I was one of the millions of people all over the world whose career suffered a blow because of Covid-19. There I was, in the middle of lockdown wondering what on earth I would do when we finally emerged and my government self-employment grant ran out. My plans to launch my own marketing business and podcast pre-Covid-19 had been long dashed by the pandemic, and the contractor market was shot. My Disillusioned Medic work was going well – I was still coaching, and still broadcasting Real Reflective Practice, but although I love coaching, in my current model of business, I don’t make nearly enough to pay the bills. With the infection rate decreasing, it was also looking less and less likely that the NHS would recall me after all (I dearly hope I am not speaking too soon here), so going back into medicine was no longer on my radar.
I also don’t do well just doing one thing. I’ve noticed this about myself over the years – if I don’t have variety in my work, I get bored and start to resent it. My friend Chris Hafner calls me a ‘multipotentialite’, meaning that I, like him, have many interests and pursuits. It’s a blessing in many ways, but it also means I have to shake things up from time to time to keep my brain engaged. (It also goes a long way to explaining why medicine bored me to tears!)
And with lockdown giving me a taste of full time motherhood, I’ve had the chance to reflect on the realisation that I am someone who needs to work. I love my daughter and she is the centre of my world, but full time parenting is a tough old job and it’s not for everyone. For me, having a career keeps me vital. It distracts me from thinking too much of myself, and pushes me out of the procrastination and stupor that otherwise occur. My mental health relies on it – as Alan Rickman said in the 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility:
“Give me an occupation, Miss Dashwood, or I shall run mad.”
Oh, Colonol Brandon, I sympathise. And it was as if the universe heard me, because soon after that realisation, something interesting happened… Before the pandemic, I was talking with a marketing agency that serve the pharmaceuticals industry about potentially doing some contracting work with them – a bit of strategic consultancy and medical advisory work. I really liked them, and they seemed to like me, but just as we were about to do the deal, Covid happened and they (very sensibly) decided to hold off on taking on any contractors.
I thought about them over lockdown, hoping that they hadn’t been too badly affected by the situation and wondering how they were adapting to it. And then, one day, out of the blue, I got a call from the CEO of the company. It turned out that they were actually doing pretty well – I guess pharma is a pretty safe industry in general, and even more so during a global health crisis!
Anyway, long story short, they asked me if I was interested in taking up a more permanent role with them, and be an employee as opposed to an external consultant. It didn’t take me long to decide what to do – I was very happy to accept their offer. Things have changed so much in the last few months; whilst I’m sure the contractor market will recover eventually, I don’t trust it now, and I’ve also noticed I’ve developed a greater desire for stability since Covid happened. Contracting is fun and gives you a lot of freedom, but it’s also risky and can be unpredictable. I don’t for a second regret doing things that way pre-Covid, but I’ve done a bit of soul-searching lately and right now, a sense of safety is what I want.
And that doesn’t mean that life has to be dull! I needn’t give up all my multipotentialite ways. This new job is part time work, which means I still have that time with my daughter, and it gives me a bit of space for my Disillusioned Medic activities. The new job itself is also pretty varied – it’s still early days, but as it’s agency work, it looks like I’ll be involved in lots of different types of projects for several different clients.
Of course, it’s always hard starting a new job – the new ways of working, the information overload, the whole team of new people… And starting a job in the middle of Covid makes all those things a bit more tricky. I haven’t actually met most of my new colleagues in person yet, even though we speak every day on video conference, and little things like getting au fait with the way things are normally done seem to take longer when it’s all vritual working. Also, it seems that things are much busier than usual due to everyone trying to catch up after the lull of Covid, so everyone has a lot on their plate. I’m a little more stressed and anxious than usual, but everyone is really nice, and all in all, I am feeling incredibly lucky and very happy to be here. I’m already learning a lot and it feels so good to be this kind of busy again.
It’s amazing, actually, to be doing a role in which both my medical expertise and marketing expertise are valued. Although I began in Health Tech, most of my marketing consultancy work over the last few years has had nothing to do with medicine. In the industries I’ve served, such as Management Consultancy, Recruitment and Media, my doctor background has occasionally come in useful, but it’s not really been central to my work. And that was good for me – it was a chance to break away completely from medicine, and focus wholly on the marketing and business development side of me.
But now it’s nice to come full circle, and combine medicine with marketing once more. The unusual combination of skillsets that have resulted from my bizarre career journey have found a home again, and reminded me once more that my old fear of ‘wasting my medical degree’ was absolutely unfounded. As for the educational supervisor who told me I was ‘wasting my life’ when I said I wanted to leave medicine… Well, wasting it this way feels pretty damn good.