Liz WAV 04/02/2014
[Interview proper begins at: 0:00:14]
I: Hi Liz
I: I’m Julie. I work as an independent careers consultant. I’m based here in the West Midlands, so the role I’ve been engaged with for the last 12 years and the sorts of work which I do is around supporting both individuals and organisations as they go through a process of career choice and change.
I: The sorts of organisations that I’ve supported over the years include education, health and a mix of organisations from both the public and private sector. My own background is in a mix of human resources management and training and development and I came to careers about 20 years ago and have worked here in this organisation as well as independently, so I bring a mix of an understanding of individuals and organisations from both my human resources background, but also through working with individuals where they’re making decisions about careers, so it’s a mix of recruitment and selection and career choice. So that’s a bit about me and...
I: ...And the ways in which I have a particular understanding and might be able to help you. Do you want to just tell me a little bit about what’s brought you here today?
R: Well, I’ve had a period of illness and I was originally looking at a career change before I was ill anyway.
R: I was working in logistics before I had the children – in automotive logistics.
R: And from there I went into automotive data management and producing sales reports.
R: When I stopped and had the children I didn’t want to go back to that.
I: Right, okay.
R: I then decided I was really, really enjoying working with the children in schools, pre-schools. I started volunteering, caught the bug, decided I wanted to be a teacher and got to work as a TA because I knew how hard being a teacher was and I didn’t know...I didn’t want to put my family through the training and go back to uni...
I: ...Without knowing what it might involve?
R: Without knowing that I was going to be able to hack it, so I got work as a TA and it was whilst working as a TA that I became ill, so that job has now gone. I’ve established it’s going to be extremely difficult for me to get into primary teacher training because my degree was only a 3rd and they’re expecting a lot higher.
I: What was your degree in?
R: Chemistry with Business Studies from Swansea.
I: Right, great.
R: And I came out with a 3rd, which at the time I was ecstatic about because I’d passed.
I: Well done.
R: But it isn’t going to get me into a Masters level qualification for teaching.
I: Okay, so...and you’ve explored that have you by talking?
R: Yes, I’ve explored that fairly well.
R: And I also think having been ill that that level of demanding career...
I: ...Okay, right.
R: ...May be beyond me for quite a period of time.
I: Okay, so there’s a number of issues impacting on what’s brought you here today?
I: I’m just wondering what’s the most important thing to you because you’re sounding like you know yourself quite well. You sound like you have quite a lot of insight into your circumstances, so I’m wondering what you would find most useful in terms of support at this stage.
R: I have absolutely no clue what direction I want to go in now. I’m at a fairly unique position. I’m slowly recovering. I’m not there yet.
R: But I am slowly recovering and I want to start to look ahead at where I’m going to go and what direction to go in.
I: Right, great.
R: I know that I don’t want to go back to simply staring at a computer screen all day.
I: Right. How long did you do that for, just out of interest?
R: Working in logistics was better because I was working as part of a team.
R: But then when I went from there into forecasting and from that into data management, I’d say that was about five years’ worth before I had the children.
R: And it became progressively more and more and more PC based. The only time I ever left our little cubbyhole was to go and deliver the sales reports, which nobody wanted because they weren’t very good. Therefore, I wasn’t very popular and I’d retreat back to my cubbyhole and I didn’t want that.
I: Right, so not the most positive experience.
R: I wanted to be able to work in teams. I wanted to work with people.
I: Okay, so I’ll just stop you there in terms of you’re getting some insight now into the positives of what you’re moving towards, what it is you do want, so based on your experience of something that wasn’t brilliant, you’re able to say, “What I do want is the ability to work in teams and to work with others”?
I: And in terms of a strength of feeling about that could you...you know, if you were to gauge that on a scale of 1-10 about working in teams and being with other people, is it a strong motivator?
R: If I were to be working entirely on my own doing something that I loved doing, I’d quite happily work on my own.
I: Right, okay.
R: If I was compromising on being in some sort of office environment, plodding along, doing a 9 to 5 and I was in...I was, you know, employed for an organisation doing something I’d rather do it with people.
R: I would rather be in a cooperative environment.
I: Right, okay.
R: And I’d rather not be in a situation where I’m facing antagonism or aggression and I don’t particularly want to go down a route where I’m having to fight my corner all the while.
I: No, okay. Right, okay.
R: Because I personally think having been through the illness that I’ve been through, I’ve learnt a bit more about what can trigger that and I don’t want to get...to put myself in a position where I’ve got to work really, really hard just to stand my ground.
I: No. That sounds really thoughtful in terms of, you know, what the experience has taught you and it shows, as I said before, a good insight into what’s important to you and I don’t think it’s very likely that you would put yourself in a situation again where you would do that. I think you’ve reassured yourself haven’t you that that’s just not going to happen again, so...?
I: I think what’s interesting is that you mentioned that you’re at a position...you’re thinking, where you’re not sure where things are going to go and what’s coming out with what we’re touching on so far is typical of lots of people going through transitions of having quite a lot of insight about what they don’t want and perhaps less insight into what they do want.
R: Yes and you’ve discounted that much but there’s still that much.
I: Yes and as people move through the transition process and they move into a sort of positive frame of exploration, it can become a movement towards something that’s a bit more exciting and starts to feel energising as opposed to overwhelming maybe.
I: And I’m just wondering where you might be on that scale at the moment in terms of maybe a bit energised or a bit overwhelmed. Do you have a sense of how you might feel about change?
R: Because I’m still not completely well, a lot is still overwhelming.
I: Right, okay.
R: So, I’m still very much at the stage where I’m looking to where I might end up going more so than looking to change it in the next few weeks.
I: Right, okay.
R: I think how overwhelming it would feel would depend a lot on how much I wanted to be able to do it. To psych myself up in an office – a data entry clerk somewhere...
I: ...You don’t have to do that.
R: I would really struggle to.
I: No. We can discount that. You don’t have to do that, no. I don’t want you to explore that.
R: But to go down a route of what am I going to do between now and retirement to build a pension pot, how quickly I could get going on it I think would depend a lot on what it was and what needed...what steps I needed to take.
I: Yes. I would suggest that given your work history, your personal circumstances, that that big chunk of from here to retirement is probably too big a chunk and that in terms of a process that you want to go through that’s small chunking your choices and setting yourself small-term goals in terms of what am I interested in, what can I go away and explore, who’s out there that can support me, what kind of networks can I grow on an ongoing basis that take me forward to a future that I’m able to fashion?
I: Rather than moving from A to B, which is...
I: Yes, yes.
R: A bit overwhelming.
I: I would imagine, yes absolutely.
R: I mean the one thing that I have never pursued, ever before I was ill was finding a way of using my creativity to earn money.
I: Right, okay.
R: My creativity – I’ve always...it’s always been a standing joke that if you dump a whole load of stuff in front of me, I’ll make something pretty out of it, whatever that lump of material might be.
I: And who’s given you that feedback?
R: I’ve always...I’ve sewn, I’ve embroidered, I’ve done card making, I’ve done pretty much any form of jewellery making.
R: But I’ve never, ever attempted to make money from it because I’ve always perceived that it was a craft activity for my own time.
I: Yes, okay.
R: And as I’ve gone through this process of self-evaluation that I’ve had to go through whilst I’ve been ill, I’ve looked at whether or not that creativity that I’ve always discounted could actually be used instead.
I: Yes. Well, you look very curious about it. What’s interesting, as you talk about your interest in craft and creativity is that you get a kind of lightness in your face, you stop frowning, you’re smiling, so you know, in terms of a bit of feedback for you there’s something there that you feel very at ease with and it’s almost uplifting for you, so in terms of where we are now and the idea of going away from here with an opportunity to explore something in a small chunk, then one of the things to do to take that to the next level would be to explore for instance, who do I know in my network who does make a living out of craft or creativity and what does that look like? What kind of business do they have? What kind of business model do they have?
I: So find something that demonstrates to you that this might be a realistic possibility.
R: Because I’m seeing two sorts of ways of bringing money in from creativity.
R: And one of them seems a very hit and miss sort of selling your wares affair. Effectively you are running your own business, which is no mean feat. To actually do it well and to make money from it requires quite a big set of skills.
I: It does yes, but it’s something that I do and I think you also...because you’ve got a work experience history, you also bring quite a considerable skill set already, so it’s not like starting from scratch and given that you have your IT skills from your previous work experience and I would imagine an impressive way of forming networks and translating that into a different arena, it’s not starting from scratch, it’s about the transferability of quite a sophisticated skill set that you already have, but I could see that you would be thinking, your own business, self-employment, that’s scary and the reason for that would be because when people go through a process of change they often focus on what’s different, or where the deficiencies are, rather than what’s in the bank or what I have to bring to this.
I: So, rather than you thinking, ‘Well actually I’ve got a very strong IT skill set, I know how to market myself,’ or you know, ‘I certainly know how to go out and ask good questions,’ you’re thinking about self-employment. Is that right? Are you thinking that?
R: To a certain extent, yes. You know, there are an awful lot of people out there now who are making owl doorstops...
I: ...Well, that’s an education for me. I didn’t know that.
R: ...And selling pretty pictures.
I: Right, okay.
R: There is an enormous market out there...
R: ...Of creative capable people who are selling from their own homes using Facebook or websites or Etsy or whatever other website they can find – eBay and selling their wares on a fairly small scale basis.
I: But one of the things we do in terms of making changes and looking at choice is do some reality testing, so I appreciate you’re saying there’s lots of people out there doing that and you know, you have more insight into this than I do, so I’m assured that you know what you’re talking about, but one of the things to do is to reality test, you know, how successful could I be, what kind of income might I make?
R: And that would be my fear I think with that, that it is such a crowded market and returning relatively low amounts of money per item. It’s hard to be seen in that environment. It’s a business where yes, you have a unique product. It’s handmade, but there’s only a certain market for it and you’ve somehow got to get to that market in amongst hundreds of other people who, for want of a better description, are also making...
I: ...Have you ever talked to anybody who’ve done that, or have been successful at it?
R: I know a couple of people who have had some success. Most of the people I know or have come across who’ve had a go at doing this run it alongside other jobs.
R: They do other things. They may make knitted bags and put them on Etsy and sell the odd one.
I: Right, yes. So, one of the things that’s also cropping up here is that what you’re describing is a sort of interim stage, which again, is something – a process that people go through when they’re making change, so rather than move from a teaching assistant to a creative professional, there’s this kind of interim stage where we do a number of things potentially to get the skill base, to get the networks, so again, we’re not swinging from here to there, but we’re actually having some kind of progression towards where we see our outcome being and one of the things that I’m wondering about that you might be stuck with is just thinking, rather than reality testing, or just gathering a bit more information you’re going, ‘Oh it might be difficult,’ or ‘I’m not sure if I’ll make a living out of it.’ I don’t know how true that is.
R: There is a certain...yes, there is a certain element of me reality checking it before I’ve even checked it out...
I: ...Yes, well that’s...
R: ...Because I know it’s not going to be...
I: ...Sure, easy maybe?
R: An easy or particularly profitable long-term solution. I don’t see it as an easy buck long-term and for that reason I’ve started to try to look at what other creative outlets there would be for me.
R: And at that point the sheer scale and range of things that I could potentially look into doing is bewildering.
I: Okay. Just before we think about other creative options – and I go back to what I said at the beginning about some of the things that happen to people when they explore change is this idea of feeling a bit overwhelmed. If we stuck with just exploring a commercial outlet for home produced products, one of the things that I would encourage you to do is to reality check that, to actually make this step between imagining it would be difficult, which it may be, I don’t know, but to actually set yourself some kind of actions where you just check it out so that you move forward just a little bit. You just push the boundaries just a little bit and if you like what you hear, if you get some feedback which encourages you, or you just grow your networks a little bit more then there’s a sense of progress.
R: By ‘grow your networks’ what are you referring to?
I: Well, I suppose if you start saying to people, “These are some of the things that I’m interested in. These are some of the things in which I’m interested in taking my business to the next level, looking at the ways in which there might be some commercial outputs for it, who do I need to be talking to or who do I need to be connecting with?” So for instance, locally there are a number of West Midlands based entrepreneurial activities for new start-ups that would help with web-based creation. So, you know, it’s not all starting from scratch. There are agencies out there that would help you.
I: But one of the things...
R: ...Accessing and finding the appropriate ones, you would refer to as networking.
I: Yes that’s right and also it’s about realising ‘I’m not alone’ because what’s happening perhaps in your head is that you’re thinking, ‘This is difficult. It’s going to take a lot of energy,’ and given that you haven’t been well recently you don’t...
R: ...I don’t have enough energy to spare.
I: Exactly, so you’re probably very careful where you place your energy, so one of the things would be say, that I would be thinking about is not just ‘what do I need to do?’ but what else is out there in terms of support; who else could support me?
I: And that’s not just about your own business potentially. The support issue is key to any career choice and change, so the question I ask all my clients in terms of going forward is who are your supporters? Who else is there for you?