Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Marilyn Swales talks about her unexpected journey - #Sheffield #Job


It had never occurred to me that I would be unemployed and looking for a new position, but rather that it might be possible to end my working life at the same Estate Agency where I had been for over twenty five years, and that I would actually be able to retire from there in a few years’ time.
So it was quite a shock and with some sadness that I learned, after a take -over by a Corporate Company, that the functions of nine staff, myself included, were to be centralised to offices in other parts of the country and I found myself facing redundancy.
It wasn’t immediate, so we all had time to get used to the idea, but it was quite a scary prospect being out there again in the ‘market place’. As the time drew near to the last day, to my surprise, I was quite eager to leave and make a fresh start, the only thing I was sure of was that I didn’t want to do the same type of work and definitely not for another Estate Agents.
For the first couple of weeks of the enforced ‘holiday’, I registered with a couple of Agencies and even had my CV put forward to a few companies who needed staff temporarily, even though ideally I would have preferred full time permanent employment, which I knew wouldn’t be particularly easy to find, I tried to remain hopeful all the same.
The weather was fine and warm, and it was good to totally relax, recharge and get the last eighteen months of uncertainty out of my system. After a couple of weeks I realised I had become very lazy, and would rather do anything than all the jobs around the house that I’d promised to do ‘when I had time’, which was surely now!  It was easier to make excuses and do very little, apart from a bit of shopping and a couple of small walks – it was much too hot to do anything else!
My mobile never rings, so it was a surprise to have an incoming call from an unknown number on the morning of August the 6th from one of my friends and contacts at the Property Guide, asking me if I was interested in speaking with Nicola Spencer of Spencers on Ecclesall Road about a position of book keeper that they were needing; she had recommended me for the post, due to my past experience .  I admit my first thought was ‘Oh no, not another Estate Agency  - a service industry - do I really want that?  Am I interested?’  After around fifteen minutes thinking about this and feeling secretly pleased for the interest shown, I decided it would have been churlish not to pursue this chance for employment, or at least to talk about it.  So I made the call.
The telephone conversation went very well from the outset, and even when I pointed out that there were definitely some tasks on the job spec that I had never done or had any knowledge of, Nicola suggested we meet, and the appointment was made for the following Friday.
In the meantime I had to make a trip down Ecclesall Road to re-familiarise myself with the Berkeley Precinct and find the location of the office in readiness for my first interview in nearly 26 years!!  Exciting stuff……….
On the day of the interview I woke up with horrendous sinus pain, so my whole morning was concentrated on getting better and making sure I was fit to start the journey. Consequently, I didn’t go through the process of rehearsing my responses to the questions I was expecting to be asked - like you do - and felt quite calm on the two bus rides to the office.  Another consideration: what would this journey be like during the morning rush hour?
With palms slightly hot and sticky, due to the twenty four degree heat, I arrived at the office and was asked to go up the spiral staircase at the back of the showroom to meet with Nicola and Lee (the calm Scot), who were waiting for me at the top.  Now, it was either Nicola’s friendly manner, immediately apologising for wearing flip flops and admitting she had made a mess of her ankles with some new shoes (been there, done that, so could empathise) or perhaps it was walking into an environment I’m used to – brochures in the windows and on the walls - but I felt immediately at ease, and not nervous at all.
After a brief outline of what the job would entail, we had a chat about my work history in general, touched on salary, and personal responsibilities and then was shown around the lovely spacious and modern offices.  I felt that it all went very well, and they said they would get back to me in a few days.  To celebrate what I felt had been a successful interview, and to congratulate myself, I went into the local supermarket and bought a humongous bar of chocolate.
A few days later and to my surprise, I received an email from Nicola offering me the position, and after only a couple of hours making sure it was the right decision, I thought it would be foolish not to accept.  After a couple more emails with answers to my questions and on learning that I wouldn’t be needed to start until Monday the 2nd of September, which was perfect, I could at last relax and really celebrate. I couldn’t believe my luck and felt completely elated.  Also this gave me just over two weeks to prepare and get used to the idea of going to a different office, way out of my comfort zone, where there were going to be lots of new things to learn and more scarily to be the ‘new girl’.  One saving grace was that at least it was a business I knew a bit about.  Surely that would be useful??
Emotions always quite near the surface, I set off for my first day, after reading lots of messages and texts from friends and family wishing me luck, which were very moving.  Quite a few people thinking about me and hoping I would be ok, knowing what a big deal this was for me, in itself almost gave me a lump in my throat, but I needn’t have worried.
Everyone I met that day was really friendly and Lee and Nicola were very supportive and started to show me around the two main areas of software that I would be using; all in all it was a positive start.
Unfortunately by Thursday I wasn’t in good shape at all, a bit weepy  and I almost felt as if I didn’t want to go into work.  Nothing had happened to make me feel like this, it was just something I woke up with.  This was real.  It wasn’t a game, but something quite overwhelming that I would have to deal with.  This was where I was expected to go every weekday to work, which after doing the same job with the same company for so many years and knowing it backwards, feeling totally comfortable  and being confident and in control of what I was doing, made the massive change slightly daunting.  There was this huge learning curve ahead of me and I wasn’t sure I was fit for the challenge. 
Nicola and Lee have both been very understanding and have given me daily encouragement, so there was no reason at all to be particularly worried or concerned.  Nobody expected me to just walk in and know everything and be able to do the job straight away and as I was being taken through the daily and monthly routines slowly and methodically there was no reason at all why I was being so hard on myself.  I guess I am desperate not to let anyone down, I want to succeed, do a good job and become part of what is a very hardworking team.

So the transition has been emotional, difficult only because of the strangeness of going somewhere different, learning what’s expected of me and finding my way around a new office with fresh colleagues to get to know, after being in my comfort zone for so long.  It is some consolation that if for instance, I had managed to find employment in retail, or in manufacturing, then the changes would have been immense by comparison.
I suppose the moral of the tale (if there has to be a moral), is don’t stay in one place long enough to become a permanent fixture, as it can make you insular and scared of the consequences of trying a new challenge and that we should occasionally take a risk and try something new – but as in my case –perhaps not something completely alien……..

Marilyn Swales

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