Warning ⚠️: This is a self indulgent post, written on a personal blog, its long and for that I’m really sorry…
Anyone that knows me is perfectly aware that I’ve never had a mental health problem. I think it’s brave for those that are able to admit it, live with it and carry on through it. Those people are stronger than they know or can often recognise.
Like anyone I’ve lived through stressful times in my life. I’ve felt the despair of grief, the pain of crippling anxiety, the fear of panic attacks and of course the frustration and fear of work induced stress. I’ve always been lucky enough to be able to manage it and ensure it only lasts for short periods of time. I’ve always been able to recognise the light at the end of the tunnel, and the support I get from my wife is enough to ensure it never evolves into something I feel unable to handle. This post is about a small moment in my life where I felt an ounce of what someone with Mental Health Issues experiences over long drawn out periods of time.
I recently made the decision to leave a job after being there less that 18 months due to the increasing stress and pressure that was part of the role to become, what felt like an all consuming part of my life. For a whole host of reasons, despite the large benefits of being part of a large corporation, the set-up wasn’t right for me. And more importantly it wasn’t right for my family. I set myself some ground rules when I decided to leave:
- Find the role I knew I wanted
- Find a role and a company I had heard good things about
- Get back to SEO
- Don’t leave without a job to go to
- Find it as quickly as possible
I had spent months with growing anxiety feeling like things weren’t quite right, that the stress and hours weren’t worth it, but always under the impression it would get better. Like any struggling relationship, it had moments of greatness, but ultimately they were erased by the moments that weren’t so great.
My short time out of digital marketing taught me some vital lessons about myself and the career I chose nearly ten years ago.
- There is no industry quite like SEO
- You can replace and grow knowledge but you can’t fake passion
- When career progression means damaging relationships around you, it isn’t worth it.
After months of feeling like I was terrible at my job that sent me into a spiral of demotivation I took a look at my old agencies website. There in black and white (well blue and white) was a whole section dedicated to my success, knowledge and specialism. They had recently updated their case studies and almost all of them were campaigns I was either involved in, instrumented or had at the very least advised on. What was more, they had even won some awards off the back of those campaigns.
I’m not arrogant enough to take credit away from the agency or the team members that got the results.
No single person should ever take credit for the success of a campaign run across the whole agency.
But I became jealous that I hadn’t been there to write them, to advise on the best bits to write about or do the analysis on the data. I knew in that moment not only was I unhappy with my current role, but that I had made a mistake moving away from the industry I was most passionate about.
The stress from my corporate role had crippled me physically and mentally, and as a result of the pain medication and stress, I became increasingly distant and grumpy around my family. Sure, I could of spoken to my employer about it, but my colleagues seemed to think this was normal for the organisation and despite a few witnessed moments of my employer being understanding in various difficult situations, I hated the idea of admitting failure. In terms of financial risk, it was too great. I was concerned pressure would be put on me to leave after I pointed out I wasn’t happy. Ultimately though, it really came down to the simple fact I was the wrong person for the job. I was an SEO leading web development and email marketing.
When I left Blueclaw (my employer prior to this move), I was in a different headspace. I was frustrated with a lack of progression in my own career, I was arrogant enough to think I was an all-round digital expert and naive to think that I had more to offer than to learn and I was about to become a Dad for the first time and therefore the major wage earner for the first time. I aimed to leave on good terms. The company and its owner had always been great to me, they had supported my learning, whilst giving me enough space to try new things. Communication between me and the directors had broken down a bit towards the end of my employment but only because we disagreed on direction and quite frankly I was getting nervous about being a parent.
When a role came up at an agency I hadn’t heard of, looking for a digital expert to come in and grow a department on their money, with a sizeable pension and opportunity for progression, the grass on the other side looked incredibly green (like hulk green). I dubbed it my “dream job” (a phrase I won’t be using in the future). Less than 18 months on despite all the late nights, the endurance and the genuinely good work, ultimately I left a job I had enjoyed for years, for progression and career development in a company that didn’t and might not ever suit me.
I wrote a long drawn out paragraph justifying how I did a good job, but things just didn’t work out, but I don’t think I need to justify it. Sometimes a relationship just isn’t right and that is ok.
In the week I decided to leave I applied to several agencies and got some great responses back, which almost immediately gave me the confidence boost I needed to know I hadn’t thrown my experience away just because I moved slightly out of SEO for 18 months, but the biggest lift in my confidence came from when Blueclaw got back in touch and offered me a role. It isn’t the same role I had before, but I didn’t want it to be. They were willing to have me back, wanted me for my experience and for how hard they know I will work. They are willing to look beyond my naivety to move on just to find out what I wanted I had all along, but most importantly for me they were willing to listen and work with me to find the role that will suit me in their organisation. Big fish, little pond and all that.
A couple of weeks in and I know I’ve made the right decision. Everything just works. For me, for my family, for my health.
The move back has had a lot of laughs, some genuine shock from friends and ex-colleagues (mostly from Blueclaw), a touch of judgement and it is definitely not the regular career path I would of planned. But somewhere between having a child and working somewhere I didn’t want to be in 10 years, the grass just became grass. It didn’t matter what shade it was.