Is it ever too late to explore your other career interests? Marketer turned voiceover artist, actor, model, and writer My Ly doesn’t think so. Her firm belief is that it never hurts to give something a shot, even if your background experience is unrelated or when you think your chances of “success” are slim.
In this episode of the Career Relaunch podcast, My shares her story of pursuing a few different side hustles during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and discusses what opportunities have emerged from these explorations. We talk about the trade-offs of full-time employment versus self-employment versus contract work along with the importance of maintaining a positive mindset when exploring new career possibilities.
During this episode’s Mental Fuel segment, my challenge to you was to give something a shot. To give something a go that you’ve been thinking about trying out for so long. To focus less on whether you’ll be good at it or as good as others at it, or whether you’re going to be “successful,” but rather to focus on attempting it for the sake of exploration, learning, and most importantly to finally just seeing where it takes you. Maybe it goes nowhere. And that’s okay. But maybe it can be the start of something you never imagined would be possible for your career and life.
My Ly is a passionate, energetic, and creative individual who loves networking and helping others to inspire and grow. With over two decades of marketing experience in the beauty, construction, banking, and hospitality industries and a love for writing as she works on her debut novel, My has made the most of the lockdown period, during which she’s done work as an actor, voice over artist, model, and editor during the pandemic. She’s now doing what she can to inspire other people with creative interests to pursue their dreams.
During our chat, My referred to the Cutty Sark, where she’s the featured model on their homepage, the London Transport Museum where her voice is featured in one their exhibits, and View Magazine where she’ll be doing some editorial work. To learn more about My, follow her in Instagram or Clubhouse @my_petite_my.
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Teaser (first ~15s): If its possible for someone to achieve something, why can’t that person be you? Unless you give things a try, you’ll never know if something is achievable or not.
Joseph: What are you up to right now? What have you been doing in the past few months? What’s been keeping you busy?
My: Back in September of last year, right at the beginning of the first UK lockdown, I ventured into some side hustles. I experimented with acting, voice-over work, and that’s been quite interesting because it’s not taken me to my current situation. I’m really sort of pursuing those particular creative outlets.
Joseph: You’re also working full time, right? Can you remind me of what you’re up to right now with your full time work? All these voice acting and modelling, you’re doing this on the side, right?
My: I work a full time job in marketing and I’ve been working in marketing for over 21 years now. I love what I do from a day-to-day perspective and I always have loved marketing. But I’ve also been a very creative person as well all throughout my life. With these side hustle experiments—or side hustles, shall I say—they are all fitted in and slotted around my day job. That can be quite challenging because my marketing day job is very busy and hectic. I’m juggling both then demanding day job, as well as then, evening to weekends and early mornings, fitting around all the other aspects that I’ve fallen in love with as well.
Joseph: We should probably go back in time a little bit. I know you’re working in marketing right now but you had a few detours along the way, from what I recall. I think the first time you and I crossed paths, in 2012 or 2013 when we served as judges in London for a marketing award event. You were working marketing sushi for Yo! Sushi and I was marketing ice cream for Häagen-Dazs. Can you tell me a little bit about your earlier career in marketing? After that we can talk about when you stepped away from it, returned to it, and how you fit in all these side gigs.
My: It was really early on, taking us back to my university days. I actually did an advertising and marketing degree. I really loved it and then fell into working into my first marketing job. I worked first in a lot different marketing sectors and industries. From the hairdressing industry, construction industry, banking industry, and hospitality industry—which has been a massive love of mine for over 8 years now. For me, it was quite important to think about different industries and also experience those industries because I think you don’t necessarily know what type of industry or company you might want to work for.
I’ve been working in hospitality for probably 8 years now, and it’s obviously my marketing day job. An opportunity came up for me to work in terms of my marketing consultancy side of things. It’s always something that I’ve wanted to do but never had an opportunity. So, when the opportunity came up, I really wanted to give that a go. I loved it. I had a couple of clients straight of the book and I really enjoyed working with those clients.
Joseph: Were you doing that alongside you full-time job or did you completely stepped away to do your own independent consultancy.
My: I had stepped away from my full-time job and then became self-employed and worked as a marketing consultant. I really enjoyed that. I think it’s a very different ball game when you came from working, for a long time, in permanent salaried jobs and then switch over to being self-employed, running your own business, running your own consultancy. I can definitely see different pros and cons being on both sides of the coin. I really did love going out, networking, getting my own clients and working with my clients as well. One of the reasons why I decided to come back into more of a contract role, initially, and then come back to a permanent, salaried member or staff, is because actually of my creative paths and routes. I was also wanting to work on my debut novel. I think what I quickly realized when I was working on my marketing consultancy is that working on your own business means you’re working on it pretty much 24/7. That’s really what led me to start thinking about how I’ll be able to carve out some time to do something a bit more creative and to start working on my novel again. How could I do that? What I wanted to do was to go back to a contract role, first of all, and then have the stability of getting back into a permanent job.
Joseph: Let’s go back a little bit here. There’s a couple of transitions that are quite interesting. You went from working full-time to being self-employed. What surprised you about working on your own? What were your plans and how did things actually pan out?
My: One of the biggest challenges about being self-employed, especially quite early on and quite new to it, I realized quite quickly that I missed the whole kind of having my own team, department, and being able to bounce off ideas with other people as well. That was quite a big shift and change. You’re obviously very reliant on yourself in either networking or pitching to get new work. A lot of the time, you’re potentially working by yourself unless you collaborate with other entrepreneurs. That was quite a big shift, having worked in a company with departments and your own teams where there was more than just one of you. Where as when you’re transitioning into becoming a marketing consultant it was a bit more challenging having other people to kind of bounce off ideas from.
Joseph: I can definitely relate to that. I think when you’re working on your own, it can feel very isolating and very solitary at times. This is even way before COVID, when everybody else seems to be in the office and you’re kind of on your own doing your own thing. It can become very lonely at times. At the same time, it does offer you some freedoms and the flexibility and autonomy to do whatever you want, whenever you want, work with whichever clients you feel would be best for you. What was it like to then go from that world of working independently and then back into a more traditional contract or full-time job in marketing? It’s always been something that I felt could have ended up being the path for me. It’s not what I ended up doing but I’ve always been curious about what it’s like to go from being self-employed and back into the full-time world.
My: Timing is everything, Joseph. I think sometimes things obviously happen for a specific reason within your career and lifespan. I think for me, personally, it was probably the right time to come back into, not quite a permanent job, but into a contractor role. I’m the type of person that really enjoys variety in my life so I think the contractor world suited me because it was still quite similar to running your own marketing consultancy. As a consultant, you are working with different clients. For me, it was quite a nice transition because it almost seemed like the next natural step was to get into a contractor role which meant I could work for different companies and view it almost like a marketing consultancy lens before I again transition back into a permanent job for a company.
Joseph: You go back into a contractor role. Speaking of variety, let’s dive into this topic. When you an I reconnected, it was earlier this year, you mentioned that you accidentally got into creative side hustles such as modelling and acting. How in the world did that come up for you?
My: The first that came to me was really the modelling side of things. During the first lockdown, as most people were, probably, slightly stirred crazy of being in lockdown, I ended up spotting a Facebook post in my local community. During the first global pandemic and the first lockdown, I joined a couple of local groups just to keep a eye on the fact of which supermarkets didn’t have any toilet roll or didn’t have any pastor or eggs. And then a lady put up a post and she ended up being the marketing manager for the Cutty Sark Museum based in Greenwich. It was a famous museum, a popular tourist attraction. They wanted to invite local people to come along and be part of their reopening marketing campaign or advertising campaign. I applied for it. I invited some of my friends to apply for it and it was just something to do. It was just something that I thought, “It would be quite nice to get selected because it means I wouldn’t have to be wearing jogging bottoms or track bottoms for one day or for a couple of hours.” It was a really exciting thing to do. So, I just went on and applied for that. I ended up getting selected for that particular modelling shoot. They ended up using me as their lead models. I was on their website. I was on their social media posts. I was on bus sides and outdoor posters as well.
Joseph: How did you get your headshots done? Did you hire somebody to do that? Did you do it on your own? Did you have some that were ready to go?
My: I literally applied with a couple of headshots that I had in the past and they just selected people purely off the photographs that you email to them.
Joseph: Had you thought about doing modelling in the past? Had it ever cross your mind or was this just something that you did completely on a whim?
My: I completely did this on a whim but I have done modelling shoots previously before. The other side of me is for over 15 years, I’ve actually been an extra, fitting it around my day job when I can. I’ve worked on films like Harry Potter, for example, or Twenty-Four, or the Kingsman. I’ve been in shoots with Samuel L. Jackson on the Kingsman. For me, it’s been a really interesting creative outlet that I could do which was completely different from my day job. I’ve been doing that for such a long time. Through my extras agency, I would also get a couple or a few modelling jobs but they’ve been quite a while in the past so I’ve never really thought about being a model at all. And, Joseph, obviously, you’ve met me, so you know how short I am. I’m only 5-foot. The stereotypical viewpoint of models, as you know, very tall, very slim. So, I’ve never taken modelling very seriously. I’ve done a few jobs in the past through my extras agency and then this job came up for the Cutty Sark Museum advertising campaign. I got selected for it and I really enjoyed it but it wasn’t really until when the photographs came back and they were part of the advertising campaign for the Cutty Sark that the modelling side of things really started. I probably owe a lot of the credit to my waxing lady, Linda. She was the person who said to me, “My, have you thought about modelling before?” And it was only at that point when she said that to me, that I thought, “You know what? I haven’t really thought about it seriously before. These photographs have come out pretty well. Why don’t I give it a go? Why don’t I create a website?” I had some different headshots. I had some photographs previously before. I built myself a really basic website and that’s how I kind of started. I started joining some casting websites and started applying for different modelling jobs. Since then, I’ve been doing various different modelling shoots. I’ve been put forward for some quite big names jobs. I was put forward for a virtual advertising campaign for Harvey Nichols. I’ve done modelling shoots—my first fitness modelling shoot for My Zone, a fitness brand. There’s been other various, both paid for and also non-paid, shoots. I really loved it. I loved being part of an industry that is known for potentially [ ] and how you look. I think it’s more about the relationships and the connections that modelling projects can actually offer you. So, I absolutely love working with photographers or make-up artists or hair stylists. It’s just a really lovely way of connecting with other creative people.
Joseph: That sounds like a lot of fun and its good for you for putting yourself out there and making all that happiness. It just sounds like its kind of been rolling along for you, since that initial gig. That’s super exiting. I’ve always wondered what would it be like to be a model. I’m not model-material by any means but it’s this world that you see on TV and of course everybody’s seen models in magazines and so, are there any misconceptions that you had about the modelling industry that you feel has been debunked for you?
My: I think I’ve realized now, having come into the modelling industry, is that there are all different types of models. Previously before, I probably even didn’t think about modelling at all—which I didn’t—because I thought it would potentially require a certain look or a certain type of person that could fit inside that modelling world. Since I’ve come into the modelling industry world I then realized that you can get all different types of models and there’s so many types of modelling jobs as well. So, anybody could be a model and become a model because there are jobs to suit all different people in terms of what height they are, how they look, what different categories or sectors or whether that’s a fitness model, commercial model, lifestyle model, or fashion model. The most important part is understanding now that most people can be a model if you wanted to. I’m also someone who is not a spring chicken. I’m in my early 40s now, so part of the modelling industry and the acting industry, what I’ve come to realize is the fact that anything is possible at any age. It doesn’t necessarily mean that just because you’re not 20 years old or 30 years old, don’t discount the fact that you could become a model or an actor even at an older age. I think that’s one of the most important things that I’ve really learned across these past seven months and also something that I’m really passionate about in terms of encouraging and inspiring other people if they are itnereted in becoming a model or an actor but they lack the confidence because they think they’re too old to do it in those industries. Or that they haven’t dabbled with it before. They kind of thought about it and it’s something they kind of wanted to do but they’ve not known the right course to get on to. Or they haven’t thought about it because their normal lives’ taken over and its not something that they’ve really considered. I’m actually now really championing and encouraging others that if they are interested in those industries, they should give it a go and see what happens.
Joseph: That’s a great lesson My. A lot of people, including me, assume that our careers are pretty much set at that point and there’s no room either for a side hustle or a new career or there’s just no opportunity or possibility for it to be a reality. It’s a good reminder that it’s not too late. Speaking of being able to get into anything, before we talk about some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way, we’ve got to talk about acting a little bit here. How did acting start to creep in to your career on top of your contractor role and on top of the modelling you were doing on the side?
My: Like the modelling side of things, the acting side of things I’ve completely fallen into by accident during the first lockdown. I had wanted to try and carve out more time to work on my debut novel. The main character in my debut model is an actress. I wanted to try and understand what actors do. What do they think? What do they feel? What is acting? What does it mean? Obviously, from my point of view, I’ve never done an acting course. I’ve never been an actor. I knew a couple of friends at that point who were actors but I didn’t really know or understand what actors do. So, I thought the best thing would be to book myself onto a 3-month beginners’ course in London. Usually, the court would be face-to-face, in person, but because of COVID-19, it had to run as an online course. It was only after doing that first acting course of 3 months that I completely fell in love with acting. And again, by complete accident, I find myself carving out another creative career and I’m excited what’s going to happen next with it.
Joseph: I think you’re dabbling with these areas and just seeing where it takes you and that’s a really interesting way of having these new opportunities emerge for you.
My: I don’t think I would have ever guessed that I would’ve gotten into modelling or acting. If someone would’ve asked me a year ago or seven months ago, “Would you get into acting or modelling?” At that time, I would’ve gone, “No! Of course not. I’ve never even thought about doing it.” It is really interesting of when you think about doing something but maybe not put that extra pressure on yourself in terms of it is the only thing that you can see yourself doing and piling on that huge amount of pressure is what sometimes actors might do. If you’re able to think about certain careers or jobs where you want to give it ago and give it your best and your all into it, but it might not necessarily be the be-all-end-all. If you’re kind of just exploring it and you’re seeing it more of an experiment to kind of see how far you can get into it, I think it just helps to alleviate that extra pressure that you can put on yourself. And also, alleviating those expectations of success.
Joseph: I’m definitely guilty of this. I get really attached to the potential outcomes and achieving those outcomes and that makes the whole endeavour very daunting and I don’t even end up doing it. It’s a good reminder to detach yourself from it a little bit. This is a really good foray into the last thing I was hoping to talk to you about, My. Before we wrap up with what you’ve got going on at this moment, because I know you’ve got a couple of interesting opportunities that have popped up for you. You’ve mentioned the lockdown a few times. I’d like to talk about some of the things you’ve learned along the way of your career journey and I often hear from people who want to change careers that they want to wait for the right moment before they make their move. We’re recording this in mid-2021 and it sounds like these modelling and acting gigs came up for you during the past year in the middle of the pandemic, at the exact time when a lot of people would say it’s not a good time to do something new. What would you say to somebody who’s maybe holding off on pursuing a new path in their career because they feel like now isn’t a quite the right time to make a bold move—either because of the pandemic or because of any other reason in their life.
My: Obviously, every person is different and it depends on the life stage and also the personal circumstance. I was really keen, right at the beginning of the lockdown, to not be consumed or worried unnecessarily about the whole doom and gloom of COVID-19 and making sure that I would keep myself really busy so that I didn’t really have time to be worrying about everything that is to do with COVID-19. Having a really positive frame of mind and maybe reframing things is actually a really big part of what I’ve learn so far across these past seven months when I first started pursuing both of these two creative outlets. Reframing your mind is something that can be done by anybody and can be relevant to how people might be thinking if they feel that, “this is maybe the wrong time for me to do it” or “this isn’t something that I’m going to be good enough to do at this particular age.” But if you reframe that to think about the fact that why don’t you just give it a go? See what happens. That’s the kind of attitude I’ve taken on board. I’ll give things a go. Things might not necessarily work out the way that you think it’s going to work out. It might not necessarily take you to the career path that you’re expecting but I think if you can reframe your mind to just give things a little try, even during this period of lockdown where things are very uncertain and things can be quite difficult, I don’t think that you will necessarily lose anything but you might just gain several things. That’s the kind of attitude that I’ve taken on board. I think that’s the other thing about not thinking about if this is the right time. There’s also that fear factor that can creep in and hold you back from doing something. The things that I’ve really learned to across the past seven months is that you have be brave. You have to reframe your mind. Give it a go and just see what happens. And if nothing else, you might just pick up a new skill. You might just make a contact and network with a new person, a new friend. You might create a new friend. I guess it’s just having that positive mindset to be willing to give things a go and be willing to be brave and see how that next step might take you to a different place or to a new opportunity.
Joseph: Speaking of opportunities, what’s something that you’ve learned about yourself over the past year as it relates to opening up to new opportunities in your career.
My: Anything is possible. I know that sounds really, a little bit, too positive or maybe too unrealistic but if it’s possible for someone to achieve something, why can’t that person be you. Unless you give things a try, you’ll never know if something is achievable or not. What I’ve tried to do across the past seven months is not limit my beliefs to, “I can’t do this.” But instead, reframing my mind and so I could give it a go and see what happens. I’ve never wanted or thought of becoming a model before and I’ve never thought of becoming an actor before. Seven months forward, I find myself doing exactly those two things.
Joseph: The other question I have for you, My, is I’m hearing is the practicality of having so many things going on because this sounds like a lot. Modelling, acting, taking classes, your full-time job. How do you fit all that in and how do you manage that?
My: I think it’s all about prioritizing certain elements. At the moment, for example, I’m having to take a little more of a back seat on the modelling side of things because the acing side of things is coming a bit more to the forefront and I’m focusing on that a little bit more. I think it’s about trying to work through in your given week, what you can realistically achieve. There are little things that I try and do. For example, for the acting side of things, I try and apply for some castings so just some jobs maybe 10 or 15 minutes per day. I’m not spending hours and hours on trying to apply for jobs but I might carve out 10 or 15 minutes everyday in the evening or in the morning before I do my day job, I’ll couple batch of applications out of the way and I think it’s just trying to work through what you might need to do on a day-to-day basis in order to be able and try to progress those two avenues that I’ve now decided to pursue. These are small little steps which hopefully, over time, whether that’s across the next couple of months or the next year, will then turn into fruition and into certain projects of certain shoots, etc. that I will be able to add to my CV and add to my skill set.
Joseph: I want to wrap up with what your doing right now, My. Speaking of hardwork and things coming into fruition, I know you’ve got some irons in the fire here with some exciting opportunities. Can you just tell me a little bit about these potential gigs that you’re in the running for?
My: I’ve got two projects which are definite. I’ve been chosen as an understudy for a short theatre play which is based on a true story about domestic violence and it will be predominantly played by an Asian cast. There are no set dates yet for that short theatre play but we’re hoping that its going to be at the end of this year or next year. It depends on how the world of theatre is going to open up again after lockdown. It’s an interesting role because that will be my first understudy job and it’s another chance for me to learn in terms of an understudy role. I’m really excited about that. I’ve got a second project, which will happen in the summer. I’ve done my two voice over jobs and this second voice over job is for an upcoming exhibition installation at the London Transport Museum. My voice is going to be used for an exhibition in the summer. So, that’s will be a really exciting to be able to go to the London Transport Museum and hear me talking to me. That will be really exciting. During lockdown, I’ve also got myself an editorial role for a luxury lifestyle magazine called “View Magazine”. I’m going to be focused on writing upcoming articles and reviews that are focused around the acting, film and literature world. I’m just sort of getting to grips about what my first few articles might be. So, that’s really brilliant but I suppose the projects at the moment from the acting side of things, which I’ve recently put forward for is something that I can’t disclose details, but I’ve been put forward for a regular role in a big TV soap. I’ve been selected for the first stage. There’s a self-tape audition which I’ve just done and completed. I’m just now waiting to see whether I make it through to the second stage but even if I don’t get any further, it’s a massive achievement to just get to first stage. I’m just really excited and pleased to even be put forward for this particular role. That could be a very exciting prospect, if that pulls through. If it doesn’t, I will definitely be a lovely achievement to add to all the other unexpected achievements that I’ve managed to do across the past seven months.
Joseph: Congratulations, My. That sounds super exciting.