Thursday, 8 September 2011
For many, many years I was despondent at the complete and utter lack of meaning in my career. And I mean despondent. The expectations of others seem to cloud my judgement. In retrospect, I recognise that I was tetchy, arrogant, unfulfilled and in a constant state of unrest.
As my own story goes I lost my dream job at the age of 32 and slammed into the buffers. I became a resident of ‘Skid Row’ and found myself in an utter and complete tailspin. There were one or two occasions where I questioned whether I could even go on. Life was bleak and the day-to-day outlook did not seem to be improving. I was in a rented bedsit, on the dole, on the breadline, living on baked beans and struggling to cope with being what I regarded at the time as ‘down-and-out’. How damaging we can be to ourselves.
In the depths of my despair someone I had previously regarded as a friend for life, a person I held in hugely positive regard, asked me what felt like being a failure. I thought I’d hit rock-bottom, but I soon found out I was wrong. This kick in the teeth knocked me even further down. I saw my ‘friend’ through a different lens. That was December 1994. I remember it well because I lost my job, reputation and roof-over-my-head on 4th December.
I’ve written about it at length elsewhere, but in the interim period I received my first bona fide career guidance interview with an inspirational Adult Career Adviser called Mike, and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude to this day. His guidance compared to that of an alchemist as he took me from the depths of despair and skilfully guided me towards my renaissance.
By the end of the first week in January 1995 my life started to show green shoots like the snowdrops hale the end of dark winter months. That metaphor still works for me all these years later as I watch for the early Spring. The same way my heart skips a beat when I see the first swallow arrive on my horizon. It is these uplifts that feed our soul. Somewhat ironically, I had been accepted onto a postgraduate diploma in Career Guidance and started the rebuild process and germination of the person I knew, deep down, I had the potential to be.
As my friends who knew me before my transformation will tell you, finding my ‘calling’ changed me deeply. And I emphasise that I use the word ‘calling’ in a completely non-Lutheran sense. (I’m no longer a conditioned Christian, as regard myself far more a Holist in my outlook.) What I mean when I say calling is that I tapped into the innate vocation that lives within each and every one of us. My life transformed because every faculty I possess, every life experience, every career attribute, is drawn-upon and channelled daily in my job and repays me the dividend of meaning and fulfilment.
Having done my year’s postgrad I went on to my Probationary Year as a Careers Adviser, relocating to Surrey and working in three mainstream secondary schools and one special needs school. I tapped into a new-found self belief as young people were mirroring my enthusiasm for my job in some form of virtuous circle that spread the dividend outward.
Gradually, the traction came back into my life. In truth, the traction probably entered my life for the first time! As now I had a vocation my identity and self esteem became more strongly anchored. I found where previously people might have regarded as arrogant and argumentative; I became increasingly comfortable in my own skin, peaceable and contented. No longer feeling hunted and forever in pursuit of fulfilling my potential in some far-flung fantasy. I had tapped into my innate strength and it was feeding me.
Nowadays, I see no greater pleasure in my life than guiding others towards tapping into their inner vocation and uncovering the career attributes that can feed their soul. You can see the ‘before and after’ in their eyes. I know what the experience felt like in my own life; like the dark in a cave and the beach on a summer’s day – total contrast! With and without.
I see the eyes of meaning-filled people sparkle with a perpetual intensity that is infectiously charismatic and nurturing; especially craftspeople building tangible products with their hands. These are especially wholesome jobs – the epitome of ‘Career Sustainability’ – career identities that will last for the long haul of a lifetime.
Whereas, people in dead-end, meaningless jobs, and those unfortunate people not to have any work in their lives, can seem soulless and empty; with tapping into the affirming powers of meaningful work instilling that all-important sense of purpose and virtue being the remedy to our quest for the meaning of life.
Working with what you’ve got within in you is invigorating on every level. It truly uplifts the soul and builds the life. The toughest part is placing one’s trust in others to help decode what your calling is because part of being human is that we’re not always very skilled in recognising what we’re best at. Our filters don’t work this way .
Only the weak and faithless perpetuate their lot by never seeking help. The process of reaching out and connecting builds stronger bonds in stronger communities; the more meaning in the community, the more peace everyone enjoys. Life goes on, sustainably.
Feed your soul and others’ today – tap into your career attributes – help others tap into theirs - purpose feeds all of us and lifts our souls.