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The Importance of Self

A guest Blog by – Joe Ball

prologue – Mark Hurren

I have always believed work is far more than a way to pay the bills, it’s purpose, a social life, a way to challenge ourselves and more.  But what happens when the very essence of self is too closely intertwined with your job title and the work that you do? With redundancies in the Tech sector still an ever-present cloud and job security high on many peoples agendas how do you buffer yourself against the prospect of losing yourself in the trappings of work? 

A good friend of mine was faced with this very situation, I can honestly say one of the strongest individuals I know, life has thrown him a number of curve balls from a young age and despite the challenges he has remained true to his values, always at the front of the queue to lend a hand or offer some sage advice. For this months blog, I introduce you to Joe Ball a 20 year veteran of the internal recruitment space and as you will see a lot more.

Time for a change

Let me briefly set the scene for you. I have been a recruiter for the last 20 years working both consultancy side and for the most part, inhouse for some of the larger employers in Ipswich.

I loved my job; it gave me a reason to get up in the morning, I’ve met some fantastic people, helped candidates in their career journeys, coached managers to deliver exceptional candidate experiences and I never tired of hearing the excitement in the voice of a candidate who’d just landed the job they wanted.

Don’t get me wrong, if you spoke to some of my friends and family, they’d probably tell you that I was stressed most of the time and constantly exhausted, and they would probably be right. But I loved my job!

I had a great team around me who did amazing things, and nothing was too much for them. I had a great leader who left me to get on with the task at hand with very little input because I ‘was the expert’… until last year.

For reasons still unknown to me, our relationship started to go downhill. In a short space of time, we went from having a strong bond and almost daily conversations full of encouragement and positivity to a strange silence and not talking for weeks. Then when we did talk, it was criticism and interference.

To start with, I brushed it off and carried on with the job, but the more it happened, the more I started to feel like I was being pushed out. As someone who has always had the feeling of being an imposter, this feeling grew until I was almost convinced. Maybe, they didn’t want ‘me’ anymore.

So, as I’ve mentioned, I struggle with imposter syndrome. Add to that high functioning depression and PTSD and you’ve got a whopper of a cocktail of things that try and stop you moving forward in every facet of your day to day. Do they? Sometimes. What have I done to help myself? I’ve seen counsellors over the years to support me when times got tough.

These have always been the standard 6 sessions to talk about a particular subject. I know a lot of people who have really benefited from these but for me, they were always just a sticking plaster. I had so many interlinked situations that needed to be unpacked, 6 sessions to talk about one just weren’t going to cut it.

Some 10 years ago, I decided to do something about making myself happy or at least happier and less of a grumpy old man….at the tender age of 35!

I did a little research and found a coach, Clair. Very quickly, Clair and I built a strong working relationship, we talked, we laughed and sometimes I cried and sometimes it really hurt, but she helped me start to unpack the messy filing cabinet that is my head and organise things in the correct files in a logical and ordered way. I’ve worked hard all my life at helping others, but helping myself is the greatest challenge I’ve ever faced. It’s been an incredibly long road but step by step, with Clair’s support, things got easier, clearer.

Whilst I’m certainly not going to tell you that I never have a dark day, the dark days are fewer and further apart and I see a lot more light and I know how to deal with the situations that used to flatten me.

You may have gathered from the opening paragraphs, that I’m no longer a recruiter and you would be correct. I’d given myself a deadline of the end of the year to make some significant changes in our internal processes and if they weren’t financially supported, I was out. The board loved my proposal and what I was trying to achieve but, they weren’t supported!

I had already had some thoughts about what I wanted to do next, and it was deep routed in supporting people.

I had a conversation around this in one of my sessions with Clair and her response almost knocked me over, ‘you should become a coach’ she said. After a few moments and picking my jaw off the floor, I replied ‘how on earth can I coach people who are struggling when I struggle myself?’.

‘That’s exactly why, you understand how it feels!’. So that’s what I’m going to do, and I couldn’t be more excited. Petrified, but excited!

‘So, what’s the point of this blog?!’, I hear you cry.

There are two points. Firstly, and most importantly, if you’re struggling with any part of your mental health, talk to someone, anyone. There’s no two ways about it, the provision of mental health care in the UK isn’t enough, but not everyone needs a psychotherapist. Sometimes, seeing a coach, like I did, is enough to work through a situation that you don’t feel comfortable talking to your nearest and dearest about.

Secondly, if you’ve found yourself in a job that doesn’t set your world on fire, for whatever reason, do something about it. I’m not saying just leave, you might not be able to simply down tools and never go back, but there are opportunities out there and the thing you’re doing now might not be the thing you really want to do.

Epilogue – Mark Hurren

Joe highlights perfectly that change is constant and the need to reinvent ourselves in life is not only necessary, it’s the difference between those who succeed and those who allow life to happen to them. Life will always throw each of us our challenges, the unforeseen act that derails your plans. In every one of those acts, there is an opportunity to see a different path that wouldn’t have been there had you not faced adversity.

A line in Joe’s post really stood out to me. “Maybe they didn’t want ‘me’ anymore. “ Is it that they didn’t want ‘you’ or is it they didn’t need your skills any more? Drawing a line between those two things will go a long way towards protecting what makes you, you! You can learn new skills or apply the same skills in a different setting.

Pretending to be something you’re not or a “new you” seldom ends with a contented life.

Your career path can only and should only be one aspect of where you find meaning in your life.  Whether you run your own company or you are an employee, placing the essence of ‘you’ completely into something so fragile is a risky endeavour.

Diversity in your financial portfolio will help to shield you from economic headwinds, life is no different. Share your energy between passions, projects, Friends, Family, Health pursuits and work.

I have seen first-hand the effect joe has on individuals around him if you are seeking clarity, support or simply don’t know what questions to ask yourself, let alone have the answers I would recommend dropping him a line.

Joe will be opening his doors to new clients in September, drop him an email at [email protected] if you would like to join his waiting list or find out more. 

Looking to add talent to your team, or looking for the next step in your career?