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Aspiration, Perspiration, Resignation

by Mark Williams 4 years ago in career

How lots of little things—and one not so little thing—made me make a change.

Perth, Western Australia - April 2013

It has been, for the last 10 years, a source of pride to say that I have worked for some of the world's biggest and best companies in engineering, heavy/oversized engineering, construction and utilities. I've been well paid, travelled to cities and countries I'd never planned to see, and experienced interesting and challenging projects on five continents.

But this year, all of that changed.

In September of last year—during one of the 75,000 miles I drove in 2016 - I was very kindly escorted from a roundabout by an inattentive truck driver who hadn't checked his mirrors before changing lanes. Although not seriously hurt, I was banged up enough to warrant a few weeks off work to recover. And—to their credit (although I won't name them)—my employer was quick to provide a replacement car until mine was back on the road, physiotherapy to treat some structural damage to my knee, and a pledge to ease me back into life on the road that lasted for all of three days before sending me on a 450 miles round trip. At that point, I started to contemplate whether or not "big business" was for me. Yes, obviously, there are the perks—competitive salary, pension, a nice car etc.—but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was little more than a number (153878, in case anyone is wondering), and that the reason for "helping me to recover" was actually more to do with billable hours vs overheads, and that the only reason they wanted me back was so that I could start generating revenue again. It certainly wasn't because I was well-liked and people were concerned about my wellbeing—I can count on one hand the number of people who MIGHT, on a good day, have been sad to see me pack it in and retire on ill-health! Detriment to my physical and mental wellbeing, or to the state of my (non-existent) family life came second to the shortfall on the balance sheet left by my enforced absence.

But such is life on the corporate stage, I guess.

Not long after this I was engaged in a redundancy wrangle, and despite retaining my job (with some significant changes) I decided to look elsewhere. The new role meant spending more time away from home, missing out on more of my family growing up, and nobody seemed to care. That my wife suffers with depression and needed support raising a toddler was irrelevant, and I was even the recipient of the phrase "you should be grateful that you still have a job"! Six months later I'm still not sure how I managed to resist punching that idiot (who was my manager at the time) repeatedly in the face. It would've resolved the issue of whether or not I wanted to leave, but I didn't fancy explaining my newfound free-time to my wife...

In March of this year, I interviewed for and was offered a public-sector job in the city where I live. A job which required no travelling, regular hours, and a great work-life balance which would allow me to be home every night to put my daughter to bed and have dinner with my wife, as well as seeing friends and family a bit more often. The only draw-back, a 26% salary reduction. Everyone I spoke with at the time thought me a fool to even consider it—even now, when former colleagues have offered me work with their new companies on far better salaries, the money is thrown in my face as a reason to leave the public sector job and move on (or backwards). Nobody seems to get it—it's not about the money! I was well-paid in my last job (certainly compared to some of my colleagues), but that didn't compensate for week after week in flea-pit hotels, missing out on school concerts and family events, or the strain on my marriage. Finally I get to be happy with my life, rather than just unhappy with my job.

And, as it turns out, my new employer is one of the UK's top-10 universities, and is ranked in the top 150 Higher Education institutions in the world. And I'm pretty proud of that too.


Mark Williams

Mid-30s father of one. Writer, Director, Producer and Podcaster. Mainly trying to be a decent husband, father and human being. Generally failing.
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