I left my last job exactly four weeks today. In some ways the job seems to be distant memory, I guess ‘checking out’ had started a few months ago, in other ways the four weeks has flown by. This has been the first month of exploration; giving myself permission not to think about work or what next whilst I indulged in a short adventure.
Overall, my working life has been easy in terms of being able to do what I want with limited rejections, but hard in terms of volume. And not thinking about work is very hard. I am someone who has devoted a ridiculous amount of time to work, at times to the detriment of my own health and over work was one contributory factor in my divorce. I have always been driven by a need to do a good job, to be helpful and flexible, to learn about something new and this has translated into regular 50 – 60-hour weeks. When you’re on your own its easy to do silly hours. Work is a constant companion, work ‘is always there for you’.
I’ve tried to trace the origins of my strong work ethic and I think it’s a combination of my mum (sorry dad I can’t credit you with this – other things but not this) and my escapism as a child in a busy house. When things were turbulent in the house – family arguments etc., I would retreat to my bedroom sit by my radiator and either study and or do yoga, this was yoga without the frills basically stretching, and I loved it. Then, as I did well at school, the endorphin shot of a good mark and learning something new would continue to motivate me and so the cycle began.
Moving into adulthood I went to Uni, I wasn’t really sure what to do but knew I wanted to go so I plumped for a general business course as a safe bet. Once there I enquired about moving to Biology (as this had been my favorite subject at school – but on paper I didn’t have the pre-requisite sciences to do it at degree level) unbelievably I was offered a chance to transfer to it. However, at the same time I won the first term award on my business course, and I was swayed by external recognition over personal satisfaction. As my career has progressed I have repeatedly prioritized the needs or feedback from others in my career choices , ‘I could not possibly do the exciting shift role when we had young kids’ – but of course my husband could take a job which was pure adventure requiring totally flexible hours, several people put me off teaching and shop work due to the long hours, and my decisions seem to have been based on what I’m good at and get good feedback in rather than what provides a deep sense of achievement or satisfaction. And even recently when I’ve toyed with doing some part time care work again others have put me off… Mind you I recognise this says as much about me and my inner lack of self-belief, as it does about them.
I know I need to give myself time (and I am fortunate I can now take a short break) to really think more about what might give me that greater satisfaction, to see what presents through happenstance and what will ensure sustainability, which in its simplest form means not working crazy hours at the same time as adding value for others and the environment.
My intention was to get a part time job to bring in some pocket money whilst I ruminate…. and applying for Marks and Spencer seemed an obvious move. So, I filled in the 100-question personality assessment – am I resilient? – big tick, do I prefer structure or freedom at work? My honest answer is freedom, but I thought this is Marks and Spencer, I’m guessing there will be more rules and so the overthinking began. I then moved onto multiple choice scenarios – do I prioritize front of house tidying or checking a new stock delivery? I soon realized this was more complicated than I’d expected. I finished off with a nice covering letter and pressed send… but lo and behold within 10 minutes the dear john arrived.
Did I flunk the scenarios or personality part or both? … I was surprised and slightly disappointed, I was looking forward to the new part time adventure, but most of all I was slightly worried. Imagine if I can’t get another job, imagine if this won’t be as easy as I’d thought. I quickly kicked the thoughts out of my head, something always turns up – it just does, and I have an unending belief in that.
But I did think imagine if applying for Marks and Spencer was your 50th application, and it’s much harder than you think and with no feedback given I have no idea if it was my personality or the scenarios. There’s nothing for me to learn from or to bring into the next application. For someone who was really struggling with confidence that could be soul destroying. I think all big employers should be made to give feedback to all applicants who request it – try harder Marks and Spencer.