2020

Glib, perhaps, but I chose an interesting time to move into public health at the end of last year. I got to do 5 months of my ‘proper’ job before everything changed. I’ve spoken elsewhere about my secondment with Evidence Aid, which I did alongside mostly business as usual work combined with some Covid projects. In an alternate, Covid-free timeline, I would by now have done the Health Improvement role solidly and without interruption for over a year, might even have got my wish to work on a project that combined my information skills with my sport psychology qualification (one day I’ll make use of it…), and would be looking for a role in a different part of the health sector. Perhaps. Who knows? We don’t get to see the other path.

My role was always going to be fixed-term until March 2021, so I spent some time applying for jobs this year. I had two remote interviews and was runner-up on both occasions. This was simultaneously uplifting (I’m pretty good at interviews, according to the feedback) and depressing (I wasn’t good enough to get the job, or someone else was a better fit.) Previously I would have fallen into a pit of despair, but something about this year has rubbed the edges off disappointment and anger. The first rejection resulted in an afternoon of therapeutic pottery, after which I felt fine. I was over the second disappointment by the time I finished reading the email. It turns out the in the middle of a pandemic, this stuff matters a bit less.   

I also applied for a couple of roles that I had absolutely no chance of getting an interview for to force myself to meaningfully capture everything I’ve achieved in my career to date. This seems odd but it’s a good way to see where the gaps are in your CV. If you’re given four criteria to hit and you can’t think of a single thing to write for one of them, or what you’ve written is tenuous at best, that’s a gap to address. Or maybe a skills gap isn’t *that* important right now and I’m enough as I am.

I do have a new job, which I will be starting in January, in the same organisation, as part of a brand-new team. The role is broadly similar in nature to my current one, supporting a different part of the public health system. It’s been tough to step into a role that is being managed by the previous post-holder (they’ll be going back into the role in April) because no matter how well I do, they know (and I know) they could do it significantly better. It’s been hard for both of us, I think. It must be frustrating to watch someone learn the job that you know inside out. I know that I’m much happier establishing something from scratch and making it successful. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

I’m glad I left my previous role in 2019. It was a career cul-de-sac, a safe and relatively comfortable place to live, but not a healthy environment for me to work in. My skills, qualifications, CPD activities and experience weren’t valued. Moreover, no job is worth going through two significant mental health episodes in the space of seven years. I was on the brink of a third just before I left and went through a very tough time when I started my current role. There’s a lot to be said for being part of a larger team in a big organisation. There are more opportunities, a workforce that better represents the population you serve, your unique talents are valued, and you can find your people. In my case, it’s finding the people that ask me to co-host the Christmas quiz with them and sharing new emojis on Teams (along with the wonderful work support, of course.)

I wish I could go back and tell the person that used to slump onto the bed, head in hands, thinking that everything was terrible last year that life can get both much better and significantly worse, that no job is ever worth crying about, that any employer that doesn’t value you isn’t worth wasting a second over, that you should trust your gut, that the path you thought you were going down isn’t what you expected but that it’s brilliant and better, and that most people are fundamentally good and kind.

I can’t time travel, so I’m writing it here instead.

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