This morning I had coffee with a woman I used to work with. We had planned to get together to talk through some things that were going on at work and catch up since we really haven’t had the opportunity since I changed jobs back in November 2014.
She’s at an organization that many of us already chose to abandon and, recently, was forced to change her role. As we talked through some of the potential benefits of transitioning from a manager to a more direct individual contributor it took me back to a point in my own career about 3 years ago. While I went in with the intention to help her, I walked out with some insights of my own. Funny how that happens…
I have had somewhat of an “accidental” career. Honestly, I’ve hesitated to even call it a career in casual conversation up to now. To me a career is something you plan and work towards. You start at V, know that you want to wind up at Z and that you’ll need to get to W, X, and Y along the way. My own work life has been a lot more organic. As a result, it’s kinda just been something that I did so I never really threw it in the “career” bucket.
After 14 years at one organization, I had averaged a role change about every 2 years. Most of the positions I held along the way I wrote myself into. I found myself managing a team of people for the first time – thankfully it was a small team. After that two year management stint I found my days spent primarily answering questions and fixing things. I missed doing something, without anyone else, from start to finish. I needed more flexibility because it was as if someone had put a rock on the work side of my seesaw, leaving the life side stuck in the air, legs flailing, struggling to figure out how to get off.
An opportunity to move back into an individual contributor role presented itself at the perfect moment, putting me in a position to work with a tremendous pair of women and for 3-6 months it was absolutely fantastic. Then one of those women took a national position at the organization and another put her name on the list for the next round of layoffs.
Suddenly there I was, standing by myself, as if someone said, “If there is anyone who would like to take on this underpaid, overworked Director role (without the Director title, mind you, but that’s a whole other story) with a very limited staff please take a step forward.” – and everyone around me took one huge step back.
I was a glaring choice to be tapped to fill this position and be pushed back into a leadership role. And considering my chosen position wouldn’t exist on the other side I felt like there really was no other option.
So I tried my best, held tight to where I had drawn my personal limits, and did what I could to help my team – not only with lack of support from above but often times fighting against a huge, gaping black hole that was created when our organization was purchased and our whole leadership team was replaced.
Eventually I snapped. Thankfully, in almost that same moment I found a much better opportunity. Because sometimes our life is charmed like that.
Now, all that being said – what was the big insight this morning? I was reminded that big changes can only really be achieved when you’re heart is truly ready. Back in the day, I was a good manager. I was ready mentally – it was the next logical step, it was more money, I knew the roles of the people I needed to support – but my heart had to catch up. Today, I’m back in a leadership role, with a larger, more diverse team. I’m at a growing organization and probably have twice as many initiatives running than I ever did in the past. Three years ago I would have been jumping off the bus, convinced my life was about to careen off the cliff.
Today – it makes me happy. Why? Because my heart wants it, too. And when your brain and your heart can agree to go in the same direction? That’s when you’re really ready for a change.