by Jeremy Jackson
After more than thirty years in marketing leadership roles within the IT sector, Jeremy Jackson sought to determine the right second career for him – one that truly aligned with his values, strengths and motivation.
32 years. That’s how long I spent in my first career. It was fruitful, it enabled me to see much of the globe and experience some incredible highs, and some dramatic lows. I helped take companies public and was at the forefront of emerging technologies. I played my part in the technological revolution and was well rewarded; financially.
Indeed, I got what I wanted, what I had planned, and then some. My Dad wanted me to be a professional; an accountant, a lawyer, a civil engineer or an architect, to get something behind me, something to fall back on. I wanted a flat, a car, money and a life like that of Jason King, travelling the world having adventures, something different every episode. How would that be possible? In 1977, I decided computers were the future. I wrote to computer companies. They sent me details of their graduate programmes. On the cover of one, a computer salesman sporting a perm, shoulder length hair, a moustache and double-breasted suit was nonchalantly leaning on the roof of a Triumph Dolomite Sprint outside a swanky office block. I was sold. I chose to study computational science and set off to university.
So began the first career. And what a career. I specialised in marketing. I helped build global businesses, worked in incredibly dynamic environments with very bright, ambitious people. I seemed to fit, I progressed and succeeded but there was always something missing. I didn’t feel passionate about what I did. I even had a tendency to apologise for not doing something more meaningful. Latterly I lived in central London, worked in The City and day dreamed about living on an island, in a crofter’s cottage.
I had made the mistake that so many of us make. I had chosen a career to provide a lifestyle I wanted rather than one that was right for me. It’s like I’d chosen a suit based on its looks and regardless of the material. My chosen career scratched. I itched.
Some realise earlier than others and change direction. I, like so many, established a lifestyle and made commitments that made a change of direction a little more difficult, at least until the mortgage was paid off and the children had left university and embarked on their own careers.
At that point, I had always imagined a change of life. But what? Where do you start?
Now, I’m going to make this sound easy, a simple process of self-assessment. Alison worked with me, had me carefully consider my values. What was important to me. She made me list the values in order of importance. She questioned, she contested and I whittled down the list. She made me compare, analyse, draw on experiences and eventually I ended up looking at a set of values that I know, absolutely, define me. My values, I can now tell you without looking, are peace, righteousness, freedom, independence, curiosity, homeliness, adventure and aesthetics.
My need for peace was contradicted by where I lived and the nature of my job. My sense of righteousness made me feel that my contribution was less valuable than it could be. I could go on. I made good elsewhere, with home and family values, adventurous holidays and a keen aesthetic eye but there was something amiss, something quite fundamental. I worked and lived in an environment that contradicted my two most important values.
I decided to sort out home out first. ‘Where would you like to live?’ she asked. ‘Picture your perfect home’.
I thought long and hard. ‘Somewhere remote, but not too remote, a long way from the road up its own drive. Somewhere with a sense of community in which to belong and with which to engage. Somewhere with a farmhouse kitchen with a large table and a dog sofa, a cosy sitting room with a wood burner, lined with bookcases; a garden with a greenhouse, planters, a log store and a studio. Somewhere beautiful where it snows at Christmas’. In short, somewhere peaceful, homely and aesthetically pleasing.
‘And what will you do when you get there?’ she posed.
‘Well there’s a question. There is little demand for IT Executives in such areas’ I mused. ‘Maybe we could buy a shop, or a post office or run a bed and breakfast? Perhaps we could sell stuff on eBay or I could become a teacher?
‘What are your strengths?’ she asked.
‘Well I am pretty holistic, see things in context, have an overpowering sense of responsibility, set high expectations of myself and others, like to set an objective, define a path and lead others along it to enjoy the team spirit and sense of mutual achievement’, I reasoned.
‘Does that sound like a teacher or a shop keeper?’ she questioned. ’What about peace? What about righteousness, freedom and curiosity?’
Maybe something to do with charity then I thought.
Two years on and I have the life, the home, the freedom of not having to bring in the big bucks, the sense of doing something truly meaningful and purposeful. I am Director of Income Generation and Marketing for a Children’s Hospice and, at Christmas, it snows on our mountain.
Who’d have thought that possible but as Alison will tell you, once you start aligning your life to your values, everything just sort of falls into place.