This is a career change story from the Founder of More From My Career, Roz.
I’m the kind of person who has a plan for everything. So it was no great surprise when aged 16, I decided on my future career plan. Once through education, I wanted to work in London within marketing. And a few years later, that’s exactly what I ended up doing.
I started out in an entry-level position working for a marketing agency, within project and client relationship management. The skills required to do the job were already ingrained within me, so it was a natural fit. However, it wasn’t long before my workload escalated and it was impossible to cram my daily duties and meetings into the 9-5 structure. I’d signed up knowing that the occasional early morning or late night were to be expected; after all, if the client wanted something, they would get it. What I didn’t agree to was coming in early and staying late every single day. And that wasn’t happening because I was inefficient, but because I had too much work to squeeze into regular hours. I certainly wasn’t work shy, but I did take issue with the extreme imbalance in my lifestyle.
For a long time the only frustration I could express to my friends was dissatisfaction with working continuously long hours. Later I became bitter about how much my job was taking over my life because I would rarely arrange social plans for weeknights, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to commit to them. And as I became more experienced, clocked up a few promotions and worked on more complex accounts and projects, I felt a growing reluctance to do what some of my clients asked of me.
There were occasions when my physical health flared up – a warning sign indicating that I was putting myself under too much stress. Overall, I felt beige.
After three and a half years I decided to jump ship to a competitor agency, to test whether these negative thoughts were tied up in my first employer – and perhaps all I needed was a change of scene, or whether there was a bigger problem to tackle: a lack of compatibility with my ‘dream’ career path. I didn’t allow myself to plan for what to do with the latter scenario. I’d never had a plan B. Plan A was my only plan.
I took a more senior role in a very different environment and I didn’t adjust well to so much change. I felt out of my depth, even more tied to the job and within a more prominent position, it was increasingly difficult to switch off. Days spent in the office became even longer, social events became even more infrequent and my mood took a significant shift into a constant shade of grey.
I woke up every Monday morning and the first thought that would pop into my head was: “five days to go”. On that basis, you can guess what my first thought was every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Not only was my physical state in need of attention, but my mental health was spiralling too. Anxiety became a part of my daily routine, along with heart palpitations and insomnia. My confidence plummeted, which coincided with doubts about whether I actually cared about the work I was investing so much time in.
One Friday, six months into the job, something in me snapped and I felt like I’d woken up from a daze.
For the first time I admitted to myself that what I thought was my dream career path as a 16-year-old was not so dreamy in reality. In fact, this career wasn’t suited to me. And even better: that was ok. So what if it hadn’t worked out too well? I’d given it a good go and congratulated myself for my perseverance.
I asked myself why I was doing the job that I was doing. It wasn’t a question I could answer. I realised that all the stress I had been experiencing, particularly in those last six months, was entirely negative stress. It was sucking the life out of me. I felt completely unrecognisable to the person I used to be, who I was rather fond of.
I also refused to accept that at the age of 27 (at the time), my destiny was to wake up every Monday and pine for the weekend that I was too exhausted to enjoy. I felt at such a low point that I couldn’t help but be optimistic for a better future. I had no idea what else I could be doing, but I knew there must be something that would be more rewarding and fulfilling.
Perhaps most significantly, it occurred to me that I had a choice.
I could choose to continue living in this miserable state, battling every single day to keep going, or I could choose to find something that was more suitable for me.
Three days later, I handed my notice in. I didn’t have a job to go onto and I took some time to recover from all the damage I’d done to myself after spending years burying these negative feelings. That was the start of a very long road to a new direction.
Once I was knee-deep in my career crisis, my world was opened to how many others – be that friends of mine, people in my network, or complete strangers – have been through or are going through something similar. As time went on, I discovered a collection of books, podcasts, communities, events and other resources which exist to help people going through the same situation. They pulled me through a difficult time in my life.
In sharing my story and the things I learned from these resources, I hope that others going through this feel less alone. Because you’re not alone at all; so many people are unhappy, unfulfilled and unrewarded in what they do.
I believe we need to get better at talking about this so that we can help each other move into work that’s better suited to us.
In 2017, I was interviewed for the My Career Crisis podcast to do just that: get comfortable with talking about the uncomfortable. You can listen to my episode here (excuse the pauses and editing glitches): http://bit.ly/2zoSPff
Today, I have a different story to tell: I am doing work that I am interested in, and which I find rewarding. As well as becoming a qualified coach, More From My Career represents the knowledge I gained over two years while searching for career change resources. These two things are rooted in one of my core values: to help others. Had I not gone through my own career crisis, I may not have found myself on this new path which I am so excited by.
If you’d like to share your story, you can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org – I’d love to hear from you.