In this guest blog post, Kaeti writes about how Shine’s coaching after cancer programme helped her to leave her old job and take her life in an exciting new direction.
What do you do when you realise that your ambition is no longer your ambition?
For as long as I could remember, I had wanted to be a PE teacher. When my friends in primary school were talking about being astronauts and vets, I wasn’t interested – all I wanted to do was teach. But being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 30 wasn’t in my career plan.
I really missed my job when I was on sick leave. However, at some point during my eight months of cancer treatment, I realised that I didn’t miss teaching. The problem wasn’t my workload (you might have been expecting that complaint!) – actually, I had no idea what it was. Still, I knew for a fact that something had shifted, and I needed to figure out what was different in order to move forward.
A couple of months into my treatment, I saw on social media that Shine Cancer Support was offering career coaching. This was just what I needed: someone to help me make sense of the fact that I desperately missed being at work, but also knew that my teaching days were numbered. I felt like a failure: teaching was all I had ever wanted to do. Before my diagnosis I had been certain that I would progress through the ranks to deputy headteacher, and maybe even headteacher one day. Yet now I was lost, and I didn’t know what to do.
I took up Shine’s offer of support and met Emily Lomax, my coach. Emily works over the phone or via Zoom, and for our first session I think I talked at her for 40 minutes. She listened patiently to my ramblings. My first session had coincided with my return to work. I was excited to be back, but I knew deep down that even though I loved the thought of being busy, being needed, and feeling focused again, the idea of being a teacher was distressing. Cancer had made me realise that I wanted change.
After that initial session, Emily sent me some tasks to complete. One was about prioritising my values and the other was about looking at my energy levels. I realised that my values hadn’t really changed since cancer, but that my energy at work had been affected. The majority of the time that I spent in my job, I was in the ‘burnout and surviving’ zone. After everything I had been through with my diagnosis and treatment, I needed to prioritise recharging in order to thrive. We discussed these tasks and Emily lead me to realise that as a teacher, I could do other things. I was focusing on the fact that I had a PE teaching degree and ‘that only qualifies me to teach PE.’ Emily got me to think about all the transferable skills I have that could be beneficial in other sectors.
After this session I decided to jazz up my CV. CVs are not widely used when applying for teaching jobs, so mine looked sad and dated. Comic Sans? What was I thinking?! I’m a keen skier, and I remembered that a friend who works in the industry had offered to pass on my CV to his company’s head office, should I ever want to move out of teaching. I sent him my CV, and also passed it to some other skiing companies. In the meantime, I finished my sessions with Emily and began considering my options. Should I stick with teaching? It paid well, and I was good at it. Should I pack it all in and do a ski season? Should I re-train as a cancer rehab personal trainer? Should I go abroad to teach? These questions were exhausting, but relevant. Whenever I considered an option I revisited Emily’s energy task handout, and that helped me decide the way forward.
Emily had helped me to understand that I love organising events. It was easily the best bit of my job. I needed to remember this and not let the pull of money, a secure career path, and pressure from colleagues change my mind. A few weeks after my last session with Emily, I got an email from the Head of HR at my friend’s skiing company. She was very complimentary of my CV (I had updated the font!) and invited me to the head office to discuss some job opportunities. I went for the chat during the Easter break, and a week later – while doing some holiday work for a different ski company – I realised that it was time to move on from teaching. It wasn’t failure, it was acceptance of my changing circumstances and the fact that I was allowed to have new ambitions. My ambition of being a PE teacher was over 20 years old. It was time to do something new.
A week later, the ski company contacted me to offer me the position of events coordinator. I was hesitant at first as the job was mainly office-based, and I asked for a couple of weeks to consider. I was away with friends when the company replied to say that they had reviewed the job and that 3-4 months a year could be spent in the Alps working remotely and taking responsibility for trainee ski instructors. It felt like all my Christmases had come at once! I handed in my notice and I finish teaching at the end of this term. The minute I handed the resignation letter to my headteacher, it felt like a weight had been lifted. I was somehow so much lighter: much lighter than I had been in months, maybe years.
When I was considering the job offer, my mum told me ‘the world is full of teachers who have given up teaching, and teaching is full of teachers who wish they have given up teaching.’ It’s taken cancer and career coaching for me to realise that it’s OK for your ambitions to change. It’s not failing to want to do something new and different. I am VERY excited about my new start and even more excited about spending next ski season in the Alps, thriving and recharging! Thank you so much to Emily and Shine for the gentle shove in the right direction.
Shine’s 2019 coaching after cancer programme is currently in progress – but follow us on social media for details of our 2020 programme!