Changing career is a little like becoming a parent for the first time. Everything is new, strange, and exciting. You spend a lot of time terrified of getting something horribly wrong. You worry about the right way to do things, and whether you are handling everything properly. You are consumed with dread about what everyone else must be thinking.
Out in public, you are often convinced that your inexperience and nervousness show like big flags waving over your head. “Newbie!” the flags scream. “SHE’S GOT NO IDEA!” they declare. “COMPLETELY HOPELESS! SOMEBODY GET HER OUT OF HERE!” they declaim. You are overwhelmed, and completely certain that, sooner or later, someone will realise you are hopelessly unqualified to be in this position, and they will rectify the ludicrous mistake that gave you all this responsibility.
Slowly, little by little, you begin to relax into your role. Maybe you have a great day, or you get a little positive feedback, and it’s like your baby smiling at you for the first time. Suddenly you remember why you wanted to do something so insane. You start to think that maybe you could be good at this, in time. It’s still hugely, incredibly daunting, but there are thrills – not every day, but more and more often. This feels like it could be something fabulous.
Just as you’re feeling almost comfortable – WHAM! Something goes horribly wrong. You make a huge mistake, or handle something unbearably badly. It feels as though you have dropped your baby on her head. You may never recover from the guilt, shame and ignominy. What could possibly have made you think that you could do this? You are nowhere near good enough for something this amazing. Something this important. It was a horrendous, horrifying mistake to get into this position in the first place, and the sooner the earth opens up and swallows you whole, the better for everyone involved.
And then, if you are exceptionally lucky, an angel appears. Someone takes you by the hand and explains that nobody died, that everybody has bad days, and that perspective is a wonderful thing. They tell you their own horror stories about days that went catastrophically wrong. You realise that if someone so experienced, so obviously talented, can still have bad days, maybe there’s hope for you. You lift your head and smell hope on the breeze.
Exactly like that moment when you meet another parent who has “been there, screamed that, and lived to laugh about it afterwards”, you realise that these are moments that we all share. That there is nothing unique about your own situation, or your own fears. That even the best of us has times when we feel as though we are dragging ourselves along the bottom of the ocean. And that sometimes we all need a little help to find our way back to the surface.
To all the angels in my life, and especially in my workplace – thank you! You brighten the darkest days.