I never believed in a job for life. When I failed my A levels, my career choice was made on the basis of what I enjoyed doing as child. All I could think of at the time was that I enjoyed collecting foreign coins. Looking back now, that coin collection was probably more the result of my love of travel than my interest in finance. But those coins kick-started my banking career. It was one of the best work experiences I’ve ever had. It just goes to show that quick decisions can sometimes be the best ones.
I rose through the ranks: back office, cashier, personal banker. However, I longed to go to university. I was never defeated by the fact that I’d only got one A-level at school. In fact, it made me even more determined that I would go on to get a degree.
So I studied in the evening and at weekends, and, after acquiring two A levels and one diploma through the Open University, I got accepted at Cardiff University. Banking had served its purpose; I’d risen as far as I wanted to go. After six years, I left that stable job and was onto my next challenge, the unknown world of academia.
Three years and one degree later, I started my NHS career. That was an exciting period, as the constant change and reorganisation in the NHS meant I moved locations twice and changed job roles four times. It fed my need for variety and challenge.
After securing a role as programme manager, I knew that I didn’t want to climb any further up the ranks, despite being sponsored to do a Master’s Degree in health information management. After eight years, I left a great job and a fantastic income in search of fulfilment and my next challenge.
I spent the next few years in Vietnam and the Gambia. In that time, I came to understand what was really important to me: serving others, travelling and growth. I enjoyed the experience of living abroad, the sense of community and the sense of purpose. But after two years and four months, the experience wasn’t new anymore and I was ready to come home.
Four years in project management positions in the public and third sectors followed. Each ending came after I felt that I’d achieved what I was appointed to do. You see, I love diversification, taking each project or task as it comes along and doing my best at it, learning new ideas and better ways of doing things as I go. I stop when I’ve achieved a goal or produced something worthwhile. It’s at this point that the learning stops for me.
I used to tell myself ‘I become bored easily’, ‘I’m a dreamer’, ‘I can’t stick at one thing’. Then this Zen Buddhist riddle spoke to me:
Q: How long should you stay at something?
A: However long it takes to get what you came for.
Q: How do you decide what you came for?
A: You don’t, you discover it.
Q: How do you discover it?
A: You notice what isn’t there anymore when you feel like leaving.
I am a ‘scanner’. I love the inspiration of creating something new, but then quickly lose interest. This applies as much to my career as it does to the projects I start. As a child I’d make perfume from rose petals and sell it in little bottles on the street corner. Making money wasn’t the driver but the creation of something was. After I’d created the perfume, I’d lose interest.
I started making jewellery once. I bought the beads, wire and pincers. I made a few necklaces and gave them away. I made some earrings and even wore them. I got compliments on my creations. I had big ideas that this would lead somewhere, maybe a market stall or an internet business. But once I made those items a few times, my interest waned. The reward came out of creating something.
I light up when I get involved in anything new – people, places, experiences. I love to challenge myself, seeing how good at something I can be. I like the process of creating something tangible or devising solutions to problems. I thrive on serving others and I’m inspired by change.
I always focus completely and give myself wholly to anything I do. But once I’ve got my reward and I feel that stirring of desire to do something different, I commit myself to that.
At the moment, I’m committed to the business. Will coaching, consultancy and leadership be the end game? I can’t answer that. I love the challenge, the variety and the excitement that it brings. How long will I stay at it? Until I get what I came for.
If you’re anything like me, understand your why – why you are involved in something. It’s often linked to your values.
When you know your why, you’ll understand what the duration is. If/when you start to feel like a new challenge, observe anything that attracts your attention, notice when you’re doing something you really enjoy and make a note of the ideas that come into your head. Whilst not everything you love has to be a career, do what interests, fulfils and challenges you and when you’ve got your reward, move on. It makes the world a more interesting place to be.