more questions about my journey, or want to suggest a blog post topic for me to write about in the future, comment below!