As a child, I could never really settle on one thing I wanted to do when I grew up. There were so many different things I wanted to do – I wanted to be an actress/writer/director or entertainer. Careers that sounded glamourous, exciting, creative, full of variety and fun – where I could interact with people, be in the spotlight or be in charge!
In high school, I felt pressured to have it all figured out: the career I wanted, the university degree I’d require for that job and the subjects I’d need to take to guarantee me a place in that university course. I remember the career profiling tests handed out by the school career counsellor – they gave me a list of jobs that were supposedly right for me, but they just didn’t seem to fit.
However, throughout this entire confusing time, one fact was 100% crystal clear: I knew I wanted to run my own business one day.
I was inspired by my dad, who started his own business at a young age and had achieved amazing success. Over many years I observed the hard work and sacrifice. But I was attracted to the freedom of being my own boss, having the control to make my own decisions and no limitations on the money I could make. Although it took many more years to work out what type of business, the desire and goal was there from a very early age.
In my early 20’s I relocated to London and it was here that I first entered the corporate world – venturing into the world of advertising sales, working for an international publishing company. On my return home to Australia, I made my first career change – joining a global consulting firm as a corporate recruiter.
Recruitment was something that came pretty naturally to me. I found I was actually very good at sales and recruitment work – and I couldn’t believe that I got paid to talk to people all day! I loved the variety, interaction with people and was driven to prove myself in a professional role. I listened, worked extremely hard and over five and a half years grew my division into one of the highest performing businesses in the region, achieving record sales results over consecutive years, multiple promotions and financial success.
“But my life became all about work.”
I worked so hard for my employer – many more hours than I was required. I was regularly the last person to leave the office, working late into the night.
“I was driving myself hard to achieve the next sales target, financial result or promotion, constantly stressed and eventually hit the point of burn-out. I became completely disillusioned with the corporate world – I was over the KPI’s and targets and needed a break.”
My dream of starting my own business had also never completely disappeared. I was tired of working for someone else, ready to go out on my own and to reap the benefits of all my hard work.
I took a 6-month break with the goal of starting my own recruitment consulting business. Being extremely risk averse, I took the time to do my due diligence. Once I knew my venture was financially viable, I went for it!
“Starting a business is one of the most terrifying steps I’ve ever taken, but also the most rewarding. I made so many mistakes in the early years – looking back I spent far too much time researching and trying to perfect my brand and business plan upfront…
I was also petrified of failing and constantly second guessed my decision to leave a steady, well paid corporate job!”
But I knew I needed to give it a go. In the end I ended up breaking even in the first two months and went on to achieve success beyond my wildest expectations. I remain extremely proud of what I created.
Still, the journey wasn’t always easy. In addition to doing the work, I was now also working on the business. I was working longer hours than I had ever worked in the corporate world, surviving on very little sleep, trying to do everything myself and refusing to hire help. I’d started my own business because I wanted more freedom and balance, and yet I had none. As a high achieving Type-A personality, stress, burn-out, anxiety and the desire for perfection were all struggles that I faced running my own business and in my corporate career.
After running my business for 5 years, I couldn’t help feeling like something was missing. I loved being my own boss and there were elements of the job I enjoyed, but I just couldn’t shake this feeling of dread that would start to creep in on a Sunday night. It would last every day of the working week, only reducing as we got closer to the weekend. I simply didn’t want to go to back to work on Monday and struggled to find the motivation to get up for work each day.
“For an over ambitious, high-achiever this was unusual. I knew I was pretty exhausted – I hadn’t had any extended time off for a while or a proper holiday in years. But instinctively I knew it was something more.”
After procrastinating over it for nearly two weeks, I finally gave myself permission to take a much-needed break. I made the very extreme and completely out of character decision to close my business for 2 months over December and January. To do – absolutely nothing.
For someone who was so used to the ‘doing’ (planning, working, achieving goals) this was a huge challenge for me, but extreme change is sometimes required. I’d never really stopped and taken the time to contemplate life before. I also started to recognise this pattern of working myself into burn-out and decided it was something that I didn’t want to live with anymore. I returned to work in late January, refreshed and ready to go. Immediately those old feelings came back – I’d lost the passion for my work.