Steps to Pause, Regroup and Restart the Career… Shouldn’t Everyone Do It at Some Point?
When in the summer I found myself with the opportunity to take a time-out between jobs for the first time in my career, I didn’t really know what that would mean for me. I’d held down part-time jobs alongside school since the age of 14 and full-time employment since 18. At times, to supplement my early career, this had even meant multiple jobs at any one time. However, something told me – well, a couple of very wise friends told me – that hitting the pause button and having some time to regroup before making any decisions to move forward (ie restart my career) may not be such a bad idea. Contrary to my natural response, I decided to follow their advice.
So what did I do?
- I paused…and swapped the daily commute for daily fitness classes
This did two things: it reduced the initial routine void and gave me interaction with others. I’d mistakenly thought it’d be easy to be fit and healthy if I didn’t have to work 12-hour days. But I soon realised that having all the time in the world didn’t suddenly give me the motivation to change my eating and exercising habits overnight! However, having time and a lack of excuses did enable me to stick with the classes for a prolonged period of time. As I started to feel the mental and physical benefits, that gave me the motivation to continue prioritising ‘fitness’ in my day.
- I regrouped and reflected…what did I want to do next?
One of the things you get to do when you’re not a slave to your desk is have quality time to really reflect and space to think. For the first time in many years, I had unwound and was well rested. I could also spend quality time with family and friends and be fully engaged – without one eye on the Blackberry or yawning after a 12-14 hour day. As a result, I naturally fell into periods of reflection as to whether Human Resources was the right career for me. After challenging myself long and hard on this, I realised it was. However, key questions abounded as to what sort of HR I wanted to specialise in, the control I could have over doing it, and how I’d align it to my values.
- I restarted the career…commencing the job search
After hitting the pause button and having time to focus on my wellbeing, I had absolute clarity about what I wanted to do next: continue in HR, but specialise in change and transformation. I want to help businesses with the people implications that arise from change. And I wanted to explore interim management: I enjoy joining new organisations; developing accelerated relationships; and delivering at pace to a tight timescale. However, it didn’t mean I wouldn’t consider permanent roles in the future – but only if I could honestly align the values of the organisation with my own.
So that’s it: I fully recommend a short ‘pause, regroup and restart the career chapter’ to anyone, but especially if you’ve been on the career treadmill for years. It doesn’t have to be long and, although finances are a big consideration, I’ve also come to realise just how little money you can live on once you’ve paid your bills and aren’t working. I suspended the luxury long-haul holidays – Cornwall was fantastic in the summer with no time difference or jetlag – and I no longer have the same desire for designer handbags, shoes and clothes. Everyone now comments on how well and happy I look and the truth is – I am. I’m determined to continue in work that ticks my happiness requirements whilst balancing it with the activities I need to maintain my personal wellbeing.
I guess this is what they call ‘perspective’.
Melanie Steel is founder of People Change Expertise Ltd and is an experienced HR Director currently considering interim and permanent HR Director Opportunities.