Three years ago, I was just your average 18-year-old. I was living with my family in Norfolk, studying acting at college, working part time at McDonald’s and when I wasn’t working or studying I was hanging out with my friends. I then fell pregnant and my life changed instantly. My family were disappointed with the news and I was told that this meant my life was over. I felt like I’d let my son down already, before he was even born.
Everywhere I looked, there was someone who was disappointed in me. I’m not someone who has much confidence and, as I was surrounded by doubt, I felt afraid. But something changed the very second I first laid eyes on my son. I felt an urgent rush of determination.
That first year flew by in a whirlwind of sleep deprivation and dirty nappies. I not only had to adjust to being a parent, but also living on my own, taking my driving test, returning to work at McDonald’s and generally trying to be a person again. As that year ended, I started to feel ready to take the next leap. I wanted to create the best future possible for my son, but without a degree and limited work experience, I realised my only option to build a career would be to find an apprenticeship.
So, being inspired by the job advert, I applied for an apprenticeship at a media agency, which was then known as Maxus. The job would require relocating my young family to London, but I wasn’t really worried about that because I didn’t think I stood a chance of being successful. I attended an open day at the agency and by the end of that day, felt certain it was where I wanted to be. To my immense surprise, I was pulled aside and offered a place on the agency’s graduate scheme instead. I have never been so shocked. It was a huge leap into the unknown. I was terrified, but I also never felt so empowered. I couldn’t wait to get home to my little boy – this was all for him.
Moving to London was tough in the beginning. I was working fulltime and I missed my son and my family. I also found the work difficult. I was amongst a group of university graduates who I was in awe of. They were all so intelligent and seemed to get everything straight away and then there was me - all I could bring to the table was how to make a Big Mac. I began to doubt myself again.
However, the company gave me so much support and encouragement. The team there believed in me and made me feel that my background was something to be proud of, because I bring diversity, and diversity is valuable. Of course, there were times it was so hard I considered giving up, but they never gave up on me. So now I’m here, working in the newly formed Wavemaker, right at the forefront of this exciting industry and it has changed my life.
There are two things I’d like you to take away from my story. Employers; offer people a chance to achieve things beyond their own expectations and fuel their potential to grow with your belief in them. Encourage a more diverse and connected workforce and help lead the change to make diversity one of your greatest assets.
For everyone else, I’d like my story to remind you that if you ever have even the slightest belief you can do something, grasp it with both hands and do it. Because the chances are, with the right support, you can.
Coralie Steadman is an account executive at Wavemaker