The HR Juggler

Day 23: The Gamble

Posted on: December 23, 2013


Today’s post is the first ever blog post written by Sarah Mason. She may well be a bag of nerves by the time this goes live and be peeking at the published post through her fingers! I know that you’ll be full of encouragement for her – it’s easy to forget how terrifying writing your first blog is! It’s my pleasure and privilege to post such a fantastic debut :). You can find Sarah on Twitter @SarMason12.

Artwork for today (and every day!) is by the brilliant Simon Heath.


The theme for these advent blogs is ‘stakes’; a brilliant topic with a number of meanings and provoking a variety of themes.  Some of the previous posts have focused on staking out boundaries or loosening their stakes and providing some fantastic insight.  For my take on the theme, a stake is a gamble with something valuable. And in this case, the stake is the security and status that comes from a permanent role as HR Director for a growing business.

In the last few years I’ve experienced a few lightbulb moments, causing me to stop and reflect.  Those moments that, whilst not comfortable, are certainly worth paying attention to.  It took me a while to figure out the best response, but as a result, this year has been the year of action and commitment.

The first lightbulb to go off cane in the form of a big dose of self-awareness.  Like many of you, I’ve done plenty of work on this, both through individual development and 360 feedback, and also through developing other leaders to themselves become more self-aware.  So learning something so fundamental and yet so unknown about myself really floored me.

Part of my internal value set has always been about toeing the company line, about fitting into a larger structure. I guess you could say being a good girl. Yet apparently not.  Maybe those who know me won’t be as surprised that it turns out I’m actually someone who continually challenges the status quo (the word ‘maverick’ was used by several people).  I was lucky enough to discover this on a leadership development session led by a skilled external facilitator who helped introduce the idea.

My executive coach, the amazing Craig Sclare from Rambutan, helped me to see that ‘Maverick’ is not necessarily a negative thing and moved me from being horrified to slow acceptance.  The Chemistry Group were kind enough to run some value-based psychometrics that showed my conformity level was extremely low.  They pointed out that a number of their staff had low conformity scores and they were perfectly happy with that.

Given my background in the ‘command and control’ world of the recruitment industry, it was refreshing and reassuring to learn that low conformity can be a good thing.

So far, so surprising and, of course, classic change curve behaviour kicked in with denial swiftly followed by resistance. I spent some time trying to be more conformist, which unsurprisingly wasn’t hugely successful.  But then I started exploring how I could perhaps make it work for me.  I reflected back on my career and this insight helped me make sense of some of the previous events.  I decided to take the leap, to change my career path and to work for myself.  To ensure I gave it a proper go, and not panic and accept the first permanent role I was offered, I signed up for a part time MSc in Organisational Change – I knew consultancy work would help me fit in studying.

And then I resigned from the secure permanent role that I loved.

A big step.

Which is, serendipitously, when the second lightbulb moment happened.  A MSc lecture on Protean careers started to make my decision seem more rational and less emotional.  Research points to a shift from organisational careers, working our way up ladders within companies, to self-directed values-driven careers where the individual shapes their own career based on their values.  That’s not to say it’s right for everyone;  most people I know are really suited to organisational careers.  But for me right now, a Protean career seems worth exploring.

It is a gamble though.  Like all gambles there’s a potential financial loss – in this case from walking away from a regular pay cheque.  I need to provide for my family so the lack of financial security is not insignificant.  There are some other things I stand to lose – I love the people I worked with in my last role and I will really miss developing and leading teams.

High stakes indeed.

But I could stand to win.  Autonomy.  Fulfilment.  Authenticity. Flexibility.  Self development.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?  It’s a calculated risk too.  Through Twitter, I’ve met a load of people who have chosen this path and are making it work.   I find that massively encouraging.

As I reflect on the year, I think I’ve learnt a lot; development is always important to me.  I can’t say I have absolute clarity, or total confidence, on what the next year holds but I plan to have fun finding out.  And who knows, maybe in the future I will end up back in an organizational career with a company that values challenge?

The stakes are high, but so are the potential rewards. For now, I’m committed to seeing if my gamble pays off.

9 Responses to "Day 23: The Gamble"

Good Morning Sarah,

I think so many of us have found a better career part for ourselves by becoming self employed and self reliant. I totally agree with you of the gamble of walking away from a highly paid job with a regular income at the end of the month. However, so pleased to say with confidence and unreservedly that there are no bigger rewards than being your own boss!

Congratulations on your choice and here’s to your future success. Thanks for sharing. Bina. X

Morning Sarah, Small world – Craig Sclare and I are connected via music. I’ve been trying to meet him for some time but geography has prevented it. Thank you for the insights.

Small world! Craig was a huge help to me and hopefully will catch up with him in the New Year.

Yup, looking forward to seeing you.


Hi Sarah,

Thanks for including me in your first blog post, I’m glad you found the coaching useful.

A small world indeed Peter, I was reading your blog this morning! Let’s get together in the New Year.

Thanks Bina, really good to hear that.

Congratulations on your first blog! This has been a year of firsts for you. I left the corporate world as an insider 11 years ago. I found out about that time and while working with a coach that my personality fit better using my talent externally. It has been a ride….and never a dull one. Blessings on your journey!

Thanks Deb, always good to hear from others who have taken the leap!

[…] connected with on Twitter have recently taken leaps of faith and Sarah Mason is no exception. Her post on Day 23 made me think of the row of cherries that signifies a win on a fruit […]

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