Box life – a tale of transition: Taking the leap in your 40s

I was asked to write a short piece about career transition, it led to some unexpected retrospection.

I’ve never been one to fit neatly in a box nor has my life followed a particularly linear path. I’m passionate about many often seemingly disparate topics and have a mind that enjoys engagement, puzzles, and deep thought as much as it can revel in bubble-gum tv and cheesy pop.

My work career so far has followed a similarly eccentric and eclectic path. I’m an artist to trade so to speak, but I’ve been an insurance broker, a student, a bartender, a support worker, and a teacher amongst a few others along the way. I’ve travelled a fair bit and lived for short periods in New York and South Africa. I have met many incredible people on my adventures.

I’ve brought three new human beings into the world, and they in turn have recalibrated many of my priorities that I thought fundamental to my being.

Expressive arts teaching is a special career and working with kids with additional support needs is a privilege few ever get the chance to experience, but I ultimately found that it left almost no time for my own family and so I knew it was time for a change.

In my mid 40s I discovered that that in itself was a bigger challenge than I had imagined.

Having been out of the workforce for almost 10 years and finding myself at the wrong side of 45, I discovered that on paper, it appeared that I wasn’t that much of an appealing risk to take for prospective employers. My eclectic background probably made it even more difficult to see how I could fit somewhere in an organisation or how my skills, however transferrable, could be made productive.

I’m fundamentally a people person, and with a bit of research I found myself returning time and again to the idea of recruitment. I have a few friends who work in the industry, and they all agreed that it could suit me and encouraged my initial tentative forays into seeking a foot in the door. I had very positive feedback, but finding a company post pandemic willing to take a chance on me proved elusive.

At last, I was given an opportunity to join the team at Hunter Adams. This meant learning a whole new way of working and a complete change of culture and mindset from public to private sector, but I was up for the challenge.

Having made the leap, I find myself happier and more fulfilled than I could have imagined. Mostly due to the positive, supportive culture at Hunter Adams.

They are an equally eclectic bunch but together they have managed to forge an ethos of positivity and solidarity. This, coupled with a set of shared values of integrity and honesty, has created a unity of drive, purpose, and vision that I didn’t know existed in the corporate world.

It has been a very steep learning curve and I have discovered new work satisfaction boxes that I had not known existed let alone had ever ticked. My comfort zones and skillsets have been pushed to their limits and yet I feel more valued, engaged, and productive than at almost any time in my past work life.

Hunter Adams is a small organisation, relatively speaking, and almost counterintuitively, this has afforded me an even greater opportunity to diversify and stretch my skillsets by being offered the chance of interim assignments working directly with some of our broad range of clients.

There is an infectious can-do attitude throughout the company and always someone to ask if support is needed. Problems are shouldered and solved collaboratively. Successes are shared and celebrated equally so – and a smile and laughter are never far from any conversation.

There is a big part of me that feels like I wish that I had found this unicorn of a company and such a fluid role many years ago, but perhaps a more direct route wouldn’t have led me down this particular path and into this new and very pleasing box.

I hope to explore every corner of it and given the chance, push at the boundaries to see what new configuration appears.

If the saying is “if life gives you lemons, then make lemonade”, then for me maybe it should be – “if life wants to put me in a box, then let me at least influence the shape and what space it fits in to”.