Cake and goodbye

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I think I told you that I had some bad habits. Cake is definitely one of my biggest weaknesses, or rather the excess of cake eating.When I was younger my Mum was a typical comfort feeder (bless her ) and a shared couple of apple turnovers was the answer to all our collective woes. I used to think it was great except when I was bouncing  around the cross country field, desperate for a personal best.

Anyway the love of cake has endured and when I finally decided on the date I would leave work I arranged for morning cake and coffee for colleagues in our works cafe.I chose the morning because my last ‘day’ was actually going to finish at 2 pm (one of my final ‘excecutive decisions’). Cupcakes with a plane, a world, and a buddha were made  reflecting the things that were important to me and the things. like the love of cake that would endure.

Like many workplaces there was a fairly set custom for the leaving ritual. The Boss would make a speech, gifts would be given, I would make a speech. I would leave. I told the Chief, who is also a friend of mine,that i didn’t want the traditional list of all the jobs I’d done from the time I started. A man with a sense of humour I got his alternative version, a fairy tale of my rise from being found in a basket in Coventry to various unscrupulous jobs I had never actually  done. It was in very good humour though and he got a good roasting back

Remarkably I managed to not cry., in spite of the kind words and the  gorgeous and quirky presents I received from people. I think I had a  sense of peace with the decision I’d made and my overall feeling was one of immense gratitude for the experience I had had over the last 16 years.

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When I got home that afternoon I spent a little time looking at my cards but soon they were packed away. I had things to do. A night party the following night to go to and in 3 days time I was to fly away. It was time to give some time to some travel dreams. Europe beckoned!

On Reflection and Letting Go

20130801_160330000_iosThe work we do though is an important part of our lives and soon my own work came back to the forefront of my mind. Challenges in terms of the finances of the  organisation I was working for meant that significant savings were having to be made

It was important to me to retain the value of the work  my team did for the organisation and support my team members through change, but change was inevitable. It was time to reflect on how to take the team forward but it was  also time to reflect on my own place within the organisation, building on what I had started to understand was important to me in the future

I had worked for the organisation for 16 years, a long time given that I only intended to stay for 2.The reason I stayed so long though was the organisation was fundamentally a great place to work, an organisation with a strong social purpose and a great group of people working for it. It had consistently supported me and challenged me as I moved from leading a small team to heading up a whole division.

The promotion that I missed out on was a natural progression of that journey, a chance to develop my aspirations for the organisation even further. With that promotion not happening I began to reflect on my future in my current role.

The value of reflection

Since becoming interested in Buddhism in my early 20’s  and beginning daily practice of meditation I had developed a recognition of the value of stopping in what can be a very busy life. Alongside that,  the practice of reflection had become an important part of my life. For me finding time to reflect brings a number of benefits

  • Gratitude- we can spend too much time thinking of what is lacking in our lives. Creating time for self reflection offers the opportunity to be thankful for many things, the basic conditions we live in (when they are positive), our relationships, our achievements, our passions and our beliefs. Reminding ourselves of what we have to be thankful for and acknowledging and expressing it is a vital part me for me of retaining perspective when life naturally presents us with challenge and loss.
  • Increased awareness- the situations we face in our lives are either due to the way we think about our particular circumstances ( how we  frame them in our own minds) or a real reflection of a situation no longer being satisfactory. Either way self reflection can help us to reconsider how we feel or the reality of the position we are in or to identify when something needs to change. Over a longer period of time it can help us to understand what is important to us…the ‘things we need’ and who we are as people.
  • Learning- In an earlier post I spoke of the need when things go wrong in our lives to avoid the temptation for self reproach. In essence very little benefit  can be  gained with chastising ourselves  whereas taking time to look for the learning in particular situation offers us the chance to turn many of he situations we face in life to grow as individuals.
  • Preparation for action- given all the above, self reflection gives us the best opportunity when we are preparing for action to ensure that it takes us towards our goals.

Letting Go

In my own case, over a period of 6 months my reflection led me to a number of conclusions, some of which I covered in the previous post . I was incredibly grateful for the time I had had at the organisation, for the friendships I had made, the skills I had developed and the things I and my team had achieved. However I was now aware that I had probably done as much as I could do in the role I was in and that in order to grow personally and professionally I would have to leave.

Understanding that is a different matter to taking the plunge, to leave a well paid comfortable job in order to go on a different kind of journey. In the late summer of 2015 I spent many days going to the office asking myself whether that day would be the day I would declare my intentions, those days came and went.

And then one day i walked into the office, I saw the Chief Exec and Director of HR talking together, i asked them if I could speak with them privately and told them I wanted to leave.

Circumstance often forces us to say goodbye to something or someone before we are ready to do so. If there is one thing we are sure of, bitterly sometimes, in life is that things will change, people will die, relationships will end, jobs will change or go. Sometimes the hardest thing though is to be the architect of big changes, to ‘let go’ of things that are no longer working for us and yet it is these times that offer us the potential for great growth

In the moments after effectively resigning from my job, I felt the heady mix of emotion of something so significant  coming to an end but also the excitement of the experiences I would have in the future.

The mornings after the night before..

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Sleepless night

So after the job interview I still went to Manchester. I’d booked a room at a hotel and expected a night of drink flowing in celebration. It still flowed but for all the wrong reasons. I didn’t sleep that night. After returning to the room I think I paced the floor 100’s of times, questioning myself and others, remonstrating and if I’m honest crying. I looked out the window and I couldn’t quite fathom how what I had wanted so much had slipped away from me?

The acceptance that ‘Shit happens?’

That was the best I could come up with by 5am in the morning. In all honesty, the job had gone to someone else and there was nothing I could do. It’s a theme I will return to in this blog time and time again, but the moment of catharthis came that night when I

  • Accepted that the outcome was not going to change
  • Let go of the future I had planned

That is not to say I didn’t return to feelings of anger etc over the next few days and weeks  but accepting and letting go became my place of refuge. Importantly it was the place from where i could plan for the future

What to do when you don’t get the job.. 5 things

I am sure many of you reading this will have missed out on a job opportunity that you went for, whether it be with the company you currently work for or another role. On reflection I think I generally handled the period after not getting the job quite well and if there were a few things id recommend you do post the disappointment these are a few of them:

  • Vent-  you are a pretty amazing human being if after  having such a disappointment you don’t feel some anger. It’s very important you feel to able to express that somehow,  but its also important that you don’t vent your anger at the recruiters, the successful candidate, your colleagues, your staff, the cat etc. A lot of etyes will be on you in this period and its important that you keep your dignity. Find someone you Trust and who is a good listener, take them out and tell them you want to get some things off your chest. I remember making a call the weekend I didnt get the job that consisted of an hour of me shouting at my friend about the injustice of it all. By the end I felt a lot better simply having had the opportunity to express how i felt.
  • Get Feedback- You and your friends may think you were absolutely perfect for the job, with no room for improvement, but its important that you get the potential value out of feedback after a job interview. As painful as it may be it will give you the opportunity to address some of the presentational issues of the interview itself or to plug some real gaps in your knowledge and experience in the medium and longer term.
  • Make no significant and emotional decisions- Don’t believe all that your thoughts tell you in the days after such a disappointment. Ridiculing your boss in a public meeting and then chucking your notice at them across a table might feel good but keep it in the realms of daydream. Taking the Trans Siberian Express to join cattle herders in Mongolia may be a lifelong ambition but if so it will wait. You need to allow yourself both time and space to let go, to accept what has happened
  • Don’t punish yourself-  easy to say but if venting at others is a bad idea, reproaching yourself is just as bad. That’s not to say you shouldn’t reflect on the feedback you received or the things you know yourself you need to do better. But doing it from a position of love for yourself is important. Remember the positives that got you to the interview in the first place. They haven’t gone away and it will be these very things that will be the perfect match for a role in the future.
  • Prepare to move Forward- Accept, let go and move forward….it takes time but at least have a plan to do it. You can’t change the outcome of this interview, this event but you can decide to take the best from it and move on with the benefit of this experience. That is what I decided to do in the months after the interview

The 100k Job….

Commitment and Passion

I’d worked for the same company for 16 years. Progressing from role to role, I was passionate about the company and more importantly it’s social objectives. It’s a privileged position to work with and lead likeminded, talented people wanting to improve the lives of individuals and communities.

The organisation had really supported me in my development, presenting me with new challenges and opportunities every few years. Then the ultimate opportunity came, a role at the very top of the organisation. It’s position in the organisational structure and its high salary were less attractive to me than the real chance to nurture the organisation and its people and to further develop my leadership skills.

The Interview

The process of recruitment was rigorous. Initial interviews, follow on psychometric testing and then final interviews. My preparation was intense. I was not complacent given my internal standing within the organisation. Most people though seemed to expect that I would get the job.

Final interview day came. I was nervous but ready. The interview had two elements, presentation and interview. The presentation went well; we had been told about the topic beforehand so it enabled preparation. The interview was something else, a 4-person panel which although I had prepared for was unpredictable. Yet when the first question came and I was comfortable with what was being asked I was on fire and remained on fire with passion for the next hour.

Post interview I walked home, all that energy with nowhere left to go except to start to dissipate. I expected an answer sometime early evening. I went to the pub with friends and we waited and waited. They seemed to sense and I sensed. It was getting to the point where we were due to leave. I had arranged to meet a friend later in Manchester, booked a hotel to celebrate. I had to go and catch the train.

The Call

On the train I got a message from my friend to say something had come up and he couldn’t meet. Probably for the best…minutes later I got a call from the recruitment consultant to say I hadn’t got the job.
It felt surreal, a sense of disbelief and a feeling that the future I had planned and worked for had disappeared right in front of me.

The things we need

And if this blog has an origin, a birth …it was that. And I am writing the blog to explain the journey from then and how many things that I knew and learnt before that day and now have come together in a way that I would hope would give others going through similar situations something to reflect on. It’s a sharing exercise, because when the thing you think you ‘need’ is no longer available it prompts reflection on how we come to those conclusions and what is truly important.