The 4 changes I had to make to save my career
Updated: Oct 14, 2020
Ever since I was a young, I wanted a career. I didn’t know what type of career, but I knew I wanted a job I loved and to be successful.
When I started my PR degree, I was sure I had found my career path. Everything about it felt right. It was effortless and everything the professors were teaching me made sense. I had a job handed to me right out of Uni and I was on my way.
A couple of years later I opened my own PR business. I was nervous of course, but certain I could make it a success.
For the next 10 years I worked under my own banner and from the outside, everything looked fine. I had a consistent stream of clients and I was making good money. Unfortunately, on the inside, things were going downhill. My career aspirations were dying, and I knew it, but I was too scared that a change would cost me my secure income.
It all came to a head one morning about 4 years ago. I got in my car to drive to work and by the time I reached the first set of traffic lights, I was in tears. I had to turn the car around and drive home. I had finally reached a point where I couldn’t ignore the truth anymore – the truth that I dreaded heading into the office or doing anything work related.
I hated what my business had become, and my career aspirations were dead.
Facing this truth was devastating. Despite having a profitable business, I was miserable and felt like a complete failure. That love and excitement I had for PR was gone, and I was too beaten down to bother pursuing any of my career ambitions.
I walked away from the business, and for the next two years, I avoided everything to do with PR work. It was grappling with so many negative emotions – I was embarrassed, ashamed, disappointed, and disgruntled. When I read about people who loved their work I was bitter and jealous.
I questioned if PR was the right career path after all. Many of my friends had completely changed their career paths already. Was it now my turn?
I considered other options, but no matter what else I tried or where else I looked, I didn’t get excited – not like that day I started my PR degree.
The two-year break was enough time for some of my negative feelings to pass. I was no longer frustrated or angry, and since I couldn’t find another career path that interested me, I turned back to PR and wondered if I just needed to change my work situation.
Instead of reopening my business, I decided to look for a job. Maybe I would be better off as an employee? This idea however, presented new hurdles. I was no longer a young single. I was a mum re-entering the workforce, and as any parent knows, finding a job that fits around kids is like finding a gold nugget – it’s rare and people who have one NEVER let it go.
I applied for a few different part time roles but was unsuccessful, and with each rejection, came another level of disappointment and embarrassment.
Then six months ago I reached a second turning point – another job rejection – and this time I took it hard. Yes, more tears. I was a mess over it and as I turned to my husband for comfort and support, he looks at me and asks, “Did you really want it? It was everything you said you’d never go back to. I’m surprised you applied.”
I confess, it came across like a slap in the face, but it got me thinking. A lot.
I started to assess my working life and what had brought me to tears that day in the car. I also started to assess each of the jobs I was applying for and wondering, why was I applying for them? Why was I trying to sign up for more of what I already knew… and hated?
After a fair amount of time (made available through Covid lockdown – hello silver lining) I came to the realisation that getting back into my own business was my best option, for my family and myself, but this time I had to operate in a very different way. I had some major changes to make.
I had to start being true to myself
When I first started my business, I just wanted it to succeed, and initially I defined that as making money. Yet after 10 years of making money I came out feeling like a failure. Why?
A big part of my unhappiness came from working on so many projects that compromised my values. Yes, I was paid for them, but after all those years, I felt no sense of pride or satisfaction. I hadn’t produced anything that I believed was inspiring, worthwhile, or made any kind of valuable contribution. It destroyed my self-worth.
So, my first change when taking on new work is asking, Am I happy to have my name on this? Will my efforts have value, and contribute to a positive outcome? If the answer is no, I won’t do it.
I had to start being honest
No one likes to admit there are things they can’t do, especially in their career. PR covers so many categories, and I used to try and do them all so I could win as many clients as possible; but it made me so stressed.
The truth is that I am not good at all elements of PR, and there are some I just don’t like.
Now, I stick to what I enjoy, and that alone makes me better at my job. When I meet clients, I am honest about what I can deliver, and what I can’t.
Honesty also plays a stronger role in recognising when the client and I are not a good fit. I am no longer trying to win every client, so if I feel the partnership won’t work, I say so.
I had to give more
It’s true – I actually needed to start working harder.
I am not a lazy person, but part of the shame and disappointment I felt came from knowing I had not put in enough effort – not nearly enough. I hated the work and I didn’t want to try harder at something that would never bring me any satisfaction or reward.
We all know it’s easy to work hard on something we love and care about. We do it in life instinctively, whether it is parenting, training for a sporting event, or learning a new skill. So thankfully, once I started working on projects I loved, the hard work happened automatically.
I had to trust myself
This was the hardest change of all. After years stuck in a negative headspace, knowing I was doing a bad job and not doing anything to change it, I had lost all confidence in my abilities.
It had been a long time since I’d received any kind of feedback, had any opportunity to grow or expand my skills, or worked with people who wanted my opinion.
It took me a long time to overcome the doubts and change my thoughts, but with the help and support of my family, friends, and a few key colleagues, I started to feel that confidence again.
A few corny inspirational quotes and memes helped too.
Just eight months on from my relaunch, I am happier in my work than I’ve ever been. Things feel right again, and I am finally one of those people who loves what they do.
I don’t regret the past. It was a great learning curve, even if I am a slow learner.
Mostly, I am finally proud of my work, which already makes me feel more successful than I ever was the first time around.
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