Making work work for me (and you)

First published on LinkedIn on 21 June 2018.

Job insecurity. Unstable income. Personal fulfilment. Professional growth.

After my last post, I took the plunge and resigned from my position at Griffith University. The snowballing effect of multiple life stressors including changes to the CCR, and the increasing professional frustrations of working in a large organisation, were indeed factors. But the one thing that really clinched the deal was a burning desire to develop professionally beyond what could be offered within the confines of my employment.

I was sad. My colleagues gave me the most genuine and lovely sendoff. And then I was no longer in the job about which I was so passionate. The job that I had developed from scratch. The job that saw me work with thousands of people on a daily basis. But, after all, it was just a job. And I needed more than it could give me and my family. It was time for me to make my work work for me.

Overnight, I went from working in a fast-paced, highly intellectual environment, to playgroups and nappies. From corporate overlords, to miniature overlords. To a keyboard and an idea, with work time squeezed out between naps, cuddles, and the kindness of grandparents. Mumemployment.

‘It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times…’ ( The Simpsons, S04E07)

So begins my foray into sole-trader consultancy, squeezed between said nappies (not mine!) and naps (also not mine!), and the kindness of family.

In setting up my consultancy, I have found it prudent to speak with others who have travelled this similar road. There was one piece of advice that all of my mentors universally and unilaterally gave me: do not devalue your current work to simply get work. If one of the main reasons for my leaving was that I felt devalued, they said, know my worth and value my time accordingly.

This advice does not necessarily refer to money, although it is an obvious consideration. My mentors advised me when setting up my consultancy to not compromise on my value. In setting up Flish (named after my sons), I am thinking very carefully about what I want to achieve, what I want to help others achieve, and how I will go about conducting business while keeping my personal priorities healthy and intact.

I have therefore decided to write a professional ‘Statement of Values’ (read: charter) by which I will conduct my new professional life. By doing this, I hope that through Flish, and the learning experiences that creating my own working environment will entail, I will carve a work path that will help me find the work balance that a larger academic/corporate environment could not do.

As my own boss, I will:

  1. Focus on excellence. This means doing everything to the best of my ability, and constantly improving what I do to become the best for my clients.
  2. Do less to achieve more. Only do what I can do with excellence, even if that means doing much less. This was a key reason for leaving my former job–there was pressure to do many things, I felt, rather than doing the things I did well. Although evaluations of my work were excellent, by not having enough time to devote to too many ideas, projects, and people, I was letting myself, my clients, and my family down.
  3. Enjoy my work and my clients. (Why become your own boss if you do not even like your job?) By doing this, excel in customer service.
  4. Build at a manageable pace. Again, excellence is what I want to achieve. And excellence takes time.
  5. Enjoy my family. My now former (high-achieving) boss told me that if my family life was good, everything else would just work out. So far, this has proved true. My children and husband are happier to be seeing more of me, and it’s a relief to not have to rush or juggle them most mornings. We can just be, enjoying each other. And I can enjoy work, knowing that they are happier.

Although it was a tough decision, and I miss my colleagues and work friends an enormous amount, leaving my job was the right decision. Making work work for me may just be one of the most terrifying, yet empowering decisions I have ever made.

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