Life lessons through change

Sometimes the winds of change in our lives blow fairly strongly and sometimes it’s merely a soft breeze. For me, when it comes to my career, it’s been a constant and welcomed wind tunnel!

The concept of “career” and “working” has always been a cornerstone of my values, because being of service in the roles I chose (or that chose me perhaps …), has driven me from career to career for all of my working life. This seems to generally amaze people who struggle to keep up with just how often I would change career, move around, and take opportunities that came my way with not much more than the blink of an eye.

However, opportunities were only visible to me once I was in a position to see them. For example, the stage of my life was right, or it was “just time”. But how do we know what, “the right time” actually is?

Let me take you back a bit. My first career was as a police officer. It’s one of those roles that, when you mention it, people are either very nervous about, or very excited about. “Wow! Did you have a gun?” or “You must have seen some awful things” and “Have you ever shot anyone?” Yes, I saw some terrible things and yes (of course!) I carried a gun, but I also learned skills that would later prove to be fantastically valuable in other workplaces.

After twelve years of policing, my young family had grown up a little and I started to feel increasingly uncomfortable with having to manage what I was experiencing at work and being a mother. By this time, I was a specialist Detective and a Police Negotiator. I was juggling those two roles at once, full time, as a shift worker. You can imagine the anxiety that came with what I was seeing and doing daily. Although I was passionate about “serving” and loved my career with a passion – I realised that it was no longer good for my mental health. I recognised that, even though I was serving in this role, the role was no longer serving me.

You’ve all heard those announcements on the plane about putting your own oxygen mask on first before you assist others? Well, I did that. How I went about doing that is another story altogether, suffice to say that I started using my acquired skills in other ways. The blessing of this was that the lessons I learned through the process of transitioning, from one career to another, would create my template for change whenever I needed it or found an opportunity that served me more.

My next careers were exciting in very similar ways. I was still managing risk, serving others, creating change in people’s lives, dealing with people daily and problem solving – but this time it was on a level that was more personable, less bureaucratic, kinder to my family, and kinder to me. I could go home at night, shut the door, and know that there was no one who would need me to get out of bed at 3.00 am!

Since that massive career change, over a decade ago, I’ve been able to weather redundancies, restructures, re-deployment and promotional opportunities really quickly. I realised that my massive change from policing to the outside world had meant that any other change related to career was going to be a cinch.

Everyone’s experience is different, however there are some familiar traits that I find myself drawing upon, through different stages of my life, to assist me through changes in career that may have been imposed or offered to me:

Belief in myself, knowing that my acquired skills are truly transferable, and reflecting on my experiences and achievements, no matter how big or small, opened the door to recognising that opportunities are endless and possible.

Trust that my decision to take opportunities serve me because, regardless of the outcome, there is a lesson in every achievement and loss experienced. Reflection and hindsight assist me to make the next decision and keep moving forward.

Balance and putting my family and health first above everything else, assists me to decide which opportunities serve me, and which do not. In assessing any career change, I include practical logistics such as travel time, proximity to my home and my physical activities, and the effect on my lifestyle and family in every career decision I make, because I refuse to concede my mental health again.

The ability to use hindsight coupled with having a tight grip on personal values assists in moving anyone forward. Personally, I’ve used this basis to leverage my career through roles in social justice, community services, social sector reform, and entrepreneurship.

… so, what am I doing right now? Apart from running an online business and assisting people to career transition, I’m commencing a national role in food and health services. “How did that happen?”, you ask? Well, that’s another story.

About the Author

Melanie Dancer

Melanie has worked extensively in a range of areas within the human services sector, on Boards, and in executive roles involving aged care reform – specifically the impact that it’s had on consumers and their families, carers and representatives. Her background is heavily weighted in community development and social services including as an expert criminal investigator, senior advisor of complaints abuse and exploitation, and as a manager and course designer for accredited training organisations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *