In 2008 I took a job as an Executive Assistant and Corporate Secretary to a non-profit corporation. My daughter had just left home and I was an empty nester so I had time to try something different and put some time and effort into a new position. This position was certainly different than anything I had ever done. When I took the job, I had never taken minutes before and I had a Board of Directors' meeting in two months that I had to prepare for. What did I get myself into was a question I wondered a lot in the beginning, but I kept on putting in lots and lots of extra hours to learn my new job.
I'm a Baby Boomer though and come from an era where we have a strong work ethic and will try to get the job done no matter the odds. So I worked hard in those early months learning everything I could about minute-taking, boards, governance and everything else in between. The CEO I was working for at the time was very busy and my meeting scheduling skills were put to the test. He was also an international traveler so I had to learn everything about time zones, flights and everything else when your boss travels to a foreign country. And travel he did. In the last year I worked with him he was away from home travelling for at least 80 nights and for the most part it was international travel. He even made the super elite travelling club (which means he had travelled over a million miles).
It was certainly exciting at first and my boss was great to work for. Fast forward to last year and that was when things started to change for me. My boss left for another opportunity and couldn't take me with him so now I was working for a different person. She was very nice and I respected her a lot being a woman and taking on that role, but with my other boss leaving, all of a sudden I was starting to see a little clearer and with a different perspective. I noticed that the things I used to do and enjoyed in my personal time had somehow gotten gobbled up with work. One of the first things that got put aside was blogging, but other things as well. I just didn't have time anymore because I was putting in 60 to 75 hour work weeks. Sometimes it takes something like a big change to be able to see clearly.
So I took a long hard look at what my life had become and realized that some very important things had taken a backseat to my job. My work/life balance was definitely off balance.
One day when I was riding the bus to work I wondered why I was continuing the pace so made a decision right then and there that I was going to quit my job. I was calling it early retirement for lack of a better term. I had no idea what I was going to do, had no other prospects for work, but I knew if I didn't leave this job it was going to kill me. I told my friends I did not want to end my days with "She was a good worker" on my tombstone.
It's funny how things just seem to fall into place when you make up your mind about something. What a relief it was when I handed in my resignation. I gave them lots of notice and was going to 'semi-retire' in three months. Now that the decision was made, I started putting my mind to what else I could do.
I have two lovely grandsons so they were definitely going to be in the picture with Granny spending a lot more time with them instead of continually saying "I'll be with you in a minute, I just have one more thing to finish for work" as I madly tried to draft an agenda while babysitting them on the weekend. Then when they were in bed for the night, I would get on the computer and start working again until the wee hours. Needless to say I was pretty exhausted the next day and turning on cartoons for them as we cuddled on the couch (and Granny cat napping throughout) was a way to cope.
I had also started a book a few years ago and put it aside because I just didn't have the time or energy to put into it. Now I had time again to think about these things without it making me exhausted.
I was still pretty busy though and all I wanted to do initially was finish up my previous job and then rest, rest and rest, and worry about what I was going to do later when I could breathe again. That was when I received an email from a friend with a job opportunity. It was for a position starting right away so not in my timeframe so I promptly deleted the email. Later on that week I looked at it again and decided that it was a good opportunity and perhaps I shouldn't let it pass me by. Fast forward to today - I went for the interview and accepted the job and left my other job sooner than expected. I recall the HR Director saying to me that she thought I was semi-retiring and was only going to take a part-time job when I left. I had to shake my head because my new job working 37.5 hours a week seemed like a part-time job to me.
Even though I left my other job earlier, I was loyal to them and wanted to leave them with as much information as I could. I had started a job manual when I first started that job, which I recommend everyone does. It is not only a great help to you as you learn your new job, but it makes it so much easier when you leave to pass on the information to the next person. All I had to do before leaving was update it. I also had to get ready for a Board of Directors' meeting earlier than expected, but I did it and my boss negotiated with my new boss so I could go to the final board meeting to finish off that aspect of my job. Our board members come from all over Canada so it was nice to see them in person to say goodbye. Finally I could leave with a good conscience, but I was tired. I worked till late at night in my old office on the Sunday before I started my new job. Definitely not recommended if you want to be fresh and able to take in all you need to learn in your new job, but I survived.
Now I've been in the new job for four weeks and am loving it. At first I went home after work and crashed each night as I was so exhausted from the last job, but gradually I started perking up. It is nice to work hard during the day, but leave it at work when I go home at the end of the day. And to have two days off on the weekend was a novelty I had not enjoyed in a long time. After the period of rest was over though, I have to admit I was a little bored. I couldn't remember what I used to do before work took over, but now that I have the time, things are coming back to me. I just signed up for an art course in January and am looking forward to that. And Christmas and New Years will seem so much different now that I am not working during the holidays.
What I would recommend to anyone else who finds themselves in a work-crazy environment is not to wait too long to do something about it. I spoke to my doctor (my friends insisted I go and were going to hold me accountable to do it). They worried that I was burnt out and wanted me to get it checked out. My doctor was very supportive and said that because I had still maintained my sense of humour and could laugh about it all, I was fine, but he recommended that I leave as soon as possible and not look back. He said he had patients who had waited too long and it was messy. As I was leaving his office his parting comment was that no salary, no pension, no job was worth your health.
I'm sure some of you are wondering why I didn't work with my past employer to try to negotiate a better working condition. Sometimes when you just keep doing it, they don't realize that maybe they really do need two people to do that job, so I think in that respect I was my own worst enemy. But that is certainly something you can do. Sit down with your boss and document the extra hours you are putting in and what you are doing in those hours and come up with a proposal of what might work better.
So here I am back to being an Administrative Assistant. Back to my roots and back to where I want to be. I am still busy during the day supporting my boss and have two meetings that I organize and take minutes for, but I can leave it at the end of the day and go home. I enjoyed my time as an Executive Assistant and because I was single was able to devote lots of time to it, but I left at the right time and am not looking back.
I am sure I will have challenges in my new job that I will tackle and learn from and be able to blog about, but for now I just want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
BTW, I am speaking at a conference in June in Florida. This is one of those things I always wanted to do, but didn't have the time. I hope to see some of you there http://www.adminproforum.com/?campaigncode=APF16PR