Career changing

So, definitely since late 2017, and into 2018, I felt a sense of ‘now what?’. I had been in the same role for long enough to have achieved a lot of what I’d hoped to, and to also be a little battle weary from the constant restructures and cost cutting/efficiency measures. I also saw both a mentor and a much loved manager be treated poorly by the company – so overall, I become just a little bit totally over work.

In early 2018, I took a month of leave at half pay. I did a week screen free (being less than 30mins screen per day). I did jigsaw puzzles and listened to podcasts. I met a recruiter or two. When I returned to work, I was in the same job in a different location with a different team. It was management’s attempt to help me through my malaise. But it was the same stuff in a different place. Same larger organisational challenges, slightly different actors and slightly shifted perspectives. I wasn’t growing, and I had a healthy sense of hatred for the constant changes in the company. A recruiter rang and suggested a role that might suit – it sounded horrendously boring, but I figured, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I took that role – a 12 month contract. I tried to see if my original employer would give me a 12 month career break. They would not. I was transparent about why I was asking – I saw it as a strategic advantage – and it would have been. No one was getting career breaks then – save for a senior executive who sailed around Europe and threatened resignation otherwise and that clearly worried them?!

The contract was cut short to nine months. I was told the day before my birthday. The day before the removalists were booked to move me from rent free living with my parents, and back to my apartment. Either of these factors could have been devastating – instead I tried to maintain a professionalism and gravitas when I was told. Inside, I was excited. Thankful. The job had shown me a different bunch of things my knowledge and skills could excel at, but I had also been frustrated by the intensity of editing on everything I produced, the layers of management in every small thing. The lack of direction provided to me, but also to the state from the government. I served out my week and left with a spring in my step.

That was more than six months ago. Initially, I arranged coffee dates with professional contacts. I applied for a job I was semi head hunted for, and then ultimately didn’t perform well enough at interview (and… didn’t mind. I agreed with their feedback, and whilst I could have done a better job, my lack of interest in doing a better job was telling to me) I got sick. I got better. I went to Europe. I came home, and got sick again. I dropped off on professional coffee catch ups – my heart wasn’t in it. The electricity industry is shrinking – the funding is being reduced. Customers are paying more and complaining loudly. Politicians continue to talk about electricity but no one really heed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s report, the key take away for me was: RETAILERS ARE TAKING A BIGGER CUT THAN EVER. Of course they are – they are the bells and whistles. The marketing juggernauts. The cashed up end of town that lobbies governments, so despite the ACCC’s report, there’s no way governments can claw back to a past where retail pricing was strongly regulated, or where retailers were government owned. That ship has sailed. Capitalism and free market economies haven’t worked for this natural monopoly.

If this all sounds like a rank – I’m not sorry. However, I note that this vitriol is part of why I don’t want to continue in my industry. And ultimately, the bulk of my career skills aren’t ‘electricity’ stuff, but management of projects and staff, budgets, analysing data, drafting ministerial briefs and correspondence to constituents. I just no longer want to be in an environment which is fundamentally falling to bits, and I’m smart enough to know I’m not the mosquito (the one small thing) to change this world. Instead of getting into the arena, I’m finding a new arena.

It’s been hard to work out what next. I went on a date on a Thursday night – a first date, quite unplanned. Dinner at a nearby pub. The date was not a keeper, but his advice was: go where the energy flows. Don’t worry about salary, don’t worry about others think, do what you want. And what I want: the death industry. Well funerals.

So, despite having a truck load of ‘engineering’ adjacent skills, and floristry skills, I took to applying for roles in funeral companies. The date was Thursday. Friday morning I did some quick applications. Friday afternoon a recruiter for one of the jobs called. And that recruiter is still calling…

I feel this is already a long read, so I will perhaps post another day on the ‘why’ of this industry.

8 Replies to “Career changing”

  1. I could have written this same comment about my own industry, which is shrinking and giving me all sorts of anxiety and negative feelings about my current job. Best of luck in your change! I haven’t made that leap yet.

    1. Great to hear from you Emily.

      I honestly can’t think of a growth industry – other than entrepreneurship which is way to far out of my comfort zone for now.

  2. I saw one of those ‘inspirational’ quotes on Insta that was something like, ‘It can take 10 years to get to that 1 year that is life-changing.’ I think it’s pretty true. It does take lots of meandering and experimenting when you are making some major life moves. You seem to have a lot of clarity though on what was really bothering you about the electricity industry. And it sounds like the contract job has taught you more about what you do or don’t want as features in any new industries that you might try.

    I actually know several teachers who have transitioned into the funeral industry! They have all loved it to a surprising degree! There was a blog around years ago that was from an ‘under cover’ mortuary worker, who kept up the blog for several years I think. It was fascinating!

    Looking forward to hearing more…

  3. I enjoyed reading about your journey even though it has been a tough one. You came to clarity about what you don’t want before identifying what you do want – that makes so much sense! One of my co-workers left the Canadian oil sands industry (one of our worldwide shames, in my opinion) to retrain as a librarian. Now working in a temp job at half the salary but no regrets.

    Have you read The American Way of Death or any other exposes of the funeral industry? It was very harsh and I believe times are changing (it was written over 20 years ago) but at least it provided a starting point of what needed changing.

    1. I have read ‘When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ about someone who was in the funeral industry a number of years ago. I do suspect some elements of the work will be very challenging!

  4. Interesting path. I can’t wait to catch up and see where you’ve ended. I think we must all have a friend who has wanted to or has worked in the funeral industry. My friend would have been perfect – poised, empathetic, well-spoken – for a front of house position.
    Yep, to the capitalism should not be driving our utilities, nor banks. Look what happened to AMP once it demutualised. But mates in high places in industry and politics protect their own pockets as they destroy the work of generations.

    1. Theres real struggles getting people into the industry: whether it’s then pay, the requirement to take some calls or appointments out of hour, dealing with grief of others, dealing with dead bodies. I think it’s a fabulous “twilight” career, in that life experience can be a huge guide to the reverence and tact needed with grieving families.

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