#JanuaryJoy: Refocus on your career – Victoria, Marketing Executive

So todays post marks the start of a new series for Florence Finds. For a long time I have wanted to involve other people here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one of the strengths of FF is the community. I know some people would say that they come here to hear what I have to say but I believe theres a lot more we can offer than just my opinion. Sometimes thats via discussion in the comments, but I also happen to know a whole host of intelligent, go-getting, vibrant women who are just as interesting as I am and have many different viewpoints. I want to hear more from these women on topical life issues and so I’m going to co-ordinate various essay series where I ask people with relevant life experiences to share their thoughts on a subject. I’m starting off with careers and Victoria is kicking us off. I asked her to reflect on her career after her recent secondment in Paris and what she has written may make you re-evaluate your perception of your job satisfaction…


As part of January Joy Rebecca asked me to write about a change of career, or even just a job change. I haven’t actually done that for a while though, so I was stuck about what I could write. I then realised that perhaps writing about just a simple change of attitude towards my current situation, and how that actually changed my job, and, if I’m allowed to be dramatic for a moment or two, my life.

Until I made that change, if you’d ask me about my “dream job”, I’d tell you that “I’m still deciding what I want to be when I grow up, *chortle chortle*”. That I was doing “this job” until some divine inspiration about my dazzling “dream career path” came and slapped me on the cheek. In my thirties, that slap still hadn’t happened, and I realised that for me, the title “dream job” is just a Hollywood fabrication!

Illustation by Bella Pilar

For the first four or five years after leaving university I moved on from jobs pretty swiftly, basically when I got bored and needed more out of the role, when I hated the environment I was working in or just simply needed a salary uplift. I moved to my current company over five years ago and I’ve been here ever since. The temptation to move has been there every now and again (money, job-envy, a feeling of stagnation), but I never actually did it. My gut always stopped me. I often look back and wonder why. I wonder if it’s because I found some happiness in what I do. If it’s because solid employment during a period of market and personal instability helped me find happiness by way of job security. I wonder if I haven’t moved on because when I moved here I stopped having panic attacks on the way to the office and crying on the way home. I also found a sense of community, made friends and developed a sense of loyalty to the team and firm and the thought of leaving made me feel a bit sad. That however doesn’t help a career pathway, does it?

On reflection, as well as a combination of the above, I think what actually happened is that I became settled because what I do, may not be my “dream job” but I want to do it, more than I want to do anything else.

It took some personal analysis, perhaps a year or so ago, to realise that. All accidental of course.

Sometimes I find that I get so bogged down in the day-to-day detail of what I do for a living that I forget I don’t actually have to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I have to do something so I can eat, live, drive, travel etc, but it’s not necessarily what I’m doing now that I have to do. I could give it all up and be a vet. I could re-train and become a teacher. I could move to the southern hemisphere and learn to track big cats on safari game reserves. I could hustle and get myself on an internship programme at a glossy magazine. I could go to evening classes and develop skills on floristry, make up artistry, hair dressing, photography and so on. I could drag my wobbly backside to the gym and become a lingerie model… actually, no, I couldn’t. But you get the picture. If I hated what I do now, it is totally within my power to change it and be something else. Yes there’d be sacrifice. Yes it’d be hard work. Yup, the opportunity costs of my decisions would be considerable. But the point is, if I know that I want a change, it’s my responsibility to make it happen. I’ve considered all these career options, and more (NOT the modelling, of course. That was a joke, of course,) some with more seriousness than others and I always end up realising that it’s just a phase, likely encouraged by a TV programme or a conversation with someone about their job and the perceived excitement and glamour it entails… wholly ignoring the downsides!

Anyway, I digress, I was talking about my personal analysis. So, I spent some time reflecting on what it is that I do, and why it is that I do it. I took part in a Myers Briggs test to understand my personal motivations better and enrolled on some training courses at work which incorporated some other personality tests to determine my leadership style. I discovered that all I really want to do is to help people, to be useful and to receive the appropriate recognition for my work. I’m not interested in power or leadership or the glory of achieving it. I want to help other people realise their own glory and all I “need” is to be quietly thanked for helping them do so. I’m an ENFJ in case you’re wondering…

All of a sudden, I stopped day dreaming about what I’d do if I didn’t have to do this and made peace with what I do do. All of a sudden I love what I do a whole lot more, because I’ve realised that if I view my job in the context of what makes me happy, there is so much more happiness and enjoyment I can derive from it.

So, I said it changed my life, I wasn’t being dramatic. I really think that the changes I made effected a number of amazing opportunities for me, one of them being a secondment to our Paris office. This gave me the chance to spend some time working abroad (a personal goal), living what can only be described as a fairy tale life for a short time (see some of my personal highlights from my weekends here,) and pushing me wholly out of my personal and my professional comfort zones (scary but exciting), and thus I came home from Paris a very different person on all counts.

In short, it wasn’t so much an actual physical career or job change that made me happy (or brought me [January] Joy, if you will), more a change in mindset to bring it about within my current situation.

My loved ones noticed how much happier I was at home. My boss, co-workers and clients noticed how much more enthusiastic and applied I was. Great things started to happen. Opportunities opened up, professional relationships became more developed, projects became more interesting and my working day became more fulfilling. All because I started to view them in a different way.

I have always been envious of people that knew what they wanted to be, and how they chose educational and career pathways to make that happen, but I guess I did much the same unconsciously. Really, all I’ve ever wanted to be was a city worker: trains and tubes, take away lattes, snappy meetings, office banter, city suits, after-work drinks, not forgetting the, ahem, important stuff like interesting, challenging opportunities and a work portfolio full of high-profile projects and clients, an international perspective and the opportunity to travel and work with people from around the globe. Recently I’ve also become a “premises snob” and realised that I’ve started assessing future employers on the standard of their building!

So it turns out that I actually have achieved everything I ever wanted from a job and/or a career. I wanted to be a helpful, respected, appreciated city worker, with fun and exciting opportunities available to me, and that I am. And I am happy about it.

I am January Joyful.

Victoria x

PS! Find Victoria over on her blog Sugar Plum Slipper or on twitter @VictoriaHale.

2013 in Review Part 1: Career and Family

In January when I wrote my resolutions post, my fourth goal was a little bit cryptic. I wasn’t quite ready to talk about my plans and it has been a long journey since then, but now I’m finally ready to share and hopefully reassure or inspire some of you to go goal-getting. (You can read about my other resolutions and where I’m up to with them here.)

Here’s what I wrote back in January:
4. The big one… To embrace change and make choices. 2012 was an amazing year for me. Really amazing. In some more obvious ways nothing changed, in less tangible ways, everything did. This year is going to be the year of change I feel. Right now I don’t know what those changes are going to be … I know I will make career choices between paths that are polar opposites.

Back in January, everything was revolving around my work. I had been in a place I was happy (but still as a locum) for a long period, fought some personal demons about my career and work life, and felt ready to commit to full time General Practice. I had decided that this practice was the place I wanted to be long term and that’s no small matter when you are talking the rest of your working life.

What I didn’t know was whether they wanted me. I knew I was doing a great job and fitted in within the team, but in General Practice it’s not just about that. Different doctors bring different skills and you are often looking for a personality, a skill set or even a specific sex of doctor to complement the existing team, (and before any of you chip in about sexism, discrimination and employment law, it doesn’t apply here as I was looking to join as a self employed partner for which the rules are different.) I really wasn’t confident that I ticked all the boxes and the job I wanted was a desirable one, so I knew there would be plenty of potential interest from people who might fit the bill better. As I wrote in January I had decided to sit down, make my intentions clear and find out if there was a future for me there. I didn’t want to hear a negative response, but if there was no future for me there, I knew I had to go looking for it elsewhere.

When I did get a chance to talk to someone, the result was positive about me but very vague about any opportunity. I was gutted and spent about three weeks feeling pretty rubbish and wondering where to go next. I applied for a couple of jobs, felt positive about one and lacked any real enthusiasm for another. The first I didn’t get shortlisted for and the second I interviewed for, then narrowly missed out on the job. I was outraged(!) but relieved, the feeling I had about it had gotten worse and worse as I got more involved.

I decided to stay put, future or no future, it was where I wanted to be and as time went on I managed to muster a shred of optimism which I clung to, while I threw myself back into the job. By April a real solid opportunity had arisen and I hardly allowed myself to consider the possibility of a chance of getting what I wanted as I left to go on holiday, my future hanging in the balance.

You see it wasn’t just about the job. If there was no imminent job, there was nothing stopping Pete and I from thinking about starting a family. Before you guys jump in and say I shouldn’t be basing my decision on work, I felt ambivalent, like fate was due to play her hand. And so she did, as while we were away I was offered the job I wanted. Now I’m super excited to get stuck in, learn about the business side of GP and continue building my clinical experience. It feels like the start of a very rewarding journey.

So did any of you make career or family based decisions this New Year? I’d love to hear how you’re getting on or if my story has given you food for thought.


PS The Reiss Sale Is Now Live!

The Plan…

Quite often, it’s the women around me that inspire the posts I write here, particularly when it relates to issues we all face day to day and thoughts we may have. Back in January I had dinner with a good friend and the conversation turned to our plans for the year, both practical and aspirational. Both at a significant crossroads in our lives, we covered everything from moving home to moving careers, financial decisions to starting a family, holidays and quality of life. The conclusion was that my friend had a plan and it made me think, I never really had a plan.

Image: Creature Comforts blog

The magazines always tell us women have a ‘plan’ and I know that studies have shown that women with a plan are more likely to achieve it, but it left me wondering, what was your plan and how does life compare now? I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard friends say they ‘want a baby before they’re thirty’ (the majority now have,) to be married by X age or to move house in three years… The majority of my friends are also doctors, so I don’t hear as much as perhaps some of you do about career progression – with us it relies on the completion of a training program that is fixed in time. But now many of them are GP’s I hear maternity benefits and the pros and cons of partnerships being discussed and planned.

And me? Well, apart from never really having a plan, I still don’t. My friends would probably be surprised at that but apart from single-mindedly knowing I wanted to marry Pete, otherwise I live very much in the moment. Looking back, many of the plans, perhaps better termed ‘ideas’ I’ve had in recent years have been blindly pushed ever backwards. Moving house postponed as we don’t really need to until we have a baby, and that baby remains 2 or three years in the future, much as it was 2 or 3 years ago! Career wise, I’m treading water, and enjoying it. I’m not progressing on the career ladder, but I’m looking around me all the time and learning about what I do want in the future. Not needing maternity benefits means I also don’t need the benefits of a steady job.

Image: Portillon

Reading all that might make me sound relatively relaxed about it, which I mostly am, but every now and then, I freak out and wonder what on earth I’m doing. If I don’t get a job, when I do want a baby I’ll have to wait until I accrue maternity leave. If I wait much longer I’ll be competing with all the newly qualified GP’s that start work in August. If we don’t move soon, house prices might change, we might lose money on the house or end up buying a house that needs loads of work with a small baby. It’s easy to spiral into panic. I need a list, we need a plan!

But I don’t, I have to remind myself it’s ok, I’m almost thirty with so much ahead of me, there’s no rush. I’m kind of glad I never made a plan, as I don’t have anything to compare myself to, to make me feel bad, to feel like I haven’t achieved what I always thought would happen naturally. And you know what they say, the best laid plans…

All that leads me to thinking about you readers. What was your plan and how does where you’re at now in life compare to where you thought you would be? I love hearing your perspectives on things and think a problem shared is a problem halved, so lighten the load a little and let’s hear your story.

Love, a plan-less-but-happy

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