Monday, 13 April 2009

Clouds and silver linings

Realising you're in the wrong job should, ideally, be a liberating experience. In theory, it should be the first step in moving on to work that's better suited to your talents and passions.

In practice, it's likely to send us into a tailspin at first. Finally paying attention to all those niggling doubts, the continuous low-level boredom you could never explain, the lack of enthusiasm for anything relating to your work, the tendency to suppress any negative thoughts and emotions about your career in case they interfere with your job performance... clearly you knew it deep down, but rather than being a liberating experience, it can initially seem like you're on the fast road to misery. You start to regret, most bitterly, the time you wasted following a path that you were never going to enjoy or feel fulfilled in. You regret the times you mistakenly told yourself that it would get better, if only you would just try harder, work harder, or stop expecting so bloody much all the time. Most of all, you simply regret the amount of time that has passed before you realised you had to get out of that job.

However, they say every cloud has a silver lining. In my case, my job was both the cloud and the silver lining. Training to be a chartered accountant, while dull, does teach you things you'd never learn anywhere else. Like ways to minimise paying tax, for example (legally, of course!) and what all those strange and complicated finance and business terms actually mean (they usually mean something quite simple, so hell knows why they use words that make it seem strange and complicated...) You learn how companies maximise profits and drive down costs, and about financially efficient uses of capital and resources. One can even apply some of the principles they've learned to their own situation. Which, of course, is no bad thing.

The other silver lining is that working as an accountant enabled me - as with any job - to slowly build up some savings (once I'd come up with a financial plan in January 2008, as detailed in the previous post). I tried to think of accountancy as a means of financing my future career change.

Perhaps the silver lining is small, but it's a silver lining nonetheless. And who knows - the knowledge and skills gained from the past few years may well come in useful one day. It may not have been "wasted time" after all.

The author James Allen observed back in 1905:

"If circumstances had the power to bless or harm, they would bless and harm all men alike, but the fact that the same circumstances will be alike good and bad to different souls proves that the good or bad is not in the circumstance, but only in the mind of him that encounters it."

Despondency and regret over past or current circumstances is easy: I admit I've fallen into that pit in my darker moments. I think all career-changers do at some point. Ultimately, however, it doesn't serve us: those regrets won't solve or change anything. We still have to keep moving forward with life rather than let those regrets hold us back.

As Allen noted in the above, "the good or bad is not in the circumstance, but only in the mind of him that encounters it." I will try to bear that in mind next time I start regretting becoming a chartered accountant.
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