Wednesday, 29 December 2010

A short but meant thank you list for 2010

The Hoffman Process for helping me make change
Big Leap for nudging me into my first steps
Screw Work Let's Play for coaching
Mahasukha for Soulful Singing
The School of Practical Philosophy for thoughtful discussion
The Argus for carrying my blog
Dreamthinkspeak for giving me an opportunity
Friends and ex colleagues for being supportive and encouraging
The School of Life for inspiration
And many, many more.

Thank you all.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Wise words from Eddie Izzard

If the purpose of life is to live it, which I think it is, there’s life there, we’re here, you can go ‘what is it all about?’ and just get lost in a circular argument or you can get it, grab it, try and put something positive into it and that’s what I want to do. And if fear gets in the way then just push fear back.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Homer the misnomer is no more

Ten years ago I bought my first house, one with a catflap and 'outside space'.  I had come back to England after living in the US with a wish list - house, pets, boyfriend, family.  Ben and Homer were the pair of cats I liked best at the cat rescue place and they came home with me the day I saw them.  Foolishly I left an upstairs window open and Homer, always the braver of the pair, made his escape within hours.  Six weeks later, after much searching and leafleting, I collected him from a very kind lady and her daughter who had been feeding this black and white stray who matched the description.  A friend joked that Homer was a poor name for a cat who so clearly had no idea where his home was.

The cats moved house with me several times over the next ten years and were laid back, healthy, affectionate, grumpy and quirky in the way that moggies are.  Homer was the more zen of the two, with an old soul gaze and slightly stoned eyes.  He headbutted me when he wanted attention, wailed when he wanted food, got into scrapes, loved being outside and sat by me whenever I was sad.

I had to put him down on Friday night. Good bye, Homer. RIP.

Thursday, 9 December 2010


I've written about fear and failure.  With a new year in sight, it is time to focus on some positive F's.

Although this is a blog about career change, career change is just the trigger, the beginning of an attempt to live a more meaningful, fulfilled life.  The goal isn't just to find new work.  It is to be a more integrated person, someone who is true to themselves.  The new career exploration process is under way. What of the rest of my life?

What I really want boils down to this:

Friends, Family, Fella and a little AdFenture (my four F's!)

And I have most of that already.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

And yet

A month into my new life, things are going well for me.  I enjoy my university course and my part time job has potential to expand.  I couldn't have wished for a better start.  I'm at a point where I could start to disconnect my analytical mind for a bit and explore my creative side.

And what am I doing with my spare time?  Studying for my Psychology exams?  Writing my novel?  Nope, I'm killing time on my laptop and interviewing for other part time jobs.

I'm not off the hamster wheel yet.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Tra la la la la

Happy days.  It's snowy and beautiful outside.

My 'job in the arts' may increase to a few days a week instead of the current one.  It all helps to extend my savings and give me a little more breathing space.  Plus it occupies, entertains and teaches me about a new world - one I've only really participated in before as a consumer.

Slow exhale.


Friday, 26 November 2010

Helping Hindrance

What do you do when you see a person in need, offer a hand, and have it slapped away?

1. Acknowledge you may have identified a need that is your own projected onto someone else.
2. Recognise your helping hand may be seen as aggression or criticism.
3. Know that you too have rejected many a hand because you were not ready, or able, to take it.

You have to meet people where they are.  Po Bronson (author of 'What should I do with my life?') has a useful comment on this:

"You want a step?  Step one: stop pretending we're all on the same staircase".

Everyone's journey is unique.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


Looking forward to things is great.  Does it actually make us happier? No doubt for some experiences the build up makes the pay off all the more delicious.  It can work against us, though.  A focus on the future takes us away from the present, and what happens if the anticipated event doesn't deliver?

Last week I had a lesson on this very topic.  I went to a social event with a group of people I hadn't met before.  Afterwards I felt totally deflated and it took me a little while to work out why.  They were perfectly nice people I had not much in common with.  I had gone along with what I thought had been an open mind.  Really I had hoped to find a collection of fun like-minded souls who might become part of my new post-corporate network.  I would have had a much better time if I had arrived without those expectations.

Coming up this week I have a number of events that are highly charged with expectations if I allow them to be.

Goodbye expectations, hello take it as it comes.....


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Stop. In the name of Love. Before You Break my Heart.

The whole point of getting off the gravy train was to give myself time to be.  Not to think, or to do, but to stop and see what happens.  It is not easy.  I no longer make lists of things I should do.  I'm happy to let the pile of unread books sit there blissfully unread.  The immediate stresses and strains of commuting and delivering corporate tasks have gone.

Stopping remains a challenge.  I'm so used to filling my time and mind with activity, it's a hard habit to break.  I want to learn how to stop, and be.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Karma Closure

I'm not good at endings.  I have an unhealthy tendency to hang on to the old well past its sell by date.  I blithely counselled a friend this morning in the great wisdom of needing to let go with one hand in order to reach for the new with the other.    I arrived home to find a Dear Karen letter from an ex very firmly and clearly cutting all ties and laying the ghost of our relationship to rest.  It brought me to tears.  Good bye old love, hello new....

Sunday, 31 October 2010

I've got a big but

I realised recently how often in my conversations I use the word but.  It's a limiting, doubting word. "Yes, but..." - we all do it.  I was thinking about not using the word in my writing any more and hadn't got much further than that when an email popped into my inbox with the following link to an interview with Neil Mularkey.

Tomorrow is the first day of my new life and I'll mark it by being the "Yes, and..." queen.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Oliver's army

"In the meadows of the mind no-one travels so far as he who knows not where he is going" Oliver Cromwell

This is such a reassuring quote.  I don't think it means it's ok to be aimless but more that exploration is a valid exercise in itself.  The meadows image is lovely too. It suggests a calm and centred journey rather than an aggressive mission or quest. 

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

4,3,2,1......blast off!

I'm at my 4th last working day in the corporate world.  It all feels a bit surreal. 

Last week I had a major wobble.  Announcements of severe Arts Council funding cuts set me off.  Was my new life in the arts about to be curtailed before I'd even started?  Was I completely mad to be giving up my job in such difficult times?  Did I actually have anything I could call a plan?  Could I really take my own advice and follow my heart?  Was I wilfully in denial?  Would my worst fears be realised and would I be eating cat food in my old age?

I managed to calm down, but it was useful to acknowledge and feel these fears.  I'd been doing a very good job of pushing them aside.

Friday, 22 October 2010

With apologies to Janis

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a handsome loving man?
My friends all have partners, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won't you buy me a handsome loving man?

Oh Lord, won't you buy me the work that’s just for me?
Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.
I wait for delivery each day until three,
So oh Lord, won't you buy me the work that’s just for me?

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a world full of fun?
I'm counting on you, Lord, please don't let me down.
Prove that you love me and buy the next round,
Oh Lord, won't you buy me a world full of fun?

Oh Lord, won't you buy me a handsome loving man?
My friends all have partners, I must make amends,
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So oh Lord, won't you buy me a handsome loving man?

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The power of the group

I’m constantly forgetting and then being reminded that I don’t have to go through this career change process on my own.  It’s obvious and good advice that anyone going through change will have ups and downs and that sharing with like minded souls is both reassuring and energising.  People need people!  At a purely selfish level, networking with new people expands opportunities and gets the creative juices flowing.  It’s a two way deal.  Support < --- > Energy & Ideas.

I jokingly wrote in my Argus blog that I was embarking on my own 12 step process of change and that I was going to take myself through it by the scruff of my neck.  I missed the obvious in the metaphor.  Any 12 step programme* works because of the power of the group.

I have some great groups that I am newly a part of and, in my usual fashion, I dilly dally on the edges.  It’s time to jump in and engage.

* I do realise that this is the AA process.  I’ve not experienced it and my 12 steps will be different, but I’m guessing there will be similarities.  And I’m a pragmatic kind of girl so I like the idea of structure and methods that work!    

Monday, 18 October 2010

What's my sentence?

Dan Pink challenges us to sum up what we're about with one sentence.

This is about legacy and what we want our life to be about.  It's a HUGE question and a particularly challenging one for a career changer who has yet to figure out what I want my contribution to the world to be.

What's my sentence?
"She changed her life and showed others how to do it too".

That would be pretty amazing.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The long goodbye

The ending has been a long time coming; I'm on the final stretch now.  It's been such an extended leaving (4 months since I handed in my notice) that I've had plenty of time to get used to the idea.  Endings can be strange and anticlimactic so I've decided to mark it twice.  Once with leaving drinks on my last work day and again with a party at home the day after.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Reality bites

11 working days to go.  Lots of Pyschology homework to do and a new part-time job to start in November.  It's what I have been waiting for but I'm overwhelmingly tired.  Perhaps I'm so close to the end now that I'm starting to let go ahead of time.  I just want to flop. 

Fame at last (sort of)

Today I finally launched my Life/Career Change blog on The Argus website after various email exchanges and some inept techie fumbling on my part. 
And, er, they've spelt my name wrong.  I have one of those surnames that people like to "interpret".
PS I did check whether it should be spelt or spelled.  Either works, apparently.
PPS Since I wrote this, my name has been corrected.  Thank you, wonderful website editor at The Argus!

Friday, 8 October 2010

The Money Equation

I had a good reminder today of the choice I've made and what I'm giving up financially.  The company I work for announced to the trade press that it is planning to float the company in 2012.  I have shares that I will be giving up when I leave.  No payout for me in 2012.            

Thursday, 7 October 2010

B******s to Brave

Brave is such a euphemism.  

Foolish, stupid, I couldn't do it, it terrifies me, have you really thought this through?

I don't mean to be ungrateful as it's often kindly meant but it's a word you hear often if you give up your job to try something else.

I'm not being brave.  The alternative was impossible.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success


The contract arrived today for my day-a-week "job in the arts".  Working hours 10 to 6.  No commute, no crack of dawn breakfasts joylessly consumed before getting on the road at 7:45. I'm liking this new way of working already.....

To get to Uni in London on Monday mornings, I have to leave the house even earlier that I do to go to my corporate job.  But I like the lectures and it's all for me.

Hee hee.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

First day at big school

I enrolled at London Metro University on Thursday and tomorrow is the first day of term.  It's a long time since my first degree and 15 years since my MBA (!) so it'll be a very different learning experience I'm sure.  I'm looking forward to it, both for the content (the first lecture is on Personality Psychology) and because it's part of the bridge to my new life.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Changeur de carrière extraordinaire

Gaugin - whose exhibition is now on at Tate Modern - moved from sailor to banker to stockbroker to printer and painter.  Isn't the world a richer place as a result?

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Something only an office worker would understand

The joy of shredding.
Great swathes of the stuff as I go through my files and decide what to keep & tidy up for my successor and what to junk.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Ta da!

How do you start the career change process?
See the sidebar for The 10 Minute Guide.
Feedback & questions welcome.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Trying not to wobble

It's a fragile thing, this bud of hope and new beginnings.  I'm learning to disregard the occasional dismissive comments of friends and family, that would once have reinforced my own doubt. It has been a surprise how much work it has taken to build my self belief muscles as I test myself out in new territory.  I'm grateful to those friends and colleagues who have been supportive and enthusiastic; it all helps.    

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Quotes for days when I'm feeling weedy....

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.  ~Seneca

Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome.  ~Samuel Johnson, Rasselas, 1759

A ship in harbor is safe - but that is not what ships are for.  ~John A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic

You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take.  ~Wayne Gretzky

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.  ~Pablo Picasso

Yes, risk taking is inherently failure-prone.  Otherwise, it would be called sure-thing-taking.  ~Tim McMahon

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.”

Oh boy is that true.  I mean the monthly salary part, of course.  Poverty isn't appealing but neither is joyless striving in a career that was slowly driving me into the ground.  I'm under no illusions.  I expect to experience withdrawal symptoms and the odd moments (please let it only be moments) of panic in the coming months.

All good things...

I'm not a person known for her patience but I am learning to put in the effort and then wait without relentlessly tapping my fingers for the result.

Things are shaping up.

Finally I'm to be operational on website blog section (as soon as I've digested the rules) and it is looking good on the day-a-week working with a performance/theatre company too.  All being well, I will start the Monday after I finish my corporate job.

Next week I'm going to registration and induction for my new Psychology course.  Lots of new people to meet and I am looking forward to learning more about how we're wired as human beings. 

Monday, 20 September 2010

On giving

One of the principles of both leading a good life and being happy is giving.  I listened to one of the free Philosophy Bites podcasts on the drive to work this morning  ( The discussion was with Peter Singer and he makes a compelling, if uncomfortable and hectoring, argument for giving.  I don’t like being told what to do but it’s impossible to argue with the purely selfish reason for giving, that it makes us feel good.  Win win.
Peter’s site for giving and alleviating world poverty in an effective way is

Sunday, 19 September 2010

From esteemed organ The Onion

Increasingly Horrified Man Listens To Self Explain What He Does For A Living
NOVEMBER 10, 2009 | ISSUE 45•46
CHARLOTTE, NC—Dawning horror tinged with self-loathing crept slowly over the face of claims adjuster Robert Pettlebaum, 42, as he described his job and by extension his life to others during a seemingly innocuous Tuesday lunch meeting. "Mostly what I do is I seek out discrepancies in the property appraisal versus the claimant's estimate of worth and then I…then I defer outpays…with…oh, God…," Pettlebaum said as shadows of unspeakable self-realization flickered across his increasingly desperate eyes. "Wait, no, that can't be right. I don't…do I?" Pettlebaum's mounting terror was met with incomprehension and nervous laughter from his companions, who sources indicated have anywhere between three weeks and 27 years before realizing their own existences are as desolate and barren as his.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Slow learner

Sometimes I need to experience the same good thing twice before I remember why it's such a pleasure.  Last weekend and this I spent a day on the beach with friends, feeling the sun, chatting away, people watching, pushing my feet into the pebbles, drinking in the colour of the sea and sky.  Isn't this what life is all about?

Call to action

Being replaced

My replacement has been recruited; she starts in a week or so.  Part of me is relieved - I can hand over to a human being instead of writing lots of notes and my team won't have to pick up my work in the gap.  I'm curious to meet her.  Inevitably, though, I know there will be a lot of comparing going on, not least by me.  Which is silly because I chose to leave.  

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Celebrating good stuff

After handing in my notice I've been through various stages.  The happiness and relief of making the decision.  The anxiety about what I'm going to do next.  Negotiating the reactions of friends and family.  The drive to fill the post job gap with activity.  Time out for having fun and being quiet.  I've cast a few lines into less familiar territory and started to build my post corporate network.  So far I've been very pleasantly surprised by the positive responses I've had.

There are two "successes" I'd like to celebrate.  Neither have been fully realised yet but I think it's worth celebrating the early signs. 

1. Local paper editor agreed to consider hosting my career/life change blog on the paper's website
2. In discussion with a brilliant theatre/performance company to give them support on a day a week basis

Both of these came about because I took action.  As the slogan goes - Just do it.


I work in an open plan office.  A colleague has just moved into the desk next to mine.  He's a bright, fast-brained thinker but sometimes he reminds me of why I'm leaving.  He and another colleague set up a call with yet another colleague and within 2 minutes of starting the call on speaker phone both of them were on separate calls on their Blackberries while the poor girl on speaker continued trying to have the meeting.  It drives me crazy!  But at least now I can be amused by it.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Karen the Catalyst

It's happened a few times.  A friend or a colleague has made a big shift or change in their lives as the result of something I've said or done.  My reaction was usually "oh my God, don't follow me, I haven't a clue what I'm doing!" I didn't want the responsibility.  Now I see that all I did was trigger something that enabled that person to do what they really wanted to do anyway.  So now I say "thank you".  We all need our catalysts.    

Saturday, 11 September 2010


"I always wanted to be a potter".  A colleague who worked in corporate IT said this to me the the last time I attempted an escape from the corporate world.  He had heard I was taking a sabbatical and was really excited for me.  There's a lot of wistfulness for unrealised potential out there.  Even if I fail, I'd rather try and live a more fulfilled life than continue as before.

Off with the shackles

The corporate cage I'll be leaving in 7 weeks is a cage all of my own making.  It's a liberating thought to know that I can choose to walk through the walls.   They're not real walls at all.  Just outdated fear and lack of imagination.

Friday, 10 September 2010


I'm being cheered on by two different groups of people.
From the sidelines: people who would love to change their jobs and are willing me on to success. If I can do it, so can they.
On the track and ahead: people who are already doing what they love, encouraging me to explore finding what I love too.

It's fantastic to have both sets of support and proof that action breeds both action and goodwill.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

All this change

is very tiring.

"In response to your question 'What is worth doing and what is worth having?' I would like to say simply this.  It is worth doing nothing and having a rest" (from The Curly Pyjama Letters).

One day I'm actually going to listen to this message and breathe a happy sigh of relief.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

No more Soulful Singing!

Earlier in the year I wanted a jump start into a different way of thinking and going to Soulful Singing (drop-in harmony singing group) helped in that process.  It was fun but also made me realise what a skill it is to create a supportive, stretching environment for the singing itself to happen as it does.  Like many things I expect the success of the group lies in the preparation as well as the experience, enthusiasm and warmth of the teacher.  I had hoped to keep going both for the pleasure of the experience and to learn how he does it!

The drop-in is no more, but I'm grateful for the jump start and looking forward to finding more experiences like this one in the year ahead.


Monday, 6 September 2010


The identity shift is starting to happen before I've taken a real step on the other side.

Talk is cheap and I'm still taking the corporate dollar so I can't really show the world anything new.  I find myself sliding into looking at finance jobs on the web with a sinking heart.  It's still hard to let go of what I know.

Every now and then I catch a glimpse of another way and those moments of excitement are wonderful.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Take your pick

Quote 1

"Sometimes we have the absolute certainty that there's something inside us that's so hideous and monstrous that if we ever search it out we won't be able to stand looking at it. But it's when we're willing to come face to face with that demon that we face the angel."   Hubert Selby Jr 

Quote 2

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?"  Marianne Williamson

Saturday, 4 September 2010

“Multitasking is a Moral Weakness.”

I used to laugh at men who switched off the car radio before reversing into a tight parking space.  Now the penny is starting to drop.  My butterfly brain has become less and less able to concentrate, to focus and savour the moment.  This is my loss and I feel the effect of this flitting restlessness in my body and in the attention I'm able to give other people and myself.  

The TV went three weeks ago.  I don't miss it.


Counting down

I'm now in my final two months of 9 to 5 (hah!  I don't think I've ever just worked the core hours), so the end is in sight and the beginning of something new is starting to feel a little more real.  At first, the idea of leaving work felt like leaping into a void.  I don't yet have a strong or clear idea of what I will be doing for a living this time next year.  But I have started to pre fill that void.  I begin a Psychology course one day a week later this month.  I don't know that I want to become a Psychologist but this will be a good way to find out how interested I am.  It will also give a structure to my week, something for my brain to do - there will be homework - and fellow students to meet.  I've signed up for a singing course with a local community choir and am busy looking at other courses to do just for fun.  The void is feeling less scary and more exciting as time goes on.      

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Oh I wish I worked for Dan Pink!

Chocolate booty

Way back in June I wrote a little piece about my walking holiday for the Ramblers blog (dipping my first toe into writing in public).  And today I got a chocolate boot in the post as a thank you.  Wasn't that nice?  Manners alive and well in the walking world.

How great is that?

"For our personal life, there is plenty of knowledge about how to live if you want to be happy. The New Economics Foundation recommend that every day you do 5 things – the spiritual equivalent of the 5 fruit and veg a day needed for physical health.

These five activities spell GREAT – Giving, Relating to other people, Exercising the body, Attending to the world around, and Teaching yourself something fresh."

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Advice from Richard Alderson of Careershifters

What advice would you give to people thinking about a change in career?

Do something about the way you're feeling. Don't remain stuck, whatever you do. A change in career might or might not be what you need, but at least understand why you're not happy. Look at yourself first to do that. Then consider what you might do with your life that truly excites you. It's not always easy to get there and it almost certainly won't happen overnight, but there are thousands of other people doing things that excite them. Why shouldn't you also be able to?

The wisdom in this advice is that career dissatisfaction may be very real but it may not be the whole story.  Unless we're willing to have a good look at what's driving our discontent, chances are a shift in career will not in itself provide what we are really looking for.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Some days

you wake up and you've slept funny.  That's not an idea of mine; I read it on someone else's blog.  There are just some days when you wake up knowing the day is a write off for no other reason than you slept funny.  Today was one of those days.  I was unproductive, unhelpful and unimaginative.  Roll on tomorrow.

Monday, 30 August 2010

On restlessness

"Dear Vasco,

What is worth doing and what is worth having?
I would like to say simply this. It is worth doing nothing and having a rest; in spite of all the difficulty it may cause you must rest Vasco –otherwise you will become restless!

I believe the world is sick with exhaustion and dying of restlessness. While it is true that periods of weariness help the spirit to grow, the prolonged ongoing state of fatigue to which our world seems to be rapidly adopting is ultimately soul destroying as well as earth destroying. The ecology of evil flourishes and love cannot take root in this sad situation. Tiredness is one of our strongest, most noble and instructive feelings. It is an important aspect of our conscience and must be heeded or else we will not survive. When you are tired you must act upon it sensibly – you must rest like the trees and animals do.

Yet tiredness has become a matter of shame! This is a dangerous development. Tiredness has become the most suppressed feeling in the world. Everywhere we see people overcoming their exhaustion and pushing on with intensity—cultivating the great mass mania which all around is making life so hard and ugly—so cruel and meaningless—so utterly graceless—and being congratulated for overcoming it and pushing it deep down inside themselves as if it were a virtue to do this. And of course Vasco, you know what happens when such strong and natural feelings are denied—they turn into the most powerful and bitter poisons with dreadful consequences. We live in a world of these consequences and then wonder why we are so unhappy.

So I gently urge you Vasco, do as we do in Curly Flat—learn to curl up and rest—feel your noble tiredness—learn about it and make a generous place for it in your life and enjoyment will surely follow. I repeat it’s worth doing nothing and having a rest.

Yours Sleepily, Mr. Curly XXX

Letter from Mr. Curly to Vasco Pyjama in “The Curly Pajama Letters” by Michael Leunig

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Get OVER yourself!

Overwhelmed, over-anxious, over-earnest, overwrought?
Time to lighten up.

Resistance is futile

What you resist, persists.  So goes one of the oft repeated sayings of the self-help movement.

I have resisted writing for quite some time now.  I wrote a few pieces for a student magazine but didn't give my name or get involved with the magazine.  I went to a creative writing class, but stopped when I felt I couldn't generate good enough material.

And now, when I'm about to leave my job, I still say "I don't know" when asked what I will do next.

But finally I have admitted to myself that not only do I want to write, I will write - regularly and until it's any good.  Hold me to it.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The 4 Pillars of Happiness

I watched this presentation by Tony Hsieh - CEO of online retailer (link below). It's about perfect customer service but it also talks about about using the core building blocks of personal happiness to help companies and teams perform.

It's very simple; what makes people happy is to have the following 4 "pillars" in place:
Perceived Control
Perceived Progress

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

What's in a title?

"It's a fact that most accountants would not admit to their job at a party - you may as well be wearing a Gordon Brown mask while reciting from the phone book as you watch people slowly sidle away" *

I've often felt uncomfortable answering the what do you do question in social settings for two reasons. (1) I wasn't entirely happy in the job, and (2) the degree of prejudice attached to the label. People are always more than what they do for a living and it used to drive me a little nuts when I saw that instant look of dismissal on a face. It's a particular problem in funky Brighton where I live. But putting that aside for a moment, I do have an interesting label dilemma coming up. What do I call myself in November when I'm no longer an accountant and haven't yet settled on my new identity? Here are some of my options:

I don't know - flat and boring, not an option
Seeker - too new agey
Career changer - hmmmm
I'm taking some time out to find out - true, but a bit long

I'd be grateful for suggestions.

* Quote is from a colleague in my current job (and he's not boring either)

Sunday, 22 August 2010


"Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it" Rabindranath Tagore.

How do we open our minds to what is possible?  In the world of hyperactivity and hyper distraction it can be difficult.  Like me, you probably think you are very good at multi-tasking.  Taking calls, reading and responding to emails, talking to colleagues, preparing spreadsheets (or whatever the equivalent is for you). We think we're getting it all done and done well.  But are we?  Or are we just doing each of these tasks to a basic "good enough" level.  Is good enough good enough?  Is it satisfying? Does it deliver great results or are we just scurrying from task to task? The theory goes that there is no such thing as multi tasking, only fast switching between tasks.  Fast switching has its uses - it allows us to get things done and we become expert at rapid decision making.  But it is superficial. Our "aha" moments come from a deeper part of the brain and we need to nurture this part if we want to receive meaningful and useful ideas and insights.

There are a number of ways to give our brains a a break.  Doing something physical that requires our attention is a good one.  Meditation is another.  15 minutes a day sitting still focusing on the breath, a mantra, or an intention can work wonders.

Eating gooey chocolate cake while typing your blog is not multi tasking at its best. After I've cleaned the keyboard, I'm off to meditate.


Saturday, 21 August 2010

Idle Inspiration

1. Do what you love
2. Do/try a lot of small things at once

These seem to be the twin themes of the career career and life change process.  Number 1 remains a mystery so for me 2 will be my route to change.

In order to get there I am going to have to de-institutionalise myself.  My Protestant work ethic is deeply engrained and will take some shedding.  Tom Hodgkinson (of The Idler fame) describes the corporate work ethic as asking you to be the person the company wants you to be.  And when this doesn't sit well, discomfort (actually he goes further) follows.  My values are out of synch with my workplace and this is one of the reasons I'm leaving.  I also have a personal set of work ethic drivers that are out of line with how I want to live and be.     

I feel like a frog who realised what was happening in time to jump out of the boiling pan.  Unfortunately one of my legs was a bit slow in getting out so I'm now hopping around in circles.  I'm out though, and that's a start.  Part of the answer lies in hopping less; for inspiration on a new way of living and some comfort that you're not alone (or weird) in wanting it, see:   

It's wonderful stuff.

I want the fun back

Having decided to jack in the job, I'm now dancing with my old friend
Fear, who it seems has been providing quite a lot of the drive in my life to date.  The year ahead
is going to be both exciting and a bit nail biting.  One thing I've
found really helpful is the concept that I don't need to know what my
true self, life purpose, perfect job etc is but that I can take action
& try things out to find out what these might be. There is a brilliant
book for clueless career changers like me called Working Identity by
Herminia Ibarra - I can't recommend it highly enough.  The other area
for me this year will be play - doing more of what I enjoy and finding
out more about what I do enjoy.  Work, in particular, has lost all of
its fun. Intense, driven Karen needs to lighten up.  I want the fun

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The honey of overanalysis

Getting stuck. Feeling stuck. Even the word sounds ugly. The are lots of reasons I get stuck - I overanalyze, I distract myself, I panic and freeze. This doesn't happen in my day job, the one I get paid for.  It happens when I need to dig deep, when I need the answer to an important question. What am I going to do for the rest of my life? Aaargh.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

You know there's something up with your career when….

you're using the back of your business cards from 3 jobs ago for your shopping lists.  In the last 10 years, I haven't stayed long enough in a single role to use up the minimum order of business cards.  There's a very strong signal there that I'm an interim or consultant at heart.  Or perhaps not a corporate type at all.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Soulful Singing

Soulful singing is a drop-in harmony singing group.  I decided to go because I knew I wanted to use my voice in some way.  The first session gave me back something I hadn't experienced for a long time and taught me a few lessons along the way.  For it to work I have to keep that fine and perfect balance between concentrating to pick up the tune, words and rhythm of each new song and really letting go.  At first the idea of being able to sing, move and clap/click fingers all at once seems impossible.  There is something primal about a group of very different people standing in a circle creating a noise together - it's both a physical and spiritual experience - the sound vibrates through the room and the voice seems to come from the belly.  It's gospel without the baggage.  And I can't stop smiling.    

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Sea and stars

Is it true that people who enjoy getting to the edge of places and looking beyond are people who don't like looking at themselves or being happy where they are? I do hope not.  Two of my top moments this weekend have been gazing at the stars in a clear dark sky and looking out to sea from a Dorset hill!

Friday, 13 August 2010

Beware the compare

I recently started an 8 week coaching programme with 9 other malcontents and we have been sharing our histories, dreams and ambitions.  I like to think of myself as an intelligent, independent creature who doesn't need to be told by marketeers what I should have in my life - no plasma TVs or status symbol cars for me.  What I'm not quite so good at is avoiding my own inner marketeer; the one that goes "look at them, they're really clever, sorted, articulate, funny etc - why can't you be more like that?"  It's a pernicious voice and a reminder that the values I aspire to and the ones that actually drive me are out of synch.

When I compare and over admire, I make myself small.


Thursday, 12 August 2010

What this blog is for

There is a sea of information and support available for career changers. It is of hugely variable quality and it can be difficult to separate the useful from the chaff.  If you have that uncomfortable feeling of quiet (or not so quiet) desperation and know you want to change things but don't quite know how, you are in good company.

I promise to share the useful and spare you the chaff as I work my way through the change process and try out the various tools and support materials available.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


I will be leaving my well paid, professional job on October 29th.  There was nothing intrinsically wrong with the job or the company but it had reached the point where I had to admit I really wasn't having any fun.  The turning point came when a friend I hadn't seen for a while asked if I still hated my job.  I had become one of "those" people - someone who was miserable and talked about it.  And I thought I had hidden it so well!