A few months ago, like often when I was not on a business trip in Asia, Europe or in the US, I was heading to my office (to create value as I often joked with my wife). That day, I heard on the radio that 92% of workers in France have at least once thought about changing their career orientation. However, only 28 % dared to do so while the vast majority were afraid to fail or concerned that they would regret it. Also, many were not clear about what they wanted to do...
Ok, I hear some of you saying that these percentages are high in France but will probably be
lower in Switzerland as Switzerland is doing better than France on many aspects. Maybe. However, who has not heard a friend complaining about working in a big corporation? Too many hours, lack of meaning, weak management or leadership, colleagues being promoted instead of yourself, again another reorg, this heavy feeling of dejà-vu... Yet, we stay... another quarter... another year. This time, it will be my last year for sure.
We are responsible people!
Yeah, we all have good reasons or excuses to do so. We have to pay the bills. The kids will soon (or not so soon) go to University or... we will have kids one day. We are responsible people!
Correct but how long will you be able to cope with it? Are you getting less and less patient with your kids and/or your partner? Are you getting less and less able to listen to them? Are you more tired and more often in a bad mood than before? Worse, is your health deteriorating?
Well... maybe it is time to pause, step back, listen to your inner voice and think about what you really want to do.
Easy, right? No!
It is all about going to something (big) and not going away from something.
24 months ago, one more reorganisation took place in my company. The Europe-Middle-East-Africa and Asia-Pacific Sales and Marketing organisations merged under the Asian leadership. Redundancies across the board. Lucky me, I gained expanded responsibilities and geographies. Lots to discover, lots to learn! How exciting! And it really was! I could learn about new markets, look for incremental synergies, discover new people and cultures, engage more employees on a shared vision, build more best practices and... over deliver on my (bigger) numbers! In other words, create (more) value. I did, we did. Together with my fantastic team, we beat our targets quarter after quarter, again and again!
But... to me, the vision was dry, empty... It was financially driven (only). We will be 4B$* by 2022! Right...
The misalignment between my values, what inspires me and my leader’s point of view was growing more and more. The point is not about who was right - the company was and is doing extremely well and he played a big role in its success. But I could not, I would not want to bend... this time. I could not sacrifice my values - I did not want to.
I needed to move, do something else, find a job with a bigger meaning within or out of my company.
Did I do it? Nope... I let my frustration go up. I went to open disagreements, challenged the regional strategy which, in Asian culture is definitely not the smartest thing to do obviously. Did I do it consciously? Partially... more than partially actually. I could not bend, not this time... What had to happen, happened and I got kicked out of the company... And they were right to do so.
20 years of work in a row with family holidays as the only real pause along the way... No choice now but to think... endless choices and opportunities. Well, are you sure? Or should I make the safest choice and join a competitor? I have 3 kids and a family to sustain.
Meet and listen to people (many)... and listen to your inner voice
Excited and scared at the same time, I started with a very rational approach and listed out everything that I like and everything that I don't like. Very helpful. On the list, what I LOVE (and not like) are the oceans. I have always been in love with the oceans. I grew up by the North Sea. I love sailing and am a big fan of some NGOs and truly admirative of some of their leaders. That’s what I should do: join a NGO!
Unfortunately, my 20 years of “capitalism” were not the most appealing profile to the numerous NGOs I managed to talk to. I was looking like a late opportunist to them I guess...
Damn, what should I do? That was an extremely stressful period.
I did not want to do the same as what I used to
I wanted a bigger meaning in my job and in my life (in my case linked to theoceans or the environment) and
NGOs did not quite like my profile...
I could not sort out this one alone and the worst thing I could have done is close myself. Hence, I spoke with many people from very different sectors: friends, NGOs, politicians (local and national), environmentalists, sustainability experts, coaches, start ups, investors, banks and even people working with primary tribes from Amazonia... Almost a 360 as we call it!
Wow, what an amazing experience! People were giving insightful advice for “free” (I had nothing to give back really) to someone they didn't even know. They were giving time, sharing contacts to help me find my way, find the path where I could create real value**.
These rich conversations were so fulfilling. There was always a critical element that I got from every one of them. People’s kindness filled my energy up and I dared... fueled by encouragement, feedback, experience sharing and positive mindset!