Read why I'm still making career mistakes in my fifties...

Oops. I’m *still* making mistakes – Freedom Road #2

This post was originally posted on WFA.Life. The Freedom Road series documents my transition to a more freelance, less corporate working life.

I made a couple of rookie errors…

I got it wrong. So very, very wrong.

And I’m paying for my mistakes.

In more ways than one.

How could I—a seasoned war horse—make a number of embarrassing rookie errors?

Things seemed perfect…

I have always wanted to pare back my working hours, but I didn’t have the level of income to allow me to do that. Not until 2012, when I landed a plum role as a training consultant on a national project. I was still working for the state government, but the job was a couple of pay grades up the ladder, and a great use of my skills and experience. I was in that job for three years and, for the most part, was happy. In the second year, I dropped my hours down to four days a week. It was perfect. I had enough income for it to be sustainable, and enough time to work on my own projects: that diversified income stream that I’m always banging on about.

After the project wound up in the middle of last year, I went back to my old department. I didn’t mind because I had a strategy and it was this: rather then putting my energy into applying for jobs at the pay grade I had become accustomed to, I would redirect this energy into my own projects. I figured that someone with my skills and experience would be snapped up once I’d settled in. I figured there would be enough people around who would remember me and tap me on the shoulder to come and work for them. I’d just bounce back and it would all work out.

Back I went…

So back to my old department, in my old area and my old pay grade I went. Except it wasn’t like my old job. I went back to an organisation that was in the middle of a massive restructure, and there was a lot of upheaval and chaos and many new faces. My old area didn’t know what to do with me. And they haven’t known what to do with me for eight long months. I’m in job limbo. And with each passing month, it’s become clearer that my original strategy has not worked.

I had made fundamental errors. Errors that have not helped my exit from this workplace one little bit because my energy is being pulled into surviving, when it should be poured into thriving.

Of course, this is all clear now, and with the benefit of experience and hindsight this is where I went wrong:

Error 1: Hope is not a plan

When I used to teach at TAFE I would say to my students—specifically about crafting strategy—hope is not a plan. I would even go far as to penalise students that mentioned “hope” in an assignment.

Well, guess who threw her cards to the wind and hoped that everything would turn out ok?

Yep. You’d be right if you guessed me. How embarrassing.

I had left my fate in the lap of the Gods rather than trust my own agency.

My “go with the flow” approach to returning has not served me well.

Error 2: I didn’t take pre-emptive strike action

What I should have done was actively pursue jobs at my lovely high pay grade. You know. The one I had become accustomed to.

But the thing is, I hate job hunting. I hate the application process and I hate interviews.

I know they are a necessary evil and I avoid them like the plague. Apologies for the cliche.

What I thought I would do was put my energy into applying for freelance work on sites like Upwork and Freelancer. I would fix my website, learn new skills like SEO and create passive income from affiliate marketing and sponsored blog posts. I published 10 books on Amazon last year. I’ve had zero luck on the freelance sites, despite submitting numerous proposals. I’ve had one person contact me via my website but that didn’t pan out, and despite a few nibbles from brands interested in working with me, my efforts have amounted to nil. My Amazon sales have been dismal. That doesn’t mean that I’ll give up, but no one tells you that it’s hard to create traction. A lot of it is luck and timing.

So. My reason for not applying for jobs was justified by working on my side project stuff.

Big mistake, because I was taking action in only one area of my life.

And the other area of my life where I was taking no action was suffering badly.

Error 3: I trusted others with my future

I always say that the only person who really has my best interests at heart is me. Even then, sometimes I don’t. Yet, I put my best interests in the hands of other people. Other people I didn’t know. Other people who I trusted to have my interests at heart, and they didn’t. I also expected others to act honourably and altruistically, and they haven’t.

And why would I think that people who didn’t know me, who I had no working relationship with, would even consider me in relation to their working lives? I was but a small, annoying blip on their radar. An inconvenience to be dealt with.

And in a choatic, disrupted environment, why did I think anything other than self-interest and blatant opportunism would prevail?

I was nuts. Nuts, I tell you.

Error 4: Going back should not be a forward move

The department I went back to eight months ago is not the one I left in 2012. If I’m honest, when I went back in 2010 (I’ve been in and out since my late thirties), it wasn’t the same department as it was in the 2001. Sure, there are a few old faces around, but most of the people I worked with are no longer there. Many of my old colleagues and peers—and hence alliances and allegiances—are no longer there. Packaged off or forced out.

There are few people around who know me, or know what I can do. Or, for that matter, care. I am literally having to start again.

At a lower pay grade.

In job limbo.

Let me tell you: being disempowered and disenfranchised in your workplace is no fun.

No fun at all.

Where to from here?

I’m back to the drawing board. I’m focussing on empowering myself with a job of my choosing, at an income level that reflects my worth and value.

I’m still working on my exit strategy, but my next adventure is kind of on hold until I get my current situation sorted. It shouldn’t take too long.

But don’t worry. I have lots to write about in the meantime.

Photo by Visual Hunt. Used with permission.

Did this post resonate with you?

Collection 4: Working It Out of the Love & Other Brave Acts (Essays on Courage for Fearless and Fabulous Living) series is all about work, workplaces and organisational culture.If you liked this post, then you’ll love my collection of essays about work.

Part memoir, part analysis of workplace culture, I consider the world of work and the definition of career success. And anyone who has found themselves disillusioned about the progress of their career—and that’s a lot of us!—will relate to this book.

Grab your copy of Collection 4: Working is Out  from the Amazon Kindle Store for .99c.

(If you want even more value for money, you can now get all 6 books from the Love & Other Brave Acts series for $4.99. Just saying.)

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