In search of sustainability
November 29, 2011 § 4 Comments
At the start of October I launched Recast Retold, a CV coaching service to help candidates tell their story in a captivating way. It is no coincidence that I included a package aimed specifically at career changers. My desire to focus particular attention on these courageous job seekers is based on my own unfolding story. At the start of the millennium I experienced the challenges of explaining a shift in professional aspirations to legal employers and over ten years later, I am recasting myself again, in a more far-reaching way.
The desire for change did not happen over night. Its roots go back far in time to my formative years and were reinforced in different ways during my second career. However, being a lawyer and therefore naturally risk averse, I carried out extensive analyses and risk assessments before reaching this year’s life-changing decisions.
From serial careerist…
As an engineer, writer and philosopher my father advocated the concept of Renaissance Man and encouraged me to take an active interest in many disciplines. Having embraced this outlook, I was never likely to settle for a job for life!
During my first career (an incongruous mix of marketing, PR and lobbying), I was already laying the ground work for my next one. Once qualified as a lawyer I headed for the most multi-disciplinary field I could find and focussed on developing energy and infrastructure projects. Although straddling commercial, finance and corporate transactions with my legal knowledge, diplomatic skills and project management expertise stretched my interdisciplinary mind, the single-track nature of a legal career inevitably became a stifling counterweight.
In the uncertainty that followed the 2008 financial crisis, a voice in my head kept suggesting alternative tracks if redundancy were ever to hit. As the years slipped by, my experience grew and the billable hours clocked up remorselessly, I increasingly questioned the merits of the labour model I had known since leaving university. By 2010 I was not just considering recasting myself again, I was toying with ways to restructure my working life so it would be more sustainable.
… to portfolio worker
My recent sabbatical gave me the space to ponder this question in peace and quiet and contributed to the first major decision of the year. During this interlude, I re-acquainted myself with old interests and discovered some new ones, like millinery. After the dearth of variety in my life in recent years, the mix of activities reinvigorated me and reinforced what I had known for some time: the polymath in me was clamouring for air and a one-track career was no longer an option.
Fortunately, working patterns have changed considerably in recent years. Part-time and flexible working is more common now than ten years ago, technical developments have facilitated teleworking, and the rise of the Internet and social media has widened geographic markets for freelancers. But the working pattern that really interested me was a portfolio career: a career that would actively allow me to pursue multiple interests in parallel.
So having negotiated a return to corporate work on a part-time basis, I spent the last few months developing a portfolio of fledgling ventures alongside the law to allow me to indulge my analytical, creative and practical interests.
Explorations and sustainability
The long journey to an embryonic portfolio career has gone hand in hand with a lot of questioning. Questioning of my interests and values as well as of the nature of society, working patterns, economics in a recession the like of which we have never known and the changing face of the world.
The key question that dogged me was how to incorporate the best bits of my legal work into a balanced sustainable portfolio. The more I explored this, the more I realised what exactly I enjoy about my current incarnation. On the one hand, delivering projects, managing stakeholders and mentoring juniors; on the other hand: a fascination with the changing nature and challenges of the energy and natural resources sector. The list of skills reassured me. They are not unique to the legal world and no doubt I shall develop my portfolio career to play to these strengths. More importantly, once I articulated that my interest in energy resources was tying me to my current career, I felt free to relinquish the safe harbour of the law to focus on energy issues in their own right.
This knowledge and my desire for a more balanced life culminated in a major decision last week. After months of procrastinating, I committed in a big way to a place on a master’s course that I had been holding for some time. Rather than juggling postgraduate studies with a legal career (as I had done with law school and my first career), I resigned. I decided to let go of a model that was no longer working for me to immerse myself in environmental strategy and sustainable development with a view to developing a more varied energy offering for my portfolio.
A new complex story
This bold step radically changes the nature of my portfolio career in the short-term and marks the start of a new, more complex story. Although henceforth my professional storyline will be more involved than the one “lawyer” conjures up, there is a pleasing elegance to pursuing greater sustainability at a micro-level in my own life whilst contributing to the quest for the same at a macro-level in a sector that fascinates me.