The middle of September marks a couple of significant anniversaries for me. 23 years ago I was nervously preparing for the very first day of my professional career. I was due to start in the IT Department of Nationwide Building Society as a Graduate Developer at their gleaming headquarters in Swindon. I didn’t apply for this role, I got an interview by accident. I’d applied for a Graduate position at Orange Telecommunications in Bristol, but Sarah from the recruitment agency saw my CV on her colleague’s desk and thought I sounded like a good candidate for NBS. One very enjoyable interview and a rewarding salary negotiation later, Sarah was proven correct and I had my start date. I planned to stay about 2 years to get a "bit of experience”. This is what my fellow students and I had heard was the done thing and we felt confident that this was the way to maximize opportunities and salary raises. Of course, we were newly graduated and therefore knew absolutely everything there was to know about life and careers right?!
The same week 2 years ago I was nervously preparing for my very last day at Nationwide, having decided after more than two decades that it was time for me to hand my notice in and start a new adventure. As for that "bit of experience”.......I got much more than I'd bargained for.
21 years of working with amazing people, complex systems to understand, interesting projects to manage and tricky problems to solve - often at 3am if it was my turn to be on-call. There were promotions, personal challenges, lots of new learning and some absolutely brilliant nights out. I was part of countless organisational changes, was put at risk and had to put others at risk. Having survived all that, I went on to learn how to deal with grievances, how to help under-performers get back on track and what high performing teams look like. I regularly presented to a conference suite full of people, I interviewed what felt like a million candidates during a prolonged recruitment drive and I soaked up every bit of training and reading I could on Leadership and Management.
Oh….and I wrote some computer programs too. That was the only thing I thought I would EVER want to do when I first started. My IBM 386 and its mainframe emulator were dear friends of mine and the syntax of the programming language was reassuringly logical - why would I need to step away from that comfort zone and deal with actual people?
The introvert, green-screen loving geek that joined in 1996 went on a wonderful and unexpected journey. It wasn’t without its low points, but in hindsight, the low points probably gave me the best learning about myself and others. The org changes created a fascination in me about people and how we deal with change. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to handle change that is thrust upon us, just different ways, and I learnt I could support people through those changes and help them get the most out of their situation.
Since leaving Nationwide I have consolidated all my experience of people and change with formal Coaching and NLP qualifications – a new and sometimes scary journey where I have made new friends and overcome some mighty big challenges. Exactly one year on from leaving, I feel a massive sense of achievement. Watching my clients’ stories unfold and seeing them flourish is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I love it.
Friends ask if I have any regrets about choosing to leave and although I miss some of the people, the answer is a resounding no. It was time to explore something new and so far it’s working out well.
With my Project Management hat on I think about my 19-year plan slip - I have had to blag my way through project delays before, but thankfully none were quite as big as this! As any Project Manager knows, a plan is only a work in progress until the damn thing is delivered and any number of external factors can cause the plan to change, that’s why the plan has to be monitored and reviewed regularly.
Life is no different, it unfolds in the most surprising ways that can often change our planned course. Some are good, like the wrong person spotting your CV, and some are not so good, like a company re-organistion or worse still redundancy. If life throws a curve-ball and isn’t delivering what you need or what you expected then maybe it's time for a review and a re-plan - at least you won't have a problem explaining the scope change, after all, you are the Project Sponsor!
If you would like some help reviewing and re-planning your course at work, get in touch to see how I can help.
Your World Coaching
Michelle is Professional Development Coach based in Swindon. She helps people achieve their career goals and overcome the obstacles that are stopping them reach their full potential.