Those of you who know me well will know that career bliss has not been on the cards for me (yet…an eternal optimist, I cling on to the belief that it’s never too late for a brush with success).
Here’s what my fragmented career after seven years of relative bliss (and boredom) with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration looked like:
- A three-month stint with a hospital in Istanbul looking after bringing international patients under their health tourism initiative
- Six months with a mortgage broker in western Sydney writing website copy. Admittedly I wasn’t particularly experienced in writing copy at the time. However, I was fired for personal reasons (he didn’t know I had a boyfriend. Once he found out he fired me abruptly, canceling my work sponsor visa and leaving me with 28 days to find a new job or get deported. That challenge pushed me to tap into the strength I didn’t think I had).
- Nearly six months with an outplacement firm which felt like family, albeit a dysfunctional one (this hurt the most. Imagine someone you look up to as a father figure telling you he no longer wants you around. Thankfully, they didn’t notify immigration straight away, giving me a proper chance to find my next work sponsor).
- Almost a whole year with a construction supplier where I had to call it quits thinking I could find a work environment where people didn’t yell at each other.
- A month with a marketing agency making cold calls to people who didn’t want to hear from me or them. I witnessed the agency misleading desperate small business owners, taking the last bit of cash they had for campaigns that were sure to fail.
- Almost a year of trying to sell print advertising to millennial media buyers in agencies. This wasn’t horrible. However, harassing media buyers and when they did buy, not having the inventory to deliver is not great for one’s career. Given my past experiences though, this one was relatively benign.
- Working with two artists as they tried to start a movement to get everyone to feel with their heads and think with their hearts was a labour of love. This lasted three months before getting the sack for they got a whiff that my creative vision far exceeded their own.
- Back in agency land working for an ex-journo and his ex-Fairfax sidekicks who wanted to run an agency as if it were a newspaper. I didn’t quite make the final edition not having breathed the Fairfax air or drank the Kool-Aid which resulted in the mass-slaughter of jobs.
- A dip into the belly of the whale known as the modern-day call-centre for a small financial services company. I was spat out for having too much enthusiasm.
Having children was the best thing I could do for my career that was heading nowhere fast.
My Failed Career Taught me That Family is Work
Ironically, my experience in the world of outplacement, which helps individuals, white collar executives and blue collar workers dust themselves off the ground after they’ve been laid off to get ready for future work opportunities, has given me the breakthrough I needed to push forward in my career attempts.
As I mentioned, getting laid off from that particular company felt like getting kicked out of my family home. I noticed that I was bringing my dysfunctional family dynamics and trauma to work every day. Of course, I didn’t come to this conclusion all by myself. I was helped by a shrink through EAP (employee assistance program) which some companies, including the outplacement company I worked for, offer.
What he did was quite clever. He got me to talk about what it was like growing up. Then I started to see that the personalities I dealt with, a mother and father who didn’t get along, a profligate brother and the sibling rivalry in the home were all the things I was experiencing at work. The MD, a fatherly figure with silver hair was an iceberg like my father who buried himself in the work and didn’t notice the emotional atmosphere around him. He chose to disappear into his office save for an insensitive joke or two with the staff, his workplace children. A man who didn’t quite realise his own creative ambitions to perhaps be a director, he had to make do as a Managing Director of an outplacement company that helped people picture themselves in new roles.
Though the epiphany that I was reliving my past trauma came in 2003, it took me up until last year to own up and do the work to right (or write) it. The catalyst was having my own daughter and wanting to be a conscious parent for her. I wanted her to be recognised for her own gifts and not project my unlived life onto her as my parents had done with me.
Since then I’ve been working hard to write my feelings and use my writing as a tool to approach my brother, mum and dad, from whom I’d been estranged since 2003. We are making progress. Mum is helping me with my daughters and it’s her third year visiting us here in Australia from Istanbul. As for dad, we visited him in Washington, DC in April of last year (2018) and are trying to organise a trip to Turkey at the same time as his trip to Turkey. He’s not cooperating but hey, love is work, as is life. Is it worth it? To me, yes. It helps me gain a better understanding of who these people who raised me are, even if they are out of touch with their core.
Repurposing Career Failure as Experience
The idea to polish all past experiences and repackage them as WritePublishGrow and take on contracts to develop internal knowledge bases and communications as a freelance writer is just the ticket to gain my confidence back.
Freelancing is also a no-obligation way to work with individuals and organisations without the stigma of having yet another failed-employment attempt on my record. Every employment contract signed that doesn’t work out is like the taint of a failed marriage. I don’t want that anymore so being a free agent suits me just fine.
A time of reflection amidst the screaming cries of a toddler throwing tantrums and a newborn wanting feed after feed ironically gives me clarity that I can’t get while working for others doing work that doesn’t serve my core values of creativity, growth and community.
My vision for 2019 is to put my family first, my two-year-old and newborn, partner and of course keep developing and growing as a writer.
Through writing, I aim for this year to be a bridge towards a successful freelance career, building key relationships in my community to start helping individuals, companies and organisations inspire to build better relationships through written expression.
I believe that the key to happier individuals, functional families and relationships, a more advanced economy and a fairer distribution of resources for a better world is through empathy and written communication which conveys feelings.
Over to you…
What are some of the key relationships you’d like to improve in your life? How does writing out your feelings help you get the support you need?