Since primary school, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. I carefully selected my subjects and ticked all the right boxes because that’s what good private school students do. For my entire childhood, I had been indoctrinated to believe that I was only ever going to have one path but my first year of university proved all that wrong. I went from science to applying for Medicine, to thinking about Physio to eventually doing a Masters of Business Administration. Talk about a windy road.
I’m probably not the first person to ever write about career-block – the thing that happens when you know you’re on the wrong path but have no flippin’ idea how to get off it. The only difference is, I had done all the right things, collected my pieces of paper, lived in different cities and for the life of me, I still had no idea what I was going to do when I grew up (noting I was 30 at this point). Was it your stereotypical early life crisis, was I unsettled, was I bored, was it just the industry I was in or worse, was it the job I had committed eigh years of my life to?
After many tears and sleepless nights, I decided to take a leap of faith and leave my security blanket – my job. Not to be confused with other brave women who do this all on their own, I had a husband who supported me and who also had a salary to pay the bills (just) while I pondered life. Most would think that being job-free would be fun but when you wake up every morning like a deer in the headlights, without purpose or drive, it is actually pretty scary.
Anyone who knows me would say that my biggest strength is also my biggest downfall, I’m driven and don’t take no for an answer. The problem is when you lose any semblance of drive, you start to feel lost and the spiral is immediate. This isn’t a place I particularly enjoyed, or felt happy about being in for too long. So, I did something about it.
And this is how I overcame my career-block, or career-depression. Whatever the title, it all meant the same to me.
I recognised my career-depression and acknowledged its shitty presence. The age-old saying of, “once you admit to your problem, you’re already half way to overcoming it” is very true. I knew that living in my pocket of naivety would only do more harm than good, so I needed to put my big girl pants on and face the music. I had no direction and I was the only person who could fix that.
I focused my energy on two things, two things only. 1. What am I really good at? And 2. What do I enjoy doing? I knew that by trying to find the elusive “dream job” or the most perfect “job description”, I would only find myself back in the black hole of doubt. Because let’s face it, they’re generic AF and in my state, nothing would have fit anyway.
I knew I had to find something that involved lots of team ‘stuff’. I’m a people person. I loved the idea of no two days being the same and wanted a role where I could learn. I need constant learning! Eventually I narrowed my “good at’s” and “enjoy doing’s” to one short but pretty accurate list of non-negotiables.
I spoke to past colleagues, university peers and basically anyone who would listen, and the response was resounding – I was going to be a Management Consultant. Now how the F do I make this work?!
I had over 40 first dates. I’m a coffee lover but even this was caffeine overload. In the space of four to six months, I met with over 40 Partners, Directors, middle-level managers and general consultants from different industries, companies and backgrounds. I basically had 40 first dates, or at least, that’s what it felt like. I wanted to know everything about them, heck even the type of pen they used, I wanted to know it all. This is where my ‘drive’ came in handy. I left no stone unturned and exploited every contact, every LinkedIn message, everything! I was your modern-day career-bunny-boiler!
I had a schiekey-deeky resume. *BORING*. I get it, talking about your resume is not inspiring. BUT, to this day, I’m pretty bloody proud of it. Your resume is the first thing that your new employer will see of YOU. Whether you’re using one of your contacts to bypass the HR-wall-of-China, or fighting the hundreds of other applicants for an interview, it’s always important to have an impressive CV. I had between six - seven people look at mine, all with different perspectives and all with great input. Don’t use a template, and certainly don’t get someone to write it for you. Your CV should be personal, it should be the words to YOUR voice.
I betted on the law of averages. I wasn’t precious, I applied for everything. This mustn’t be confused with choosing the first job that is offered to you, but rather an amazing opportunity to be invited for interviews and learn more about the industry you’re wanting to get into. Remember, the interview process is just as much about you getting to know them as it is about them getting to know you. I went to many, many, many interviews and in some, I knew right away that it wasn’t a place I wanted to work. Yes, this took time, but it meant the job I did eventually pick was the right one for me and for them.
I made a promise. I will never ignore my feelings of doubt again. Listen to your gut, it’s usually right.