5 years ago I decided on a certain career path and went ahead and got the prerequisite qualification. I then approached my boss at the time and asked for relevant experience which thankfully I was given. 2 years later I left the organisation and found that although I had transferable skills, they were very generic and if I wanted to break into this industry I needed to specialise and hone in on specific skills.
Despite my best efforts, I found that I had to start at an entry level position in an administrative role but within the right environment. A job which I did and hated for 18 months. It was whilst I was in this job that I stumbled on an article in Psychologies written by Anita Chaudhuri. It was a sufficient kick up the butt for me.
They were principles that I was well aware of, however seeing it in print that day, particularly within my then present ‘imprisonment’, it hit home. 18 months later, I am now doing what I set out to achieve five years ago and there so much more that I am looking forward to.
Interestingly enough, the article was about how work-life-balance was so yesterday and how blending what you love with what you do for a living is the new trend. A concept propagated by Americans Maneesh Goyal and David Munczinski, co-founders of ‘Live in the Grey‘; a website offering ideas and inspiration for blending work and play. As I was reading it, this line caught my attention –
Although he has made a radical career change, he counsels against making massive changes overnight. ‘It’s OK to start small’, he says. ‘Particularly when you’re just starting out, you need to be open to the idea that your career journey is going to have many different chapters. Your opening chapters are meant to be quite short, they’re meant to be eye-openers’.
After reading that I was hooked and wanted to put it to the test. Being in a job I hated at that moment with very little prospect of advancement, this spoke volumes to me. I knew that I had a lot to learn from the environment but perhaps I was too much in a hurry to pass GO and collect £200.
The article had some key principles but the ones that inspired me were as follows? You can read it in its entirety here.
- Identify what you love doing and blend personal and professional. Just because you like baking doesn’t mean you have to set up a baking business. You could start by baking cakes for meetings or giving them out as incentives to people who hit targets. – This was one example I took to heart for obvious reasons. The office used to run lunchtime workshops where cross learning could take place. I recommended that in down seasons we could have cupcake decorating sessions which was in line with the health and well being agenda of the organisation. Baking is very therapeutic ;). My boss liked the idea and I was able to run these with a colleague of mine. We had the highest turnout of willing participants at our sessions.
- Everyone matters. Break down the barriers and see people as human beings first and foremost. Relate to the security guard as your peer and make it your business to know what’s going on in the personal lives of your colleagues. – I started to be a lot more conscious about the people around me. They were certainly more interesting than the job I was doing. 😉 The next day at work, when I started to chat with a colleague, I realised that this was one of the things that made me feel alive at work – getting to know the real person and moving from simply being colleagues to possibly friends. You learn about their spouses, children; you know their names and get updates about what’s happening in their personal lives. You connect and it makes work lively and not so dull. I even started striking up friendships with people in other departments that I had never met but emailed on a regular basis. Careful not to spend all of the company time chatting though. 🙂
- Action Trumps Intentions. What is holding you back from doing the things you love doing at work? What makes you fulfilled? You need to do more of that.– I was clear about what I wanted to do, I just needed an opportunity to do it. So I started to approach various team leads and just chat to them about what I needed to do to advance my career. Then I offered to help out on various projects if they needed help. This got me good experience that was not necessarily in my job description but crucial for my personal development. Also I made a conscious effort to live in the present which in this situation meant learning from even the most boring task. This helped me to focus on the experience I was getting rather than where I would rather be.
I’m very sure your interpretation of the article will be different from mine but where I was at that point in time influenced my perspective greatly. I might interpret it quite differently now. Nevertheless, I started to apply these principles with the best effort that I could. It wasn’t easy and I fell off the wagon a fair bit but I stuck at it. And this is what made a boring job, interesting for me.
However difficult it may be, I think it is important to use every opportunity to improve yourself. Be strategic about the opportunities you need to exploit. If there is someone who you can talk to in a role you like, ask them for career advice. Don’t despise the days of little beginnings. Don’t judge your future by a moment in time. And most importantly, don’t ever give up!