To be honest, I guess I always knew that my role was somewhat shaky. Our HR was centralised in Perth, with only the Melbourne and South West offices as satellites. Twelve months before, I had left the haven and security of my role as Company Accountant and HR Manager, and had courageously taken on a dual role across HR and Special Projects.
They say success is living in the courage zone, so I was taking the steps to do this. After transitioning, it took three people to replace me in my old role. After the second person resigned in November, citing that the position was too stressful, my boss asked me if I wanted to take transition back into my previous position. I looked him in the eye and said I did not really want to go back to it, but if there was any danger with my current role then I would. He told me there was no danger, so I chose to stay.
In May 2016, my five-year milestone was celebrated at an all-staff function. In the General Manger’s speech, he acknowledged how important I was to the future of the organisation. Two years’ prior, the group had selected me to be part of the first team to complete a 12-month intensive coaching program, designed to have a long-term impact on accountability and effectiveness in the group. I was one of four women chosen out of 17 executives and senior managers, from a staff of over 2000 people. Each year, I received the maximum performance bonus available to me. In June, all executives were asked to surrender their company cars in exchange for a motor vehicle allowance, so I took out a loan and bought my new car. I had also been discussing with the General Manager the building of a home in the next few months.
Less than eight weeks later on the 24th of July, the General Manager and Sales Manager asked to see me in private. As I walked into the office, I made a joke, “this feels like an ambush”. Moments later, it was no joke. A letter was handed to me. I had 48 hours to prove why my position should not be made redundant (which actually was a joke, as there was no intention for any negotiation). I was to leave the office immediately and not discuss the redundancy with anyone. The news was delivered clinically and without empathy. I went into shock. There was no one to support me or help me. I asked for half an hour to clean out my personal things, which was granted.
Against instructions, I called my closest teammate in the business. I was not capable of packing my things. I was not capable of rational thought. I could barely stand. My teammate came to help me out of the building. I went home. In that moment I had gone from being a highly paid, highly accolated executive to an unemployed middle-aged woman. I had never lost a job or been unemployed. I felt humiliated, devastated, traumatised, ashamed, disgraced, and alienated. I did not understand why they invested so much money and effort in me, rewarded me and sang my praises so loudly, to simply discard me, and in such a ruthless way. But my main fear was for my daughter.
Just two months earlier I had committed to funding my 18-year-old daughter to spend three years in Canada on a basketball scholarship. She was leaving in about two weeks. This was a sizeable financial commitment for her accommodation, food and living. I could not withdraw from this commitment, as it was her dream, so I decided that I would be able to get another good job soon. In August, my daughter left home for her Canada adventures, and I was alone for the first time ever.
I was a mess. Apart from a few members of my old accounting team, most of my work colleagues who had been my family suddenly disappeared from my life. I could not face my actual family. There is a stigma around being made redundant; an assumption that it only happens to poor employees. I actually started to think that way myself, although in my heart I knew it wasn’t true.
In the next fourteen months, I applied for 147 roles.
I was granted just two interviews in that whole time. I was told I was too qualified, and I suspect for some I was too old. I spent days walking in the rain, washing away the stinging tears of shame, days not able to get out of bed, days of dark thinking without hope. I avoided almost everyone for many months, only shopping at night when I wouldn’t run in to people. I spent time with only a few close friends. I had always been the person that helped my friend’s children with work experience, found jobs for people and made recommendations, but my own friends made no real effort to assist me in securing employment; this seemed to confirm my worthlessness. My confidence plummeted.
I thought for the first time a lot about family men who are sole breadwinners and made redundant, and what a toll it must take on their mental health and self-esteem. I was fortunate that I had saved a deposit to build a home, and received a reasonable redundancy, which allowed me to keep my daughter in Canada and remain able to support myself with some help from family. The dream of owning my own home disappeared.
There were a few friends who were my rocks during this time. One day, one of them introduced me to “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brene Brown. This book was the catalyst for what became a slow burn to re-build my self-esteem. In her work, Brene offers ten guideposts for wholehearted living. These guideposts gave me hope and as I applied them, I made small changes. I worked hard on following the guideposts and slowly re-entered the world, one step at a time. It was up and down, but I was beginning to heal.
Fast forward to 2018, when I commenced work with IPS Management Consultants. My Director, Damien Chalk, invited me to work for IPS after encountering me in a casual role; he was aware of my previous successes and experience through colleagues. Damien provided me with opportunities and challenges; age was no barrier to him.
I struggled to back myself initially, but he encouraged me to rebuild my resilience and to take on amazing projects that made a difference to the lives of people. He encouraged my love of leadership and my ability to provide exceptional customer service to our clients. I have rebuilt a wonderful career in leadership and overcome much personal adversity. This has enabled me to achieve my dream of home ownership.
I am stronger, more resilient, and am always willing to be vulnerable. With these qualities, I am extremely well placed to help others become courageous leaders. I am now working in the twilight of my career, with additional skills and qualifications in leadership. My passion for keeping up with everchanging technologies is flourishing. I am working with clients like the ATO; government trading enterprises; tier one corporate clients, in additional to small local businesses; not for profit organisations and community groups. It is deeply rewarding and humbling to work with my clients.
I am proud of the resilience I have developed. As I continue towards the end of my career, I am determined to show that a person's contributions and impact should not be determined by age. To the older men and women out there, don't let your age define you. You have so much more to contribute.
If any of the above has struck a chord with you, please don't hesitate to contact me on 08 9721 7057.