Feeling like a failure after a ‘career-blip’

Ever took a risk on a new job and then thought, ‘WTF have I just done?’. That was me a few months ago. When I took a risk on a new job that, despite being a great role and a great company, turned out to simply be the wrong fit. Nonetheless, I felt my world crumble and I felt like a complete failure. Even worse, in this era of social media, I felt like a public failure…

Taking a risk

When I started working for a global infrastructure company I was over the moon. I’d just changed my entire career. I’d left my job in London to go back to university to do a Masters in Conservation Ecology. This was my first official job upon MSc graduation. This was it. This was going to be my big life-long career, no more interviews, ever, I had it made and I was going right to the top.

Until… I got itchy, restless, frustrated, disheartened, exhausted, misaligned and miserable. I’d stopped being me. So what does anyone do when miserable in their job? Yep, I went looking for greener grass. I looked into my interests and passions and decided that I wanted to expand my horizons from Ecology into Sustainability – which is where I came across an incredible sustainability consultancy. The work they do is incredible and really game-changing. The team are exceptionally talented, creative and knowledgeable – people I could learn a great deal from. I couldn’t wait to join them to help grow their circular economy work and help save the planet one client and one project at a time. It felt like it was my dream career move! I mean, who doesn’t want to live their dreams and save the world, right?

Not just new-job-jitters

It was only a matter of weeks after starting that I realised that the new job wasn’t the right fit for me. My aspiration to join the world of sustainability had lured me away from my heart and soul that is working with wildlife and connecting the urban and natural world. My gut was telling me that it wasn’t just new-job-jitters, giving it time would not solve this one, that it would in fact only pull me further away. Thankfully, a pre-scheduled holiday not long after my start date was a great opportunity to gain some clarity, take a breather, spend quality time with my partner out in the wilderness on an epic adventure and reflect on what on earth I was thinking (and then what on earth I was going to do about said thinking).

It was just by pure chance that before we flew I was made aware that a job I’d been previously interested in had been re-listed and the application date extended. Whether you believe in fate or not, I guarantee you, it was fate.

Let’s just say, there was a lot of soul-searching and contemplation whilst on that holiday. The new job, another potential new job, the old job, every job. What to do, what not to do. Anguish, despair, belief, debate, argument, enlightenment, anxiety, hopelessness, trepidation… By the time we came back I was still in a state of flux but I submitted my application regardless and left the rest to the powers that be.

Social life VS Real life

One of my biggest fears was what my old colleagues would think. What it would look like on LinkedIn? Should I delete my sustainability experience so it didn’t leave a ‘black mark’ on my career history? What will I say if they ask me in interview about why I’m looking to leave so early on? What do I say to my old Director when I ask him for another reference? How will I cope with the feelings of shame and embarrassment to have made a mistake? How do I tell the mother-in-law that I had somewhat of a career-blip?!!!

It’s absurd, I know, but true. I was more concerned about my online ‘social’ life than my real life… About the impressions of my LinkedIn contacts and Twitter followers rather than my real feelings, real situation, real future and real friends.

Those real friends have been nothing but positive. They know me for me. They stepped up to encourage, support and spur me on to take the risk, apply for the other job and make a future for myself that felt right. One where I could genuinely thrive and make a significant contribution. They discussed my fears and made me feel positive, they gave me hope, they reminded me of my strengths and of who I was. They are real. Social media is not.

Take risks for the life you want to live

Without banging on about it too much and making this blog unnecessarily longer than it already is… I got the new-new job (YES!). I was honest and handed my notice in at the sustainability consultancy – they were nothing but supportive and understood my reasons. It was a relief to say the least, but also sad to leave behind such new friendships that I hoped would flourish.

I recently begun my new role and I can now see a positive future for myself. One that inspires me, fuels me, and critically, has a great work-life balance. It allows me to connect and work with some of the most incredibly passionate, influential and talented people in Gloucestershire all striving to do good for people and place and pushing for positive change across the county.

I’m not going to hide the work I have done whilst working in sustainability. That work, just like all my other jobs since the age of 13, was done with pure commitment, dedication and pride. I achieved a lot for the company in the short time I was there, laying the foundations for what is going to be a game-changer for the future of recycling, for both my client and the industry, as well as everyday people. Just because it didn’t quite go to plan, doesn’t imply failure. Although, a little personal note of thanks from my client helps provide a mini reminder to myself that I did good by them despite my decision to leave.

Don’t be blindsided by social media

We can all be swayed and blindsided by our social worlds and the Utopian message we all want to portray about ourselves. Sometimes it’s important to realise that real life takes us in directions that sometimes lead to dead ends, to turmoil, to unknown destinations and even around in circles, all of which don’t comply with the social Utopian paradigm. Backtracking or changing course is okay. You do not need to justify yourself or your action to anyone but yourself. Most definitely not to any social media platform and its inhabitants. And since my mini ‘failure’, I have seen many an article that actually suggest that a career blip is a good thing! Who knew!

I can’t pretend it’s easy. Even as I write this blog I’m concerned about who will see it, read it, judge it, judge me. I’ve tweaked and tweaked it to death for a few weeks now, but it’s time to get it out there. It’s a reminder that the real world has its ups and downs, not all decisions are easy and sometimes things just don’t work out, or God forbid you change your mind! But that’s okay too!

Finally, it’s important to gain a bit of perspective, so in the fine words of John Lennon, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’.

Wish me luck.

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