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Workstyle Stories 007 - 'Sarah'

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Welcome to Workstyle Stories, because life changes and every life is different. This week, I'm talking about overcoming fear of change, of embracing what matters to you as an individual and putting life before work, with the wonderful Sarah. Hello, Sarah. Hi, Alex. Hi everyone. Lovely to see you. So Sarah, tell us tell us a little bit about you. Where do you come from? What do you do? I am a Northerner. So I was originally born in the Lake District, and I relocated South 20 years ago now. Still got a bit of a twang, though. I met my husband, and we relocated to South Buckinghamshire. We have two kids, two cats, two dogs, and I am a marketing consultant. Yeah, the full mix. And yeah, I'm in marketing. So I spent the last 20 years working in food marketing mainly. So what sort of businesses would you've worked in then, big companies that make food and you would market those products? Yeah? Yep. So the likes of Heinz, Birdseye, Aunt Bessie's, Sara Lee. The whole shebang for sort of the first 15 years of my career, very much embedded in those corporate organisations. Cool. So how did you find traditional work when you were at those organizations? Well, it's kind of the norm to begin with, I did a work placement with Heinz, and then I went back in and it's, you know, it's very full on, it's a lot of hours, a lot of commitment, a lot of pressure. And that's kind of just what I got used to. It took over my life, you know, to the point I actually ended up marrying the person that sat next to me, because I didn't get out very much! But obviously, you know, he's awesome as well. But you know, it was kind of, it was very full on, it was all encompassing, so work, the week was very much about work. And then the weekends was kind of relaxing, and trying to get over the week to then get back into the following week. And then Josh came into this world, and everything changed. So I went back and asked for some flexibility, because I really wanted to be with him, on that basic level, and I was told there wasn't really a lot of flexibility to be had. And so I think when I was told, 'could you do your five day a week job in four', I was like, I can't do it in five at the minute. So that's not going to work. And roughly when was this then? So how old is Josh now? He's just about to turn 10! Which is rather frightening. So, yeah, 10 years ago. And obviously, attitudes have changed quite a bit in 10 years, but I still feel like your story is one that would resonate with a lot of people even today, probably experiencing similar things. So where did you go from there then? What did you do at that point? So I took a bit of time out. And then I thought, let's just have another baby. Why not have two? And so I had my lovely little man, Sam. Complete the set. Yeah, exactly, the team, we're set and solid and ready to go. And then I decided to try and get back into work. Because I missed it. I kind of felt I should, in some ways. And I wanted to use the brain again, it felt like it had gone to mush a little bit. So when I think Sam was about nine or 10 months, I started to have a look around and see what was out there. I took on a couple of full time corporate roles, almost like, one after the other and neither worked for various reasons. I mean, in simple terms, what were those reasons? I mean, was it just about you not having the flexibility? Was it about the demands of your time? How was it, broadly speaking? It was initially things like commute, much longer hours than anticipated, and one of the roles was agency side and I had a client in the US who wanted to speak to me a lot in the evenings and stuff like that. And so that was quite apparent quite quickly, it wasn't going to work. So then I went back over in to a more traditional marketing manager type role. And that was okay to begin with, until life started to change again with regards to the kids and then it suddenly became apparent that it wasn't working. Interesting. So what changed again then? So two quite big things happened. My oldest started school and really struggled, really struggled. So I was handing him over to the child minder, at eight o'clock in the morning, he was just in tears, and I was going into work crying, and then trying to cover it up when I got in the office. I was like, I really should be the one dropping him off at school and being there. So that was kind of the first thing. And then my youngest got diagnosed with ASD. And it was trying to figure out - not for him, he's awesome - but trying to figure out what that meant and the support he needed and the constant meetings and consultant appointments. And all of a sudden, I just thought, how am I going to manage all of this and be there as the mum that I want to be, and try and keep the nine to five job going. And after a conversation with my then boss, I realised on the spot, like a lightbulb moment, I simply wasn't going to be able to do it. It just wasn't possible to be where I wanted to be at the times I needed to be, and be in the office. It was a real lightbulb moment, the point I actually had that conversation, and I resigned on the same day. Good for you. I mean, you must have been very sure that that was the right thing. So in that decision-making process, then, so you decided, in that moment, that work in its traditional form, was never going to be able to give you the flexibility you needed to look after your two children and their situation and schooling. So you made a call to just reverse the focus, I suppose. So rather than trying to make your kids and your life fit around that traditional structure, you said, I'm going to put my kids first and build my life around their needs. Is that right? So what happened then? So how did you do that? What did you do? Panicked, to begin with. And then I was like, no, it's fine. You know, I'm quite, as you know, Alex, a chatty person and friendly person. And I just started getting in touch with lots of different people and started making connections. And, you know, it was a slow burn. It's been, I've only really got to where I want to get to now. It's taken time, it's taken the trust and to be truly honest with people and not feel guilty about the fact that I can't do a call at 3:30 because I'm on the school run. It's taken time, a lot of graft and a lot of proposals that never got anywhere. So you're a freelancer now, a consultant, and you do that around school time, presumably. Yes, totally now. I don't even have any childcare anymore, which I did before lockdown. But now I've just decided I don't even need that anymore. Brilliant. So, a working day typically then for you is, presumably both kids are at school. So, take the kids to school, work while they're there, pick them up and then don't work while they're at home, maybe do some in the evening, maybe do some at the weekend. Is that about right? I mean, is there anything specific that you do that you think is different? I think every working day is really different for me now. In fact, I've got to the point, I don't like to be tied down. I don't want any commitment. Other than obviously delivering great work to my clients. That's incredibly important to me. But I demonstrate that every day. But you know, it's a beautiful morning. So I went out and walked the dogs after the school run this morning, because I've got my furbabies now that the babies are at school. And as you know, I'm really into cooking and food. That's why I've worked in food for 20 years. And I have just a couple more things to juggle, I have some autoimmune issues, which means I've got to really look after myself and my diet. So the time that I would be in the car travelling is now prepping amazing food, which I often post on Hoxby Slack, and making lovely food for my family. And that's something that really relaxes me and gives me great pleasure. So I suddenly have time for that now and you know, I will go and see friends, and some days, I'll just go out for a jog. So it's very different. That's awesome. And all of that, sort of on the other side of that initial fear of making the change. You reached a point where you just thought, enough's enough, I've got to do this. And now you're here, living the workstyle dream by the looks of it. Good on you, Sarah, because I think a lot of people really struggle with overcoming that fear of what lies on the other side. And you really need a big impetus to make you do it sometimes. But even then it's very difficult to follow through with it, so good on you for doing that, and for leading the way for a whole load of other people who are probably feeling the same way right now about their work. Thank you very much for taking the time to share your story with us, Sarah. It's always a pleasure to chat. We've been Workstyle Stories. We'll see you next time. Bye bye.

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Posted by: _kim_nguyen on Oct 5, 2020

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