We’re continuing the weekly journal feature, written week by week by one of our clients, following their journey from why they started career coaching, wanted a career change and how they are experiencing the coaching journey. This is week two of Jane’s diary.
The End of the Beginning.
I am going to go off on a tangent and ask you to let me tell you a story.
I am the oldest of two girls and have always been typed as the ‘academic’ or ‘quiet’ one, whilst my sister was the ‘social and sporty’ one. Having a younger sister who demanded a lot of attention, my mum focused on her and with my dad away three quarters of the time, I felt intensely lonely for most of my childhood and adolescence. It was only when my dad was at home that I felt that there was someone around who understood me. He was and still is my hero.
“though I wrote about 40 applications for vacation schemes and training contracts over the course of 3 years, I only got three interviews”
My dad is ambitious, a workaholic , money focused, a maverick and an alpha male. He went to Cambridge and then qualified as a lawyer within top tier firms before starting his own businesses within various sectors thereby providing a very nice life for my mum, sister and I. (Cue more hero worship). I came out of my shell during my time at school in the UK and went off to university a pretty well adjusted 19 year old. Having convinced my dad that undergraduate law was dry (tick) and boring (tick), I studied English Literature and had the intention to convert to law from the beginning. I never gave it a second thought. I put my dad and his career path, method and values on a pedestal and followed them without questions – he has been very successful in life, so his values and his personality traits must lead somewhere good?
In the first term of my law conversion I worked my ass off. In return, I received the lowest grades I had ever received in my life. As the effort to grades ratio declined , I stopped working and simply got by (read: partied, a lot). My whole identity was thrown into question. At the end of the year in a cruel example of life mirroring art (or soul or something equally poetic), I fell over at a party and ended up in A&E having done some pretty impressive damage to my finger on a broken glass. I remember telling someone a couple days later that the law conversion had taken chunks out of me: literally (I nearly lost my finger to it) and metaphorically (the self confidence I had built at school and university was shot).
I passed the year – just – and went on to do the second vocational year simply because I had no better ideas. I think a more accurate reflection is that no one else had come up with a better idea for me.
All of this looks and feels incredibly weak when you are reading graduate careers websites and though I wrote about 40 applications for vacation schemes and training contracts over the course of 3 years, I only got three interviews. Two of them through my dad’s contacts. I didn’t understand what words like ‘attention to detail’, ‘commercial awareness’ and ‘time management’ meant to me.
I spent 18 months drifting between unsuitable jobs: PA in a property company, legal secretary in an immigration firm, an internship in a small FMCG company. I was bored and under-employed and worst of all none of these helped me discover what it was I really wanted or what my key skills were.
At Christmas, my luck ran out and I was unemployed. A visit to a family friend convinced me to look outside the box at little and I had elements of success in applications for internships in think tanks and media. Before I was able to capitalise on this success, a family friend’s firm invited me to interview for a training contract. I got the job and next thing I knew I was on the path to becoming a lawyer without really having put much thought into whether it was actually for me.
“I was bored and under-employed and worst of all none of these helped me discover what it was I really wanted”
Within weeks of arriving at my current firm, I began picking up signs that all was not as it seemed: I didn’t have a desk when I arrived, an accountant asked me what money from my dad was for and he had no business in the UK at that time; the firm wasn’t accredited to take trainees and had no knowledge of the process until I looked it up.
Three months in I was offered an internship in a prestigious media company and because I was already employed could not take it up. Three months after that, I discovered my dad had been paying the firm, who were banking the money and then paying it back to me as salary: my job had been bought for me. I was so angry and upset I didn’t speak to him or my mother for 2 months.
I felt my life had been hijacked. I vowed to continue until qualification and then get out : ALL BY MYSELF!!!
The End .
Well not quite, I like to think of it as the end of the beginning…..
[more next week.]
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