Do you ever feel as though you’ve missed your calling? Is the career that you’re in, something you kinda fell into, seemed to be pretty good at, but not necessarily the thing that lights your fire? Do you often have the ‘what if’ conversation with yourself about the choices you made when you were at the beginning of the career crossroad? I do. Since having kids, I’ve given a great deal of thought to this because quite a bit of re-assessment happens if or when you decide to return to work as a parent.
When people ask what I do for a living and I reply that I work as a TV Producer, unless they also work in the same field their usual and immediate reaction is something like, “Oh! That must be so exciting! You’re so lucky…” or similar. The truth is though, like most ‘exciting’ career choices, mine comes with a lot of stress, tight deadlines, egos and unrealistic demands that can take its toll on the average person. While one is a little more equipped to handle this as a childless, ambitious twenty-something, it’s a very different story when there are tight deadlines, egos and unrealistic demands of the junior kind waiting for you at home.
When I was at school, very little focus was given to career paths, individual strengths and potential choices. For me, it was all about getting through the HSC, being accepted into a course and finishing with a University Degree to prove that I survived the demands of education and had some level of intelligence. Nowadays, it seems that a huge amount of assessment goes into the personality traits of a student and what careers might suit them best. I really wish someone had done that for me all those years ago. Not to say I haven’t enjoyed the path I took, but I know I probably should have been something else, someone who was able to directly help others and make a difference.
When I was a little girl, I always said I wanted to be a school teacher and honestly, I probably should have stuck with that notion. All those hours setting up my classroom of teddies and writing sums on the mirror with markers was probably good practice for a career path that was never actually explored. The other dream I had was to be a nurse or a doctor and again, and had I have listened to myself, I think I would have done either of those things well (school marks aside!). In late high school I did two weeks of work experience – the first week was at my old primary school working alongside my old Prep teacher (yes – my Prep teacher from 1978!) which I adored but managed to contract some horrible flu virus which had me bed – ridden and unable to complete the week as planned. The second week, later in the year was in a hospital, working with nursing staff. This was great but perhaps a little too full on for this naive and innocent sixteen year old – I recall on day one, I was asked to hold a bowl up to the mouth of an emphysemic while she coughed up large amounts of technicoloured phlegm. Not only did the idea of going near actual sick people terrify me this soon into my week long apprenticeship but bodily fluids and I (particularly from the bodies of strangers) were not mutually agreeable. Needless to say, all I remember is hitting the floor with a hard thump and deciding then and there, nursing wasn’t really for me.
Four years ago, when I decided to return to work after my second child, I decided to explore the world outside of my chosen career path not only because I knew that with two young kids the demands of my old life would probably see me eventually institutionalised in some way (!), but also because I was so keen to apply my skills to a completely different, more self – fulfilling industry. I ventured back into the hospital environment (armed with the knowledge that the role of ‘chief phlegm supervisor’ was NOT in my contract) and thoroughly loved it. It was an exciting, demanding and fulfilling place to work where in some small way you could make a difference to someone, somehow.
I no longer work in that hospital; my old career beckoned me back into a suitable role and turns out I actually missed its unrealistic demands (who knew?!) but a) I would never have appreciated it the way I do now without leaving for a while, and b) I now have the skills to go back into healthcare (or elsewhere?) if I choose to. I would say to anyone who feels as though they’re going against the grain of their natural calling, don’t be afraid to try something different. Unlike the era our parents grew up in, it is no longer the expectation to stay in the one profession or company for your entire working life. All kinds of industries embrace employees who bring new skills and a fresh perspective, so if you’re willing to learn new things, consider taking the notion of a change out of the ‘too hard’ basket and see what’s out there. You may never look back.