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Working Nine to Five - What a Way to Make a Living!

One of the most shocking things anyone ever said to me was “Sandra, you are defined by your work!” It was said with a big, beaming smile by the CEO as she waved to me across the room while leaving late one night. I smiled and laughed out loud as I called back cheerily “goodnight and safe journey”.

Yet again, I was the last person in the building apart from the security man. It was just before 8pm. In that moment I thought of it as a compliment. An acknowledgement of my hard work and conscientiousness. As it sank in over the next few days, I realised that if that comment did indeed sum up my life, I was in deep trouble.

Fast forward several years and I’m reading today about “slashies” on the BBC news website. They are the increasing numbers of people working two, three or four jobs to make a living. Sam is described as “a former teacher who works five different jobs as a private tutor, dog -groomer, crochet teacher, bar and arcade worker.

Sam, and nearly half a million others in the UK, are looking for something different from the “nine to five” and other predictable routines. Like many Millennials (22-37yrs) she’s rejecting the traditional idea of choosing a career young and doing it for a lifetime. And like Generation X (38-53yrs) - the first to widely embrace entrepreneurism - she’s got self-employment in the mix with a couple of those roles.

Many believe that this way of working simply suits people better. Humans can feel hemmed in by the same old routine and, now that we are living so much longer (from an average of 50 years in 1900 to 80 now in the UK), we need a lot more outlets for our talents, abilities and interests.

Getting back to “that comment”. I loved the job and worked with a great team doing worthwhile and challenging work regulating the quality of social care. But nothing I did at work was as important as my family, Tom and the boys, our friends, home, the village community in which we live and the love, laughter and joy that they generate. Had I got the balance wrong?

Looking back, it impacted on me greatly. Within a year, determined NOT to be defined that way, I resigned and then worked freelance for almost five years. I spent a lot more time with the family, particularly my mum who was terminally ill. Mum and I spent a lot of time talking, laughing and hanging out together in the year before she died and I never doubted for a moment that I made the right decision.

Those more creative years also led to dynamic opportunities I could never have imagined, as I became a CEO myself and went on to get an OBE from the Queen. I accepted it in memory of my wonderful mum, Kathleen McKay, who always told Sis and I that there was no such word as “can’t”.

The best advice I ever got Mum. Thanks x.


P.S. When I started writing, I had no plans to mention my mum. It’s nine years since she died and would have been her 83rd birthday yesterday. Just goes to show that those we love and lose influence us for all the years of our lives – wonderful.

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© 2019 by Sandra Burke