A year post NHS – What have I learned?
A year ago as I gave up my 23 year career in the NHS I wrote this blog post reflecting on what had led me to those decisions. I felt it appropriate to share what I have learned in the past year as a small business owner, working for myself. So here is what I have learned, not in any particular order.
1. The hardest part of working for yourself is asking people for money and figuring out what to charge. I still continually underestimate how much preparation everything needs. On the flip side, when you get paid it feels like you have earned it in a way that a salary doesn’t. It must fire some neurons in your brain that a salary doesn’t, or maybe it’s still novel.
2. I love the variation that working with different people brings. One week I was working on climate change experiments, setting someone else up on a date and sadly helping someone else with bereavement. Also sometimes a session goes in a completely different direction than planned depending on what has been going on for the person since I last saw them. I also enjoy the mix of working with young people, parents and professionals. They each bring a different vibe and I am always learning from them too.
3. Social media is very time consuming. Or perhaps I am just not very efficient at it. Either way towards the end of last year I was barely posting. I want to raise awareness of how capable disabled people are and that there are better ways to be educating, treating and communicating with people than is currently common practice. Social media is a good way of doing that. I have now scheduled a social media day a month in my calendar to try to get better at it.
4. It is better value for a client to help them get things done rather than just give them information. When I first started, I was keen to be the best-value possible. I thought that meant giving people as much information as possible. But I soon realised that all I was doing is adding to people’s to-do list and stress. Believe me the to-do list of a parent carer is already very long, no-one is looking for extra tasks to go on them. Taking time and working on the solutions as well as the information is important. That way I never want to become a task that someone is trying to avoid, and people can start to see positive changes.
5. Sometimes having a crossover from work and home is win-win and sometimes it’s lose-lose. There are brilliant moments when work I do for my daughter feeds in perfectly to my work and gives me great ideas and vice versa. When that happens, it is positive. However, sometimes dealing with issues at home and seeing the difficulties facing the people I work with is a lot. We really do need to get much better as a society at allowing disabled people and the people that care for them to lead better lives without the continual fight.
6. I am not doing what I thought I would, but that’s okay. I think I have become a life-coach by accident! Often when I meet with people, we are looking for solutions (and often communication) so that they can lead a better life. I believe that is what a life coach does.
7. AAC systems need to be so much better. Decent commercial systems have lots of words in them, but often they do not encourage relationship-based communication, or if they do it is very limited. This is key for all AAC users. I knew his before but the people I have been working with to improve friendships have needed many additions to their AAC systems.
8. I don’t miss doing rotas. I think I could have predicted this one too. I do miss having a workplace and colleagues. But in some ways it is nice not to have to deal with the dynamics of working in a large organisation.
I guess I have learned quite a lot. I still have a lot to learn but that keeps things exciting. Learning how to say no really needs to become a priority. I just find it too hard when people are so desperate for help.