How I started my third career after redundancy

Three months ago, I got made redundant. I decided to start my third career after looking at lots of job sites where the job titles are getting much more imaginative:

  • Canva has a head of vibe
  • WordPress has happiness engineers
  • And Atlassian need someone to manage their Brainery (a craft education platform)

I feel I have led a sheltered life having never worked for a company with a ‘wellness modality facilitator’ and my experience as a ‘ying and yang deficiency class trainer’ is nil (real adverts). After reading some blogs about career changing, a self-proclaimed ‘people scientist’ advised that:

“The best way to predict the future is to create it”

Which makes sense even if it is easier said than done. It got me thinking about first principles; looking at things from that perspective, much of what I strived for in previous careers satisfied my wants and not my needs.

In my twenties I had 15 jobs in 8 years, started my own, successful company and lived in 3 different countries. In my thirties I moved to the other side of the world, got a wife, mortgage, 2 kids, ran 2 marathons and lost a fortune in stocks and shares during the global financial crisis. This is the meta data of my life and represents the things I have done that I value.

I read a great quote about happiness:

“Happiness is not having what you want but wanting what you have”

All humans have basic needs, the psychologist Abraham Maslow in his theory of motivation identifies 3 main types of need:

  1. Basic needs – Eg food, water, shelter, safety
  2. Psychological needs – Eg relationships, respect, self-esteem
  3. Self-actualisation needs – Eg reaching for my full potential

Motivation increases as our basic needs start being met, then, as our psychological needs are met we have capacity to reach our full potential. Conversely if we have all our basic and psychological needs met but we are not striving to reach our full potential then motivation decreases.

Motivation, grit or whatever you want to call it is what drives successful lives (not necessarily careers). There is a lot of talk of pivoting and career changing which I don’t think is the right way to think about it. I am not really pivoting; I am continuing to satisfy my human needs but have changed the method for doing that.

Going forward the relentless pursuit of my needs is going to be the driving force in my life. It sounds very selfish but until you learn to help yourself you cannot help anyone else. I will not be using salary or how much other people have as benchmarks for my life anymore. These are the 3 areas I will focus on:

1. Basic needs

How much do I need each month to cover, housing, food, water, health and education for my family and I?

I now know how long my redundancy payout will last; how will I pay these costs going forward?

How many clients, jobs or side hustles will it take to create that income?

Once I start earning, I need to put 10% of everything aside as savings for retirement or crises (as per the ancient wisdom of “The Richest Man in Babylon”), everything above that can be spent on my other two needs:

2. Strong relationships

My relationships with family, friends and mentors are vital to me and something that I have really neglected in my previous 2 careers.

The Gottman Institute has done extensive research on relationships. Their research revealed a “magic ratio” of 5 to 1. This means that for every negative interaction during conflict, a stable and happy marriage has five (or more) positive interactions.

Whilst counting interactions with your nearest and dearest seems a little weird I am mindful that the ratio is much higher than I thought, and I know I was not achieving it even without counting. I am now showing intentional appreciation for things that I have previously taken for granted. There are lots of good ideas here on the Gottman Institute blog to extend this further:      

The research is aimed at marriages, but we can all be more positive with everybody we deal with. I am also extending my mentorship network by actively seeking out people that can help me and who I can help.

3. Reaching my full potential

Before redundancy I was doing a lot of work that was easy to do and paid well but was not developing me in anyway. My motivation was down, and in some ways, it was lucky I got made redundant because if it had carried on, I would have started doing bad work – perhaps I was already.

For my third career I am trying to reach my full potential, be someone that my kids can be proud of. In the past things that have stretched me and that can be measured fall into these categories:

  1. Creating something new – how many new things did you create today or this month?
  2. Helping someone – how many people did you help today?
  3. Learning something – how many relevant things did you learn today?
  4. Pushing physical limits – is your 10k run time improving?

My first career ended with the Global Financial Crisis. What annoys me most about losing two thirds of my wealth is not that I was given bad advice or that capitalism is broken or the stupidity of the investment bankers.

I regret putting so much money into boring investments, that even if they had been successful would only satisfied part of my human needs as defined above. If I had taken everybody I love away for an expenses paid holiday for a year and then learned how to fly helicopters, I would be in a much better position than I am now. Instead I worked hard and saw my money disappear for no return.

My second career ended with COVID. I was a face to face trainer, by honing that skill I neglected others like eLearning that have since become more relevant.

My third career starts with the knowledge that ‘black swans’ like the GFC and COVID are inevitable but they do pass, life has thus far has always prevailed. The trick is coming out the other side of a crisis with something meaningful.