Towards the end of 2021, I was stuck in a rut at work. Things were not going well, my team had dispersed, office politics was affecting key projects and I was miserable. Something had to change and so I made the decision to leave the role I’d spent almost two years building.
I was conscious I did not want to end up in a similar situation so I decided to try something completely different. I had already stepped away from the frontline coding I’d spent the first 20 years of my career, now focusing on more digital-experience related roles (Technical Direction, Digital Production, etc) but I decided to step even further out of my comfort zone and try my hand at consulting.
I thought to myself I know digital, I know websites, I know user experience, I can put all that knowledge to good use helping clients to solve problems. Bring it on!
I thought I was prepared, but a week in I was starting to wonder what I’d been thinking. At 41, I’d had a lot of time to hone my skills and know what I was doing every day. Now, every day was something new, something I hadn’t had to try or think about, and even worse, think differently about. The last one is the hardest to deal with.
What I soon realised was that I am a solutionist. I find solutions to problems. Unfortunately, the role I’d taken required me to step back, identify the issue and provide insight into why, but not how to fix it. It sounds simple when you write it out, but actually re-wiring your brain to stop doing something it’s been trained to do over decades is a challenge – one I was committed to taking on.
And this is where bravery comes in – being brave enough to suck at something new. I could have thrown up my hands, said this is not for me and gone back to a production role, writing code, designing websites, but I didn’t. I stuck at it. I kept trying and slowly it is starting to make sense. I can pull myself back, look at the situation, identify the trends and provide insight into why it was happening, stop short of providing a solution.
It’s still challenging, and every day I question why am I doing this, but it is getting better, until the next new thing comes along, anyway.
I guess the reason for this post, why I’m writing it, is to say if you want to try something new, you have to be prepared to be bad at it, at least for a while. The same goes for a new hobby, a sport, a job – each one requires particular skills, but you don’t just have those skills from day one. Like my coding career, it took 20 years to get to the level I am at now. I can’t expect to have that same experience when starting something new. So, be brave. Take a chance and see where it takes you. Most of all, never stop learning!