Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Career Change

I have the luxury of boasting a very good resume.  Part is due to hard work and perseverance, part is good timing, part is simply going with the flow of my professional passions in the moment, and part is ...dare I say... luck.  ALL of it is true. 

I have always believed in the philosophy that if one follows their passion in life, then money will come along with that.  Naturally or with a bit of craftiness, money has always accompanied my career choices, even if just enough to cover expenses for the girls and I.  Certainly not rich, but comfortable enough.  Frankly I wouldn't want to be rich anyway... that would be boring.  

After I left University (withOUT a degree, but I digress...) I worked a smattering of part-time jobs in London and Cambridge; grocery, pet stores, home-cleaning on the side.  From that stemmed my first opportunity into the business world, with a collection agency to which I still owe my deepest gratitude for giving me a chance.  That starting CHANCE is what can make or break a career.  

After two years there I worked for Open Text Corporation in Waterloo, my eye-opener into the Tech Sector - this was only months after I had actually gotten my own computer and on "the Internet."  I started in Customer Service, taking Tech Support calls from companies worldwide using the software created by OT; Livelink, a type of internal communication and customer management system software newly invented in the time.  From that I progressed into Analysis and began to learn the details of customer support contracts, a multi-million dollar business.  

My big business experience grew with a team shift to Research in Motion, the maker of the then-explosively-popular BlackBerry® handheld device.  It was a risk to jump from OT to RIM, but this well-timed leap landed me a lovely benefits package and a Supervisor title.  
I led a team of Analysts in the Customer Support Department; I loved the busy atmosphere and the youth-oriented climate of the business.  We gathered to watch Team Canada in the lunchroom when they played, we sported company shirts and swag as frequent gifts from the management, and we grew our careers in every way possible, working hard and being ever so connected to our devices.

Pause career - time for me to have babies!  Having been married five years my husband and I got to a point where life was just too simple... we needed to liven things up a bit.  Ha - not just one baby but two!? threw us for a nicely livened loop - my career took a longer pause than anticipated.  I was suddenly driven to immerse myself in motherhood, stretching my year maternity leave into an extended leave which ultimately resulted in my leaving RIM *GASP* - unthinkable at the time.   Crazy.  But I couldn't have it any other way, I had to be home with my babes.  

Skip ahead a year or so and I did (luckily!) end up back at RIM, in an even more fabulous position, Intranet Content Specialist.. ahhh.. so fun! Challenging, interesting, profitable, project management and communications, a position that taught me everything that I have since come to realize: I love this shit!!  I got to work with hundreds of talented people, in a vibrant city full of delicious ethnic foods, learning something new every day.  

A twist of fate then moved me back to Meaford, and far away from my beloved career.  It was bittersweet; despite the loss in professional acumen, I gained precious years with my young twins that I will never regret having.  

Several years of self-employment and tenacious scraping-together of mortgage payments gave me personal and professional experience that kept me from becoming complacent.  I always appreciated a new customer or an interesting job that kept me focused on my business, and on my life.  

Some of my fondest memories of self-employment include countless hours on the side of the valley overlooking Heathcote, doing garden work and property maintenance for a retired garlic farmer with a penchant for flowerbeds.  Oh the lavender... and the hearty outdoor chores.  I flourished there under the sun. 

Another bend in the road brought me back to The Corporation, when I became a Scotiabanker, here in Meaford.  Office skills came rushing back as I dusted off my dress suits - and my manicure.  I honed cash-counting skills and ran circles around the Customer Service competition, making friends I will cherish for the rest of my life.  

Three very busy years there, and I was presented with an opportunity I couldn't resist: management in a major grocery chain.  I have always wanted to own my own book store/cafe/foodie shop, so when this job came along I took it to be a good sign.  
I became the Manager of the fastest-paced department I have ever witnessed, in charge of payroll, cashiers and cash-handling, and Customer Support for our small-town big-ole' grocery store.. holy.  I quickly grew to know the members of my team, and I worked tirelessly to try to improve conditions for customers and staff alike.  I tried... but...

Full stop: pause career - Cancer diagnosis!  This story is starting to feel like a real-time game of "Life."   

In the two and a half years since my cancer sabbatical began, I have had plenty of time to ponder what I want to be when I grow up.  A complete shock to the system such as this affords some time to re-think the professional efforts I will put forward in my future.  
I know I can no longer hack the long days that run into long weeks, nor the physical and emotional marathons that go along with a job like that, but I know I cannot draw out the generous benefits offered either, when I know in my heart I will not return.  Self-preservation yes, unethical No Thank You.  

I have spent a good portion of the the last year-plus volunteering my efforts and emotions to the cause of skin cancer awareness.  Compelled to share my story for the benefit of others, I have had plenty of opportunity to test myself, see what I'm really made of.  What's in it for me?  
A down-to-earth analysis of my own collection of skills and experiences, at home but also in a professional setting.  Plus I may even have the chance to reach but one person who will find hope in the darkest moment, as I did when I seeked out support for my melanoma dilemma.  

My professional passion has shifted.  It is not lost, as it has taken me a while to realize... it is just different.  After advanced cancer diagnosis I mourned my "loss of career" as I saw it... unsure of anything, and certainly unsure of my job title.  
I floundered, not knowing where to turn, knowing one thing for sure: it wasn't back at the helm of a huge team of personal involvement and relentless stair-climbing.  Part of my identity was missing, I felt I had no purpose... motherhood yes, survivor yes, but professional? No career purpose. 

Until a few short weeks ago.  I received another clear CT scan and oncology consult, in which I graduated from three month check-ups to six-month follow-ups.  I panicked at first, but as the knowledge set in so did the good feeling.  
I had more energy; I was involved in more stuff than I had given myself credit for.  I learned how to post my own blogs to Huffington Post! and I knew what I had to do.....  keep doing what I had been doing for the last year or so.  Promote advocacy for melanoma and skin cancer support and awareness across Canada. And Write.  

I want to write, so write I do.  I want to advocate, so advocate I do.  Pretty selfish, all this post-cancer stuff... but I'm hoping to turn it into a positive kind of selfish.  
The kind where I can explore a city like Montreal by my own whim, and then the next day speak with the most inspiring group of people I have ever met.  
The kind where I can use my professional skills to help an organization which has helped me immeasurably, and then help them again, in turn, helping the people they help.  Write, advocate, explore, write, advocate, explore... that's my plan.   

As such I will introduce my career change.  It is a life change the likes of which I never expected to experience, and I am incredibly grateful for it.  I feel more alive than I have in years, my passion is ignited.  I have found my niche.  I know what I want to be when I grow up. 

It is with immense gratitude that I can say I (finally) have a return-to-work plan, details coming soon.

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