It’s time for another look at something that makes me realise that life is tough, the second in my series “Adulting is Hard”. This time I’m concentrating on the workplace.
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
– Steve Jobs
When we’re young we have dreams about what we want to do when we grow up, be a footballer, pop star, astronaut, doctor, princess, zookeeper, superhero, movie star. Very few of us actually get that early dream career.
As you get older, going through school, those dreams often begin to fade away. Maybe that’s because you can’t actually sing or you turn out to actually be rubbish at football. Maybe it’s because something else comes along and a new dream takes it’s place. Maybe it’s because your grades aren’t good enough to get on the course you need, or dyslexia stops you being able to go down the path you had dreamed of. Maybe it’s because your parents, school and society told you that dreams are stupid and maybe you should set your sights a little lower.
Some of us never even had a dream job as a kid, focussing on having fun and not wanting to think about what we’d do when we grew up. For me growing up was not something I wanted to do, I didn’t want responsibility, I didn’t want to work hard, I just wanted to play and have fun (many people would point out that I’m still the same today).
I think that’s why I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life until I was in Sixth Form, when I decided I would try for a career in radio production. I joined Southampton Hospital Broadcasting, I did a radio project for my A-Level Communication Studies course, I did a degree in Media Studies that focussed on Radio Production.
And now? Now I’m a claims handler for an international health insurance company.
I never achieved my dream, I got as far as an interview in Bath once but that’s about it. Out of university I took an office job in the Civil Service, but left after 3 years because I was bored and looking for a change. For the next year I did temp work while I tried to work out what to do with my career. Then I got a job in health insurance, in a call centre, and I was there for nearly a decade.
I went through a lot in that time, periods of stress and depression, periods where I was just going through the motions. But eventually, with the help of a good manager or two, I had a target, an idea of what I wanted to do within the company. I had a goal, for the first time in years. I worked hard and got a promotion, to supervisor, and then looked to push on and get a manager’s job. But after 9 and a bit years I got made redundant back in November 2015.
I didn’t want the redundancy to impact me negatively. I wanted it to be an opportunity, a chance for a fresh start and to change career direction. I’d worked in health insurance for a while but I didn’t love it, although I did love the people I was working with and knew I would miss them a lot. After turning down another job in health insurance claims I took a job in house and motor insurance sales, as a team leader. This felt like a natural step for me, achieving a managers role like I’d been working towards for the past few years.
But the company I had joined for was not the right fit for me. I felt like I had very little support and found it such a struggle to learn a new role in a new line of insurance. Around the same time I was struggling with my health, having been diagnosed with Sleep Apnoea; a condition that causes daytime sleepiness as well as memory and concentration problems as a result of poor sleep. My treatment had just started, and was not working too well, when my manager decided I wasn’t up to the job and demoted me after less than 3 months in the job, and after being given less than two weeks to turn things around. They kept me on in a sales advisor role, but the wage reduction that came with the demotion meant I had to leave or we’d have ended up losing our house.
A recruitment consultant got in touch and put me forward for a new job, in health insurance claims. As much as I didn’t want to go back to that I felt like I couldn’t say no, I needed the pay rise and a familiar job role could help me regain some confidence. Plus I was familiar with the company and already knew a couple of people I’d be working with. The only downside was the hour and a half drive to work every morning. I decided to give it a go, and now I’ve been here almost eight months.
This might have been the point of the tale where I say “and everything was all ok” or “I’ve never looked back.” The truth is that the journey in to work is really getting to me; it’s making me tired and giving me little to no time to spend with my wife during the week, especially with the car currently out of commission. The job itself isn’t bad, but the commute is taking it’s toll. The travel frustration has caused me to wonder what I’m doing with my career on a few occasions.
I have no focus, no target, and no clear career path.
Ironically though I now have dreams.
As a kid I didn’t know what I wanted to be. Now? Now I’d love to be a comic book writer or artist, a graphic designer, a professional podcaster. Plus there’s the dream about opening “Bear’s”, a sports bar I had an idea for. None of those dreams seem remotely achievable.
I mean, I have got comic book ideas written (kind of – maybe I’ll blog them some day). I have designed logos and websites (which you can see in my portfolio). And I do host a podcast. But none at the level required to make a career out of. I’m the equivalent of the boy who wanted to be a footballer and ended up playing five-a-side with his mates from the pub; you get enjoyment from it but it’s not quite the same as doing it for a living.
I read stories online about people who pack in the 9 to 5 life and start their own business, work for themselves doing something they’re passionate about. That sounds great, I’d love to work for myself or with my wife creating something… but I just don’t know what that thing would be.
The more time passes the more I begin to think that I’m just not cut out for the daily routine of office life. Nothing against my current employer, like I said the job I have isn’t bad, but I struggle with the daily grind fairly regularly. But what’s the alternative for me?
As I said in my previous post, I’m not ungrateful for what I have and I’m aware that things could be much worse. I have a job and I’m lucky enough to own my own home. But just because I’m more fortunate than some it doesn’t mean I just have to “suck it up” when I’m not feeling good about something. This series of blogs aims to show you that it’s ok not to be ok, you don’t have to feel guilty about it; modern life is hard at times, irrespective of where you are in life.
Have you had similar feelings about work and career goals? Have you had a change in career that turned your life around? Let me know what happened!