A personal Journey – from redundancy onwards?

DSCN0159I’ve decided to write a different type of blogpost, a bit of a departure from most of the blogs on here. This is more personal, about my journey after redundancy and the beauty of it is, I don’t know how it ends, I have no idea what I will be doing in a few months time, let alone this time next year. This is a blog that many will no doubt relate to, as many have faced redundancy or career changing decisions, many others will have struggled through exactly the same thought processes and anxiety that I have, and come up with very different conclusions no doubt? Whether anyone will find it interesting is another matter entirely, and maybe, just maybe, the process is more about reflection and therapy for me than it is about anything else! It’s also strange writing about myself, as my other blogs tend to be about issues and interests.

The story starts at the end of August 2013 when I lost my job. I’d been there for just over 8 years in quite a senior position, but for various reasons my time there came to an end rather abruptly. So after a pretty tough final few years in that job, working ridiculous hours, rarely taking all my holiday, constant stress and being far too focused on work, I suddenly found I had to think about what I was going to do next. The thought of updating my CV and searching out job opportunities, filling in application forms and going for interviews just did not appeal. I had no idea if I could just go and work for someone else again and who or what that would involve or if setting myself up as a self employed consultant would work. The biggest challenge I found myself thinking about was what I had to offer – I’m a bit of a generalist rather than a specialist, I don’t consider what I do as a specific skill or something that is marketable, I just do some stuff, mostly whatever is asked of me. In all my jobs I have adapted to what is needed, to what anyone has thrown at me and just got on with it – that has ranged from staff and budget management, charity management, marketing and PR, research and policy, writing, company strategy, business planning, membership and representation, community engagement, development control and planning advice, academic research and lecturing, partnership working and community regeneration. So what jobs could I aim for at what level and what would I sell if I went self employed? I have no idea!

So what to do next? After several weeks of blaming everyone but myself for the position I found myself in and being quite emotional about the whole thing, I got to the point where the logical side of my brain took over, it normally does. No one else was going to sort things out for me, it was entirely up to me what I did next and that was the start of looking forwards rather than backwards. My first decision was that I was going to take a year off, to give myself thinking time, to work out what I wanted to do next and what I valued about each of the jobs I have done in the past and what I was less keen on – an interesting process that I am still going through – in the hope of beginning to define what I enjoy about work and what I’m good at!

I also decided I would need to do something during that year and my first thought was to take a look at a course I had always been interested in doing but never quite had the time to consider properly – the MSc in Public Policy, in the School for Policy Studies at Bristol University. It covers so many of the issues I am interested in and want to know more about that it was an obvious starting point. I was keen to get back into academic reading and writing, something I had moved away from 20 or so years ago and to a point missed the challenge it provides and the reward you get from tackling complex issues and problems. So I investigated and found I’d missed all the usual deadlines (this was about mid/late Sept) and the course had actually started, but I got in touch anyway and found out there was still time if I managed to complete everything required in just a few days. Thankfully it all worked out, thanks to some very helpful people in the School office, and I started the course a week or so late at the beginning of October 2013 – I went back to University 25 years after I had first graduated and I’m loving it! I would recommend to anyone the idea of embarking on a university course as a (very) mature student, I am getting so much more out of this than I did as a youngster straight from school and my motivations for doing it are so different compared to when I was an undergraduate. I’ll write more about the course itself, the highs and the lows, the challenges and the fun, once I have completed it later this year (mid Sept). Right now  I am in the final stages of the course with just a dissertation to complete in 4 months!

In terms of thinking about what to do post-September, well I still don’t know really and have no set plans. I am still reassessing what is important and what I enjoy doing. One thing I do know is that for me, being made redundant, from a job I had grown to dislike (I was going to write ‘hate’ there, but that’s too strong a word), was quite possibly the best thing that has happened to me for a long time. Not having a job has forced me to consider what is important and what I want to do next, rather than just plodding along in a job that had moved so far away from what I enjoyed that going to work everyday was a chore, but I kept going with it because change is scary, it’s difficult and it’s challenging, and we often avoid it even when it should be the most obvious thing to do.

Forced change is certainly unpleasant at the time, but I have been fortunate to be able to use this as a positive opportunity to think about what next and to revisit the academic world for a while, something I used to be familiar with and I am enjoying my return. What the future holds I don’t know but it will be very different to what I did in my last job.