Sunday, 20 March 2016

Turning a Negative into a Positive - A New Job Role

Today's post is something a bit different. Last week was really weird, almost surreal, and I felt like sharing on my blog.  

I got a bit of a knock back at work last Tuesday, but in the short space of a day, I managed to turn that negative into a huge positive and I'm really happy about how things have turned out. This might be a long one, but I hope you enjoy reading about my experience.




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I work in electoral administration, which means I help run elections and produce the electoral register. Since October 2012, I have held the position of deputy manager of our team (one of two). I was recruited on temporary secondment (meaning my previous role in the team was left open for me to return to), to manage a particular project through its implementation.

At the start of this year, a restructure of our entire team began. We were carrying a number of vacancies and it was apparent that we needed to review the levels of responsibility and number of roles within our structure.

My current job was re-written, and became available for me to apply for. Complicated HR rules meant I couldn't just slot in, because technically my 'real' role was at a much lower grade. I would have to be interviewed.

The restructure had been designed to create two sub-teams - one with responsibility for registration and one for elections. Of the two roles available at the level I was interested in, I felt confident about the registration side and less enthused about the elections side. I love elections, but there is a lot to know and I was less confident in this area. 

Alas, again because of HR rules, it was the election job which became available. There were two roles up for grabs - deputy manager and team leader. I was able to apply for both, and in the end I decided to; although I knew my manager wanted me at deputy level, I felt I needed a backup. If I didn't get either job, I'd be back in my very junior admin role and, quite frankly, I can no longer afford to live on that salary!

I was interviewed last Tuesday for the deputy manager role. I felt sick that morning. I had a cold, I felt tired, and I was shot through with nerves. Normally, I'm the first to say nerves are a good thing; they mean you care, it's adrenaline, it's your excitement, etc.

This felt different. It was more like dread. I didn't feel well prepared for the interview. I didn't feel I could answer questions about management and I had a feeling this is what the interview would centre on. I also knew that another member of the team had applied for the role and I was worried that he would do a great interview.

As the interview progressed, I think I knew I wasn't getting the job. I struggled with the questions and felt like I was repeating myself. I couldn't remember basic information that I had only been talking about in the office the week before. I knew it wasn't good, and as I knew mine was the second interview, I could imagine the answers my colleague might've given.

To be fair, I might just be remembering the worst, because after the interview I didn't feel awful, I had received some positive reactions to some of my points and received good feedback.

A few hours later, my manager and the panel were still deliberating. Eventually, my colleague was called in. When he didn't return to the office, and I was called in, I knew it wasn't great news.

I didn't get the job. But I had done a good interview; my manager gave me some good feedback. I just hadn't been able to give as full answers as my colleague. I had given good information, but he had given more and scored higher.

I was upset, so my manager let me go home. I had to prepare for the next day - an interview for the team leader role.

When I was at home, I thought about what had happened. The more I focused on my thoughts and feelings, the more I started to realise something.

I wasn't sad about not getting the job. 

My tears felt nothing like sadness. 

They felt like relief.

I talked to my husband about how things had gone. I explained to him that I was worried about money, as a jump down to the team leader role would mean a significant drop in salary. He sat down and worked out that on a team leader salary, we would be absolutely fine. We might need to cut out luxuries, have fewer takeaways, but we could pay our bills and be comfortable.

I was also worried I had let my manager and fellow deputy down. They'd believed in me and they wanted me in that role. They thought I could do it and they wanted me to. I texted my colleague, the other deputy, explaining this, but she confirmed she was only upset for me, and I hadn't let anyone down. My manager said the same later in the week.

Once I knew these two things, I could admit what I had known for a while. I didn't want that job. I felt scared by it. I didn't want to take on that level of responsibility for elections, coupled with responsibility for managing my team. I sent my colleague a completely genuine text congratulating him and confirming there were no hard feelings.

It's easy for others to think I'm just saying all this because I didn't get it. I get that, I know this may look like an excuse. I can't stress enough that it isn't. I mean every word. Over the last three years, I have always felt slightly off centre and uncomfortable in the role. I've never quite felt like it fit.

Over the course of Tuesday evening, as I prepared for the team leader interview, I could genuinely feel myself getting happier. It's a weird thing to say, I know. But I was actually enjoying preparing for this interview. I could do this in my sleep. I was looking forward to the next day. Insane, I know.

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I went into work on Wednesday a completely different person from the day before. I was happy, upbeat and full of confidence. I absolutely walked the interview. It was fun, I even enjoyed it. I could sell myself at that level so much better. And it paid off, because I was offered the role.

I was sad that it meant my colleague and friend missed out on that role, for her a promotion, but when I spoke to her it was quite funny - she had been feeling about that role, how I had the day before. And she did exactly the same as me; she came back on Thursday and completely walked an interview for the post in the next level down.

I had put so much pressure on myself to take on the high level job that I had not admitted to myself that I didn't really want it. Three years ago, it was the only option available for promotion. I had nothing to lose, so I could go into that interview and sell myself. I learnt how to do the job once I got it.

What I have learned this week is that it's ok to admit when you're not quite ready for something.

I gave it a go for three years. The work side of the job was great; I loved it and I felt I could do it really well. The management side was hard. It was stressful and I think it was making me resent my job a little bit.

I fit much better in the team leader role. I know that happiness in my job is much more important to me than salary. I don't see this as a demotion. I was lucky enough to get the chance to manage a project and try out a higher role for a while. Those three years were what I needed to determine where I fit at this point in my life and career.

Now I can't wait to take on my new role. I get the best of both worlds - I can do the work I like, and learn how to manage, with the support of someone else. I don't have to try and learn the job, because I can do that almost effortlessly. I can focus on learning to manage people and to lead a team.

I'm aware I've rambled for a while now, but I wanted to record this experience because, in all honesty, I'm quite proud of myself. I don't normally get 'preachy' or post things on public platforms as personal as this post. But I really feel like I've turned a perceived negative experience round and I feel genuinely very happy with the overall outcome. I'm looking forward to enjoying my job again and adjusting to a new way of working.


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