Friday, 5 September 2014

Mid Life Crisis?

It has been a funny few weeks here in Adelaide. Actually, more like a funny few months.

Since our return from our UK trip in May there has been rather a lot going on for us, both at home and (for me) at work. I have had a lot to think about and I am feeling a little overwhelmed and unsure of myself at the moment as a result.

Apparently a mid-life crisis for women in their 30s is an actual thing. I am not sure whether I find that reassuring or terrifying. A lot of the data on this, however, relates the mid-life crisis part fundamentally with having/balancing kids with career and that is not the situation for me at all. So maybe I am just having a bit of a moment, a delayed reaction to the cultural shock of moving to the other side of the world. I dunno. Something is awry and I do not like the way it is making me feel.

Basically, every area of my life is GREAT apart from my career. And it is not that I don’t love my colleagues (who are amazing and have made the move to Australia pretty darn easy) or the company I work for (which is a great place to work). It’s that I feel like I am at a crossroads and have absolutely no idea which path I should take or where my ultimate destination should be.

The problem is this: I am not in any way inspired or happy in my current role. That’s not to say I am not doing well in it - I am, but it holds no interest for me at all and I have known for a number of months that this is the case. I feel trapped in a cul-de-sac of meh.

Unfortunately, there is probably no way out of this role which will keep me working for the same company with the same awesome people; so I have to start thinking about making a leap elsewhere – but towards what?

My experiences for the last year have made me seriously question where I want my career to be heading – and this is not helped by the fact that I have spent the last 8 years going towards being a ‘project manager’ on paper with all the bells and whistles that it entails but now find myself questioning why on earth I did this and whether it is even something I want to continue with.

I do believe my current role is part of the reason I am having a crisis of confidence in relation to being a PM. Mostly because what I currently do is facilitate tasks through departments and a hell of a lot of basic customer service. Neither of these things define or are even central to project management to me; they are very much project admin and not challenging, interesting or satisfying enough to remind me why I used to like being a qualified, experienced (proper?) project manager with a budget, a deadline and a clear goal.

Luckily, PM skills are pretty transferable. I am organised, a good negotiator and stakeholder manager, calm in a crisis and able to get things from A to B even when the route is all manner of complex and usually to an agreed deadline and budget. All those things used to give me a buzz. Nowadays I spend more time in a perpetual face-palm stance than anything else; getting projects from A to B still, but not really actually delivering them. More like coordinating the various people around me to do so. Whilst talking to clients on the phone. A lot.

I miss the strategy and the large scale sense of achievement that come with the big projects. I miss having control over the costs and the timescales. I miss managing multi-faceted partner relationships that utilised my communication skills. I miss people management (and I never thought I would say that).

But despite the things I miss, I am still not certain that just replacing this job with a ‘proper’ PM role will be the solution. I just keep thinking about whether I am being tempted to put an old pair of shoes on because they felt comfortable and made me happy in a different life when really I should be 
finding the most kick ass pair of awesome shoes for the future.

And this is where my thinking is a bit mid-life-crisis-esque.

When I actually think about what I would do if money was no object, it does not really involve being a straight up PM at all. Even though some of the key skills for being a PM would likely be central to these radical pathways anyway.

Whatever the role is that my heart and subconscious are seeking right now, the only thing I can tell you is that I have had crazy thoughts about:
·         Studying viticulture and managing a cellar door
·         Studying NLP in conjunction with applied linguistics and going more towards lifestyle/business coaching
·         Event management
·         Freelance work for UK HE contacts

Most of these share a common theme in that they would entail having more autonomy over my working life. I keep skirting round the issue of being my own boss and wondering how this would work out and why I feel that it is something I would like to do. I am also slightly terrified at the prospect of all that responsibility and at the moment the fear is keeping me still while I mull it over. All of these paths would pull on skills I already have as a PM. Perhaps event management would be the most closely matched with what I do now.

None of these would be easy pathways to take but then nobody ever said easy was the best route. In my mind and in my experience it never has been - the best paths have been the difficult but exciting ones and so I think maybe I need to get ready for major change. I am not averse to being taken wherever fate deems appropriate and am totally open to new challenges I haven’t even thought of or mentioned here, so my plan is to see out 2014 whilst mulling over the possibilities and then launch into 2015 with a renewed sense of purpose and a clearer idea of which direction to head in.