I’m about to publish a book. It’s a little scary. Will people like it? Will they enjoy it? Am I allowed to be say those things? By the time it’s out there it will be six months of energy and determination in creating those pages. Yet the content took a lot longer. The book captures over two years of NZLEAD tweet chats. But it’s still more than that. Writing it was cathartic. It was a way for me to re-frame a negative experience into hope and purpose, a way to reflect on a personal learning curve.
This story starts many years ago. You see I was probably a bit cocky about my skills and how much I could take on. And take on alot I did. I pushed myself really hard through university and beyond, I worked full time and studied full time. I worked my way up and across the career ladder, I loved my job and took immense pride in it. I did really well at just nailing everything. Get stuff done, make things happen, that was my thing. Then I decided to leave the role I had been in for nearly four years because I felt like I was ready for the next challenge. I didn’t have anything lined up. I had left jobs before and easily stepped into something.
Unfortunately I ended up unemployed for 6 months. I spent every week scouring job ads, talking to recruiters and every other week being rejected. I took temp work to fill the gaps, to get me out of the house, reception and PA work, my sense of self-worth plummeted. I didn’t know what to do when I had nothing to do, nothing to measure my worth against. I didn’t know who I was anymore.
I was finally offered a job that fit my skills. I actually had the choice of two roles. My instincts were screaming at me, but my head prevailed. An awesome culture, a well-known brand, great career prospects, innovation and a great team. That was the package my head told me I was walking in to – that was what my experiences and education had taught me was the right path. I was so pleased to just have something to measure my worth against again, that I ignored the voice inside of me.
It turns out that my manager wasn’t interested in what made me me, and my instincts were entirely correct. It’s much easier to look back on these things in retrospect. I spent 12 months in a situation where I felt like a freak for the way I thought, the way I spoke and the way I worked with my colleagues. I walked in with so much hope that my sense of self worth was to be restored, only to have more of it stripped away. I hated the thought of giving up, I didn’t want to relinquish hope that I could influence my situation and change it. But after trying everything I could, my only option left was to leave. My health was suffering. I was exhausted, crippled with anxiety and depressed.
Yet, for months more I battled on, expecting that the freedom of being on my own, of doing something that I loved, of starting my own business, of going on holiday would cure me. But it didn’t. Funny that!
What it sparked though was a journey of self-care and self-acceptance. A journey I’m still on I might add. I wish I had been treated differently, both as a candidate and an employee. I wish I had treated other people differently, I’m not the best version of myself when I’m under stress. But most of all, I wish I had treated myself differently. Then maybe this lesson wouldn’t have been such a painful one to learn. I feel like I’ve spent the last few years wading through mud and still have more days than I’d like where I feel stuck. Thankfully they’re becoming fewer. I’ve been putting a lot of priority on meditation, mindfulness, self reflection, and self-discovery. I’ve gone from doing it all, to recognising that not doing everything is a good thing. Some things happen for a reason right?
I almost told this story in my book. But I decided that I wanted the book to be about the things we’d talked about and done with NZLEAD – all the positive and awesome stuff – the vision for humane workplaces. Because that has been what has kept me dragging my arse forward. These are workplaces whereby technology can help people be their whole selves and demonstrate their uniqueness. Where our trials are a demonstration of our strength, not our weakness. Where there is a sense of community and purpose. Where our workplaces are more humane.
I know there will be some people who don’t get why I’m sharing this, and might judge me for for my perceived weakness. But I also know that there will be many who find hope and inspiration from my story. My intention, in sharing this with you, is to explain why I wrote this book and break a mould of human silence that is stopping us from being our true selves. My book is not just grandiose ideas of what HR, L&D and Recruitment can do to respond to the changing world of work. But a mirror of my personal reflections on leadership, the expectation and design of work and drawn from my first hand experience of where some of this stuff that we currently let slide, and silently endorse, within the people and culture professions has a very hidden dark side.
Please hit me up for a coffee or a Skype call if you’d like to share your stories with me – I’d love to hear from you.
And please pledge for my book to be printed in hard copy. Particularly if you also believe in better and more humane workplaces.