Work, life balance is always hard to achieve but sometimes you have to manage your life in a different way to achieve that essential balance between your professional and personal goals. I was motivated to re-evaluate my life, after working in statutory services for a number of years and realising that I was missing my young’s son nativity because in the words of my manager ‘it was not in the strategic interests of the organisation to allow me time off to attend’ I certainly was not getting the balance right for my son or for me.
It was at that point that I jumped ship and moved into independent practice, because I could choose when and how I worked and found that if I was honest about my reasons for working certain hours, 99% of my clients understood completely and were incredible positive about my family circumstances. Initially I worked as moving and handling expert and then further developed my housing adaptation skills.
As a independent practitioner you have to learn to sell yourself, which for me did not sit very comfortably, I was lucky that a very kind QC, told me that I was not charging enough, I had excellent court skills and should double my fees, he stated that if you are too cheap you will not be valued, his comment was ‘ be reassuringly expensive, you have the skills and knowledge, just believe in yourself’.
Networking is also key and really one of the core skills of a Occupational Therapists, I really enjoyed walking in to a room of strangers and finding people I can engage with, yet, the other skill is removing yourself politely when you realise that that person is not going to further develop your business, tricky and a little callous, but essential.
Also you need to raise your profile, I took on roles that increase my skill base, I applied for roles within the COT housing specialist section, sat on a housing association board and volunteered for committees with in the Department of Communities and Local Government all off which raised my profile.
My passion was and still is aesthetically designed adaptations that promote independence and I have been fortunate enough to work with some amazing mainstream companies on product design for the ageing population. So how did this happen? Who can I recognise as introducing me into this sector? Well it was Julia Skelton at the College of Occupational Therapist who was listening me rant about the ugliness of product and equipment design she decided to introduce me to a gentleman in Ideal Standard, who arranged to meet me the following week and for whom I have provided a consultancy ever since. It has also allowed me to speak at conferences both nationally and internationally, which has further raised my profile.
Since then I have built my own small but perfectly formed business which specializes in consultancy and advice to companies and housing assessment and deign advice to individuals.
Being part of a growing business requires you to understand the skills we have as Occupational therapists, recognise that there is a value to our knowledge and experience. The art is then transferring this into a business proposal that an individual or company wants to ‘purchase’, always a challenge but incredibly rewarding.
So 12 years on was my move worth it, oh yes, I have presented in Sydney, run the first accessible housing courses in Bosnia and Croatia, been part of the team who developed a MSc in Housing at York University, worked for mainstream companies, lunched at the House of Lords, represented the profession on COTEC and been a mum, wife and friend.
So does my life still have a balanced approach….yes most of the time, I am presently writing this article whilst on Scout camp over looking the sea with the sound of 38 kids screaming with laughter having just build a water catapult, so it certainly feels very balanced today.
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