A look back to that moment my life changed…and a decade of building a successful career in finance came to an end.
This week marked the close of a significant chapter in my life as my time working with one of London’s top global financial firms came to an end. Since moving to London just 3 years ago, my journey has been one of unexpected highs and unanticipated lows, or redirections as I would prefer to see them.
They say when one door closes another one opens, and for me the reality of that is more than just a catchy phrase.
Coming to London I had nothing with me but my ambition for an exciting career and the desire to live out the dream of 16-year-old me, who hoped one day to become an international businesswoman.
Arriving in London from Cork on that cold October evening in 2016, the reality could not have been further from my dream. Stranded outside Tower Bridge, my phone had been unexpectedly cut off and my card was maxed out with a bunch of hotel pre-charges. I wandered in the dark past the rushing crowds, hoping to find a friendly face I could ask for directions. As if my luck hadn’t fully run out just yet, the skies above me opened and I was welcomed to my new home with a spectacular show of thunder and lightening. As I stood there drenched, lost and completely alone, I realised I had just one of two choices. Laugh or cry. So, like a slightly crazy person, I roamed around in search of my hotel laughing to myself at the ludicrous situation I had found myself in. That mentality served me well in many future situations I would unknowingly encounter.
For the next 3 months I slept on a friends couch as I tried my best to juggle weekly travel with apartment hunting in a new city. I didn’t know a single other professional there, and despite a previously successful career in Dublin, it truly felt like I was starting all over again from scratch.
The evolution that occurred over the next 3 years was beyond what I could have ever dreamed of. I did get my dream of an international career, having the pleasure of working on some of the the most exciting high-profile deals across all corners of the world. I had the privilege of advising some of the most impressive leaders I know, sat on the Board of an international shipping company, progressed our internal D&I agenda, was awarded by the Financial Times and Yahoo Finance as a future leader, stood up on international stages as a champion for women in business, and have been rewarded in many other ways that I would once have only dreamed of.
This week, as I handed in my laptop and swiped my pass for the final time after an exciting, and sometimes incredibly challenging career, do you know what happened? Absolutely nothing.
The reality is, I was a cog in a corporate wheel of a global machine that will move on with or without me. As much as I would naively like to think that I am irreplaceable, being pegged as one of the firm’s high performers and future leaders, the reality is, I am not. Just as I watched on as our previous CEO stepped aside to make way for the next, the global machine kept on moving, without a single bump to notice the change.
To be clear, this is not something that came as a surprise. I have witnessed this happen time and time again, even with the most senior of leaders within organisations. It is how these structures are set up to survive over the long term. Nevertheless, when the reality hits you, it can be unexpectedly thought provoking.
There is no passion to be found playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. – Nelson Mandela
I wanted to share this as a reminder that where ever you are in your career, what ever it is you are doing, ensure that you are enjoying the journey, and not just focused on the destination. Be mindful of embracing all the opportunities available to you, even those you think you’re not quite ready for yet, and be serious about your work but don’t take your work too serious.
At the end of the day, when you walk out those doors for the final time, be sure that you do so with a treasure chest of great memories, an incredible network, some life long friends, and a knowing that you gave it your all, you left nothing on table, you didn’t play it safe, that you felt the fear and did it anyway. Ensure that you can open that next door and walk through it with your head held high, knowing you are ready to embrace the next chapter.
As always, I would love to hear from you, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.