Ever dreamed about designing a career to fit your life (and not the other way around?). Well Ellen Jackson’s done just that. Today she shares both her career success story, and the four key mindsets that got her there.
I love my work. Every moment of it. Really. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to do what I enjoy most and to juggle it successfully with the other facets of my life – kids, husband, household, family, friends, volunteer roles and wellbeing.
It has been a long road to get to this point and the road leads onwards – thankfully. Satisfying careers are a work in progress and from my experience there’s a lot of adaptability required, particularly if you want to create a good mix of fulfilling career and happy family.
This is my story so far …
At 27 years old I was in a corporate management role. It was challenging but fun. I was learning a lot, making good friends in a new city, given plenty of responsibility, paid well and I had my own parking spot (a simple, but big thrill when working in Sydney).
One day, apropos of nothing, I sat back, looked out of my office window and thought about the future. I tried to envision my life in five years’ time. It was a fuzzy vision but one thing I knew with complete clarity was that I wanted children. The next thought was, ‘I don’t want to be working in a corporate job and juggling that with kids.’ I just knew that wasn’t the right combination for me.
I decided it was time to forge a new path. I had to be proactive about my career and I had to shape it to accommodate my goals for the future. Shortly thereafter I enrolled in further study to get my full qualifications and registration as a psychologist. I didn’t know what I was going to do with those qualifications as the traditional roles of counsellor and therapist didn’t appeal at all. But I believed I was heading down a path that would give me greater flexibility in the long term.
Some time later, qualifications under my belt, I left corporate life to try my hand at a small consulting firm. I still wasn’t sure where I was going, but I was prepared to try something new. Something I felt might give me the kind of experience and adaptability I needed.
I kept my eyes and mind open, I researched new and emerging fields in psychology. I sought out people doing work I found interesting and picked their brains. I kept working hard, building my experience, networks and knowledge.
I was 29 when I ditched employment altogether and went out on my own. I still didn’t know what I was doing. I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I felt I’d learned enough about myself and my abilities and my strengths and my goals to give it a go – at least until I had to ‘get a proper job.’
14 years later and I’ve successfully avoided that ‘proper job.’ I mostly work my own hours with people I enjoy and I’m able to fit everything in around my kids and their needs. It’s still a work in progress. My tasks, goals, clients, projects and finances shift and change with every day. I know that’s not a scenario that suits everyone but it suits me.
Self awareness, regular reflection and envisioning my future has been integral to my journey. It has kept me on my path and reminded me that path is mine alone.
So if I was to sum up the four mindsets that have taken me to the magical place where I have both flexibility and love of what I do, these would be them:
- Imagination. Project yourself forward five years. Imagine how you would like life to look. You might not see every detail – you probably won’t – but you might see enough to make a difference to how you act today.
- Flexibility. Life shifts and moves. Circumstances and priorities shift and opportunities arise, sometimes in unexpected places. Keep an open heart and mind. Be true to your bigger vision and adapt as you go along.
- Bravery. Someone asked me just this week what I would do differently if I was to do the last 14 years over again. There wouldn’t be much I’d change but I would take more chances sooner. I’ve learnt that there’s little to be lost by trying something where the outcome is uncertain, and often plenty to gain. So go on, do it!
- Self-knowledge. Reflect on what you’re good at and what you most enjoy. Do more of what you’re passionate about. Learn what brings you energy. Work according to your values and your strengths. Know who you are and believe in that.
Create your path.
Make it your journey.
If you’re just starting your journey and have some thoughts or questions to share, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
This post originally appeared on Ellen’s blog and is re-published here with full permission.