“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
Changing career is a daunting prospect. I’ve been in my current career stream since I was 19 and it was what I wanted to do at the time. I can no longer continue in that field due to my 24-year contract with the Army coming to an end, so I have to figure out my ‘next chapter’.
Whilst I’ve spent the last few years saying that I’ve had enough of the responsibility of management and I want to work in a job that doesn’t have any, I’ve more recently come to the realisation that I actually do enjoy management and having responsibility for both the work I do and the people that I work with.
So, how do I figure out what I’d like to do next? The following are some of the processes I have been through so far – bearing in mind that I’ve still got 12 months to go and I have no doubt that things will change further as my time draws closer.
The first thing I have done is some self-reflection. I have taken a good hard look at myself as a person, who am I? What am I? What do I enjoy?
Who am I?
Well, this was a tough one to start with. I began this one simply, beyond my name I’m a mother, wife, daughter, sister, niece, auntie etc. In my career I’m a Warrant Officer Class 2, an analyst, a reporter, an equality, diversity and inclusion advisor, an alcohol advisor, a health and safety representative, a Trauma Risk Management Practitioner, a Manager and probably much more (without trying to sound cocky)!
I’ve always been someone who doesn’t do anything unless it’s something I’m interested in or have a level of passion for. Looking at these, there are two streams that I can identify:
1. I love to analyse things and look deeper into situations, beyond the apparent face value.
2. I enjoy being there to help people who are in trouble or to improve or facilitate a better working environment.
Next I delved that bit deeper into my personality. I’m an introvert through and through. For me, it’s taken me a long time to realise that this isn’t a ‘bad’ thing. I don’t enjoy rooms full of people or talking to groups of more than one or two. I’m not comfortable with the unknown or not having a routine (not for everything, but a loose plan for the day at least). I dread confrontation and conflict and having to organise something which involves a multitude of people judging me and my organisational skills is enough to induce a panic attack. However, whilst these are the things I don’t enjoy as a person, it hasn’t stopped me doing them. I wouldn’t have gotten very far in the military if I didn’t. It takes a lot of emotional energy for me to do these things and I am generally mentally drained after doing so (and will take a nap at the earliest opportunity). I’ve learned to not see these as negative points – they are necessary things in the world of work and now that I understand that my uncomfortableness is not unique to me I feel better that it’s not as easy for me as it is for some.
It’s often more difficult to pull out the positive’s of my personality, but these are the things that I genuinely enjoy about me. I am kind and genuine. I will go out of my way to help people and enjoy seeing them succeed. I am fascinated by human behaviour and why we are how we are. I love to analyse details and information. Looking beyond the basics and searching for links and paths, spending hours pouring over facts and linking them together brings a great satisfaction to me. I love puzzles – kind of tied to analysis, but any sort of puzzle fascinated me. I tend to live more in my head than verbally. I can lose hours just thinking or reading and feel so much more relaxed when I have time and space to myself. I like to sleep during the day – I find the mental exhaustion of ‘peopling’ can build up to the point that I have to shut down like C-3PO sometimes. I come across as boring, but to anyone who genuinely knows me I’m not – I just don’t let my guard down easily or risk embarrassment.
Whilst all of these are factors that make up my personality, they are not stuck. There are times I thrive on human interaction and can easily talk to groups of people without sweating and having heart palpitations. I think that this has come with confidence and ‘forcing’ myself to face these difficult situations. Realising that the world won’t end if I say something wrong or forget my wording in a brief and acknowledging that flaws are ok.
What does this mean?
Well, in the forum of career transition, I have to consider these factors of my personality into what I would like to do next. I really enjoy the work I do at the moment, which involves managing the training that our Operational Analysts receive and ensuring that the output meets the requirements of the Teams they are going to. This involves a lot of collaboration and conversations and meetings, but also draws in the puzzle and analysis side of me, trying to figure out what steps to take next, how to improve things and how to keep developing and moving forward, which balances out into me having plenty of time to think and draw up plans and ideas afterwards. My most enjoyable times so far have always involved both of these things – as long as I get time to be able to sit and think things over, I’m all good.
So at a base level, I would love a career that allows me the freedom to both converse with people in small groups and also have plenty of time to mull things over, look at multiple sources and develop something based on putting all of the pieces of a puzzle together.
What that looks like as a career, is a whole other question…