Face the Change

These are incredibly strange times that we are living in. In almost every which way that you can think of them. We are uncertain about almost everything. Will the heavy lockdown be lifted on May 5th or extended? When will retail shops re-open? When will the hospitality industry start to come back to us? With work the questions continue. Will I have my job by the end of this? Will it be the same as it was? Will companies be hiring?

Change and transitional periods are never easy. In my experience, no matter how many times you go through them, and whether they are caused by or cause uncertain and difficult times they are never less difficult as they come down the tracks. You do however learn to adapt to them and become resilient. You get used to the feelings, the process, and the struggle.

During my career, I’ve been through many different periods of change. Some great and comparatively easy, which fortify the saying “a change is as good as a rest”. Others, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Periods that feel like you’re wading through mud up to your chest, as you wonder what brought you here. Or in the moment, how the ‘F’ do I get out, is it even possible. I’ve started business’ and closed businesses. Some have happened the way I wanted and others not.

I trained in auditing in a big 4 accountancy firm when I left college, after my training contract ended, I stayed in the firm for another few years moving internally. When I left practice, I moved to a large financial services firm, in many ways it was similar to a large accountancy practice in terms of size and mobility etc. After a while, I realised it wasn’t the type of work that I wanted to do, so I left. At this point I decided, if I’m going to do this, I’ll do it for myself. So, I went out on my own and started my own accountancy practice. Whilst being exciting, it also brought difficulties. I was now working on my own in a room, rather than in a big office full of people. This required me to go out and win business for myself, and not have it come knocking on the door, and if I didn’t, I didn’t get paid. I had to learn all the elements of running a business that have nothing to do with the core function of the business (accountancy in my case), sales, marketing etc.

After about a year, I got involved in a start-up café/wine bar, under the pretence of just doing the office work but which ended up encompassing the entire operations of the business. From someone who had zero experience in this, I can tell you it was a change of pace to put it mildly. It’s an industry that I came to realise is technically simple, as in, you know what you have to do. Serve food/drink of good quality in a nice environment…..simple. But for something that is technically simple, it is extremely difficult. It’s difficult to execute, and you must do it to that standard every minute of every day as the variables change as customers come in and out. The café had a good run for a good time, but unfortunately, we had to close the doors. I pressed on with the accountancy and things settled once again. In recent times I quite happily brought the accountancy business to an exit and transitioned into a new career in financial recruitment. Although I felt like this may have been a different sport, it was played in the same arena. It had some familiarity which made it somewhat less daunting. But a few short months in and here we are, back treading the waters of uncertainty.

So…what does any of this qualify me to tell you about the times we are living in. Well…nothing. I can just tell you the little things that I learnt along the way, and maybe let you know that things you are feeling are normal and you certainly aren’t the only one. And these feelings can still happen at times when things are going well, when the business or work is thriving, and often they do. Sometimes I would feel like I was drowning, like everything was too overwhelming. Other times I would feel like I was just a man on an island, alone and insular. Of course, this wasn’t the case as I had friends and family that would do anything to help me, but that doesn’t stop you feeling that way or being able to see their support at times. There are a few things that I would do and still do to help cope transition, change or uncertainty as it comes down the tracks. It all seems cliched, but it gets that label because it works.

  • Go for a walk – step back from everything, breath, take in some nature
  • Re-calibrate – For me, I like to go to a place (top of hill) where you can look down on a town/city/road from a distance. It helps to get you out of your insular bubble, that we are all in the rat race so to speak but it isn’t everything. Focus on the ‘other’
  • Reengage with a clear head – whatever the task is, you’ll make better sense of it
  • Support – Talk it through with your support network, be it in work, at home or with friends. Let people help you, listen to their ideas. I’ll rely on another true cliché again, ‘a problem shared, is a problem halved’
  • Fix what you can – You can only fix and affect what you have control over. Don’t worry about things that are out of your control. What if/What about-isms, won’t help you other that having you worry and spiral to the point that you can’t do what you need to
  • Do what you can, prepare for the next steps, work on your pipeline, upskill and relax. Take everything day by day, task by task

Even with all this, it still isn’t easy. I certainly don’t find it easy, but it does feel familiar and most importantly from my experience with it, I know that it’s temporary. It sometimes can feel like it will never end, but it will. Tough times, transitional periods of varying magnitude and change build resilience. When you have resilience, it doesn’t mean that when you are in the trenches taking fire, that you think “this is grand / water off a duck’s back”. It means that in spite of everything that’s going on, you can pick yourself back up. You can adapt to the new situation and you can move forward.

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