My frustration is so great, I’ve re-written this intro 3 times already. It’s either too angry, too sad, or too tired. None of those words are particularly inspiring it has to be said, so it’s a good job there is a deep seated, primal drive within me that fuels me to action each day. Either that or the thought of sitting at home for the next 15 years, picking my nose whilst quietly going mad with boredom and resentment, stuffing my face with cake and becoming addicted to afternoon naps, is the rocket fuel that gets me off my arse to ensure that is not how I end up.
Yes, I’m talking about my attempts to resurrect some kind of a career, after walking away from it to focus on my family, myself and experience a different kind of life, to the one I’d originally planned. It’s easy to berate myself, to say I wished I’d stayed, found a way to make it work, gone back sooner, done things differently, but I didn’t and I have to trust that I made the right decisions, at the right time, else I might just go mad anyway. But that does not make this process any easier. It’s brutal, lonely and oh, so frustrating.
Firstly, the recruitment landscape has changed massively. It is no longer a call to a head hunter or recruitment agency, but an on-line application where the algorithm invariably rejects me, because I do not follow their neatly laid out criteria, in a linear fashion and it certainly cannot cope with the term ‘career break’. To be honest the automated, on-line recruitment process is so inhumane, I simply cannot bring myself to engage in it anymore. It’s bad enough having another human reject you, but at least they can make soothing noises and smile, whereas a rejection from a ‘bot’, that does not even take a decent amount of time, to at least pretend they have considered your skills or experience and have the emotional intelligence of a gnat, is just soul destroying.
Then there’s the big, hairy, vulnerable step of deciding to come clean on LinkedIn and admit that you are looking for work. A lovely green label gets popped onto your profile picture and all of a sudden, you feel that every piece of content your put out there is labelled, ‘but I’m only doing this because I really need a job’, which is of course not true, well not wholly anyway. But it feels like that and why does it? Why does going public about the fact that you are looking for working and asking for help to find work, make you feel so god damn vulnerable — like if you were any good, you would already be in work right?
But just like getting pregnant, you eventually get past the ‘sh*t I’m getting fat’ phase, to ‘it’s ok I look pregnant rather than fat now’ phase and then you find yourself getting braver, well I certainly did. So, it starts slowly, compiling a list of anyone who you think might faintly remember you and didn’t think you were a dick and then dropping them a line to ask for their advice, their help and starting to spread the message that you are looking for work — but not only that, but despite 3 children, a menagerie of animals, an alternative career path, a prolific on-line presence that has pretty much shared every darkened corner of your soul, that you are in fact, still bloody good at what you do, you do have your sh*t together (despite appearances to the contrary), you have not had a lobotomy (just a bit of brain fog now and again) and you’ve gained a serious amount of life experience that might just be of enormous benefit to them.
And that’s the easy part it has to be said. Because in those early days you are full of hope, optimism, energy and after reading all of the headlines about getting women back into work and embracing more flexible working practices, you are convinced the world is ready for you. But that is not the reality — resurrecting your career is an endurance sport for sure. And to be honest when I look back, getting my career started in the first place was no walk in the park. But I was young, fearless, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I was like Teflon when it came to rejection, it just slid of me because I genuinely believed in myself, I had no reason not to and I simply moved onto to the next opportunity and the next, until finally I got my break and then my god did I take it. I worked every hour god sent, I did the sh*tty jobs, I played the game, I did the extra work and I only ever looked forward not back. And that is the woman who still resides inside of me and who I have had to dust off and bring back out to play.
Because a career worth having does not just fall in your lap — well not in my experience. If it’s worth having then it needs your investment, your time, your commitment and your courage. It needs to know you are in this for real. I’m 48 years old, I’ve worked in consulting for over 20 years, even taking into account a career break, I’ve done the big jobs, I’ve played the field and I’ve got the battle scars. I’m not interested in one-night stands, meaningless interactions, or cash only incentives. No, I’m after a career, a way of being, something I can believe in, that gets me out of bed in the morning because I know I can make a difference, that the work has meaning and therefore I have meaning. And finding that kind of opportunity takes time, resilience, determination, patience and an unwavering faith in yourself. Because you will be rejected, you will be told to play small, that your value has decreased because you have followed a different path, one many are not familiar nor comfortable with. And you need to be ready to take that, dust yourself off, get back out there and keep going until you find your opportunity. And I do believe there is always an opportunity should we choose to see it — the opportunity that can see the value you have to offer and they can see it because you believe in your value and you have not compromised yourself, nor sold yourself short in the pursuit of it.
But it is not easy, brutal is the word I would use to describe the process — even more so in the midst of a global pandemic. But adversity so often brings opportunity, it opens minds to new ways of being and changes circumstances beyond your imagination. For me, as a transformation consultant with sh*t loads of experience in large-scale public-sector change programmes, I’m hoping I can finally find the opportunity to use my skills to make a difference when we need it most. I sow seeds with people every single day. I do not know where or when those seeds will sprout, but I do know that they sure as hell will not, if they are not planted. And I know that doing nothing will allow my intellect to fester and my potential to be wasted and that can never be the right answer for me. So, I will keep searching, sowing the seeds, dusting myself off, using what I have at my disposal, right here, right now, getting up and getting out there each and every day, until I find the place where I can make a difference and be all that I can be. And I hope you can too.
Please do not give up hope, loose faith in yourself, or sell yourself short. Keep going, take a break when you need it, but never stop looking, because everyone’s opportunity is always waiting to be found.
And for anyone wondering what my opportunity might look like, it would be:
Translating strategic vision and policies into operational realities — in other words shaping and delivering big, hairy transformation programmes and I’m pretty good at troubleshooting on them too, when they are going a bit tits up or doing meaningful risk assessments, so you can predict when they are likely to go tits up.
Building and inspiring teams to deliver those big, hairy transformation programmes and doing so in a way that doesn’t break them through exhaustion, stress, confusion and frustration, which I have seen so many times on big programmes. No, the key is visibility, a common goal which actually matters, good, old fashioned communication and one god damn version of the truth!
Cutting through the noise, the complexity, the bullsh*t, focusing on the priorities, finding the critical path, breaking complex problems down into their component parts, driving down to their root cause and then actually solving them.
Basically, I get sh*t done, I inspire people to get sh*t done and I cut through the meaningless sh*t to ensure the right sh*t gets done.
My clients and colleagues have often described me as a force of nature and I guess it’s true — I’m passionate, articulate, driven, I really do know what I’m doing with change and I love it. Not a bad combination of skills and attributes to have.
And what do I mean by flexible working — well, trust me to deliver the outcomes and to be where I need to be, when I need to be. That might mean full-time on client site and it might not, circumstances will tell. I love being an associate or contractor in layman terms, because I like the freedom to move from programme to programme, without the internal politics. Who knows that might change given the right organisation, but for now a 3–6 month contract delivering large scale transformation, preferably for Central Government, although I’ve plenty of experience with the private and not-for-profit sector too, would be perfect.
I just thought I’d outline my ideal world, because you never know where your opportunities might come from and one of my golden mantra’s is simply — if you don’t ask, you don’t get, so please start asking and sowing those seeds.
A bit about me: I aspire to inspire people to be themselves, to embrace all of themselves, warts and all. To re-define our reality, to be more honest and sustainable. To re-define success, to be more diverse and focus on the stuff that really matters, not the shiny sh•t, that you cannot take with you anyway.
No-one will remember what car you drove, but my goodness, they will remember if you made them smile, feel good about themselves and accepted them for who they are. It is the gifts of kindness and understanding that will last beyond your lifetime, not the gifts of gold.
I’m a mum, writer, transformation consultant and all round eccentric, doing my own thing, in my own way, in the hope I can make others smile and love themselves a little bit more.
My blog, library of curiosity, daily inspiration and lots of other things, can be found on my website www.nikdavis.com.
My alternative and eclectic approach to fashion and design can be found at www.lillyisabella.co.uk.
I love people, I love life and I love to talk, so please feel free to reach out and let’s have a conversation.