Success - Where Identity meets Vocation
Saturday marked 12 months since I walked out of the RAC having worked there for 15 years. When I first joined the RAC 15 years ago, I was fresh out of Bible College and had just finished 2 years of pastoral work in a little church tucked away in the Northern suburbs of Perth. I had enrolled at Edith Cowan University to pursue a master’s in international business. I very quickly felt at home within the RAC family who were very accommodating to my university needs. I went on to complete my degree and soon followed that up with another masters this time in accounting. I worked as an insurance claims consultant, a role that I found extremely rewarding due to its focus on customer service, something I had become very good at in my days working in various banks in Zambia. I have never really been driven by ambitions of top management positions or financial advancement. My studies served primarily to secure my residency here in Australia, which was really the only #ambition I had.
After completing 8 years of tertiary education, and finally achieving my dream of becoming an Australian resident, I was head hunted by the General Manager of RAC Insurance who suggested I join the RAC graduate program. I took his counsel and after a few rotations in various departments of the RAC, found myself in the IT department. This was neither something I had dreamed of doing or studied for, but I took on the challenge because I loved the company and wanted to stay. In my role in claims, I felt extremely comfortable and had a sense of achievement at work as I was able to help people who almost always called in distress due to either having an accident, being broken into or falling victim to an ‘act of God’. My roles in IT were a bit far removed from our customers and I found in IT my Achilles heel. It exposed my incompetence and I struggled to find any joy other than the few times I was able to learn new concepts and overcome various work-related challenges. People who knew me would often point out the apparent incongruence between the person they knew and the quintessential IT person.
After 7 years of multiple IT roles, an opportunity presented itself and I finally parted ways with RAC. The most common question people asked me was “what will you do now?”. My response was one I didn’t really have to think much about, NOTHING! “But surely you have to do something”, they would reply. I explained that for the last 15 years I had been doing a lot and surely there is a place for me to stop and do absolutely nothing. In the last 12 months I have focused my attention on things I love such as spending time with loved ones, travelling and meeting people of different cultures, indulging in hours of Netflix and Stan and more recently starting up a counselling business. I was always intrigued by the shocked faces of my response to people who upon meeting me for the first time asked that all important question “what do you do?” only to receive the response “NOTHING!” Some more curious types would seek clarity by asking more in-depth questions such as “so how do you spend your days?” to which I would respond with an honest account which mainly included sleeping in, going to the gym, picking up my daughter from school, watching Netflix and on occasion catching up with mates.
What have I learned both in my time at the RAC and in the last 12 months away from work? The first thing that is apparent to me is how much happier and fulfilled I was when working directly with customers, helping them to de-stress after a traumatic experience. I made way less money but felt a lot more fulfilled. I also spent a lot of time getting to know my colleagues. I developed a reputation as an office wanderer who went from department to department saying hello to people and just having general conversations with them. This is probably testament to my conviction that as humans we are created for #connection and #community. It occurred to me that most of us spend the majority of our adult lives at work and so if we don’t cultivate opportunities for community and connection there, then we end up living isolated lives, which is the perfect breeding ground for all kinds of #mental #health problems. When I worked in IT, I lost a lot of this sense of community and the connections I had developed over the years. I was stressed for the most part and despite trying my best, I rarely felt a real sense of satisfaction in my work. Talking to colleagues outside of a ‘meeting’ context, was perceived as laziness and a lack of productivity which led to me spending a lot more time at my desk and less time getting to know my colleagues, something I really valued in my earlier years at RAC. By the time I was leaving work I was absolutely fatigued which meant my home life suffered as I had very little to give by the time I got home.
Over time I have realised that my #vocation needs to be aligned with who I am otherwise my degree of job satisfaction will be sabotaged. #Success for me has never been defined by my position at work or how much money I earn but rather by the quality of my relationships. I am hardly impressed by people with top positions in big companies or people who make more money than they know what to do with especially if this is done at the expense of being able to create and maintain #healthy #relationships. Before you flaunt your expensive car or throw around your title, show me your happy partner and your flourishing kids. I do not really care so much whether people can recall what projects I worked on in my time at RAC as much as I care that they remember a man who gave a shit about people. Similarly, the people who I will always remember from my time at the RAC are not the ones who delivered the multi-million-dollar projects or showed the highest levels of aptitude. On the contrary, it was the ones who interacted with me in an #empathic way that left me feeling seen and cared for. As I ponder my next steps, it is clear to me that I wish to spend the rest of my working days doing who I am. I want to do what I do because I am! When asked that all important question, “what do you do?”, my response will always be #authentically and proudly, I DO ME!!!