Lessons Learned in 2016

2016 was a trying year for many of us. Below are the few lessons I learned along the way. Hoping they may serve as a helpful, cautionary tale.

I had known for a while that the job I was in since 2014 was somewhat stifling. I had read the very inspirational The Encore Career Handbook by Marci Alboher (highly recommended and the Kindle version now only CA$1.99), and was looking forward to developing new skills and restoring old ones.

My boss announced her retirement in January 2016. I was on the Alboher encouraged “let’s try to develop new skills” beat so I offered to do an interview with her reflecting on her career, and post it on the organisation’s internal blog. It was a lot of work (the transcription alone!), but also a lot of fun.

Lesson Learned

No matter how grey or dark things are, keep learning, keep looking, keep trying new things. It will feed your soul.

 

As time went on, I felt more and more desperate to get out of my job, so I applied to everything I could find (14 hiring processes in total) to get out of there.

I failed most exams and when I passed the exams, I failed the interview. It was a vicious circle, I was drained and probably didn’t show myself in the best light, then failed and was even more discouraged.

In early summer, I went through one relatively “fun” interview, where I had to prepare a 20 min. presentation on any subject I chose (hadn’t prepared anything that length in 2 decades!) and answer questions in front of a 4-people panel. I liked the thought of doing something different and had just read the book Deep Work by Cal Newton, so I enjoyed using his ideas as a stepping stone. Doing this through work and other hiring processes though, I missed some important information on the job poster and in failing one answer, I was sure I would not get the job.

Lesson Learned

Concentrate only on applying to the jobs you really want. You’ll have more energy to pass exams and interviews while continuing to meet your daily work commitments.

 

The more time passed, the more desperate and drained I got. I was also going through some difficult experiences with my elderly parents, and in addition to my demanding day job and perimenopause symptoms, I lost myself and fell into a deep depression.

I tried to arrange for a mix of vacation and sick leave with my boss but due to work deadlines, it didn’t pan out. I took some vacation time, but it just wasn’t enough to recover enough to even see what I needed (medication and therapy).

A close colleague told me I should just take sick leave to take care of myself, but all I could think of was that leaving at that point would make me look unprofessional and damaged and that I needed to stay to support my staff and my new boss. I categorically and forcefully told her that I would be fine.

Lessons Learned

If you see yourself telling someone you care about that they are wrong about what you need, please step back and look at your motivations, they may not be in YOUR best interest. You may not be doing was is best for YOU.

Like in an airplanes, you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself before even thinking of helping anyone else – not wanting to take time to care for yourself, maybe deep down thinking that you don’t deserve that care, is a sign that you need to get help, pronto.

 

I was told in early July that I had actually gotten the “presentation” job. Due to bureaucratic hurdles however, it would take many weeks for me to actually be able to leave my current job. The more time passed, the more drained I was. At one point, I couldn’t even tell if taking the job would be a good thing (I would be losing job security, union benefits, etc.). I just could not think straight and felt I was jumping into total unknown.

What got me to finally stop and get help? I went for a routine medical appointment and just broke down. Not sure what opened the gate, but it was a good thing. The thought that I would fail at the new job, being in such a bad place, opened me up to try anything to help.

Lessons Learned

Not taking care of yourself early on will only lead to a longer recovery.

Taking medication to improve your health is a good thing; there is absolutely no difference between a physical affliction or a mental one.

 

Where am I now?

I started the new job a few months ago and I love it. I fit in much better with the culture there (people actually talking to each other and having coffee and lunch together while working super hard towards the same goals). I also enjoy the work I do, as well as the opportunity I have to learn new things in brand new (and some old) subjects.

I’m still on medication, still in therapy and monitoring myself and my dark thoughts carefully. My recovery is slow and not at all linear, but I am progressing.

Lesson Learned

Jumping into the unknown can often be your only chance of survival.

The End (for now).

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