I have been part-time self-employed since 2018 and took the leap into full-time self-employment in 2020. 

Up until that point I had what some might call a very average portfolio career. I never climbed particularly high, but I did gain lots of experience working in different ways, with different people, in different areas.

I was a Crown Court Witness Care Officer for a time; I worked in schools in lots of different guises including teacher, academic mentor, and family advisor; I managed a team of statutory advocates; I was a project coordinator for women offenders, I worked with care leavers for a local authority, and I have worked with charities supporting people with complex needs.

I enjoyed many of my jobs immensely, and certainly found joy in aspects of all of them, but I always left them. Partly because I am the sort of person that needs new challenges after a while, but partly because something about each of those jobs made me unhappy.

I have reflected on my decisions to leave jobs over the course of my career: what were the influencing factors, what was the catalyst that finally made me act and what were the feelings I had around my choice to hand my notice in each time.

On the face of it, there were a variety of reasons. Some were simple – I didn’t like the way the role was heading, or I didn’t like the amount of paperwork that I was expected to do. Other reasons were more selfish – I wasn’t invested in the job enough; I wasn’t motivated or inspired.

But one theme wove its way through the tapestry of my working life, and why I made the decision to move on to other things:

People.

The jobs I invested myself in were the ones where I invested in the people. The ones I shared common values with, the ones I could be honest to and, importantly for me, the ones I could laugh with. 

I enjoyed being around people who valued autonomy, flexibility, and respect, or at least the ones that recognised my need for those things. I stayed in jobs I felt I was valued, and my needs were being recognised and met. 

In one job they told me, as part of my supervision, I HAD to spend my lunch breaks in the kitchen with everyone else. 

Another one said I had to detail on my calendar what I was doing in 30-minute increments, who I emailed and when I took phone calls.

A different one had a manager who, upon meeting them for the first time said, ‘If I feel like I can’t trust you for any reason, I can get rid of you like that’ and clicked their fingers.

These alone were not the only reason I left those jobs, but they planted a seed of understanding in me about who the people were with which I was working. It created an impression that soured the work I was trying to do, how valued I felt and, crucially, how safe I felt working there.

Conversely, I have stayed in jobs that perhaps were not ideal in terms of salary or description because the people were amazing – managers found the balance between friendly and professional, the people around me shared the same values, even if we didn’t always agree, they created an atmosphere of trust and self-accountability and it was an easy place to feel safe and develop a positive relationship with.

If you google the term ‘culture’, do you know what doesn’t come up? Anything to do with organisations. You have to go pretty far down the page to find much to do with ‘organisational culture’.

What you will find is lots about the definitions of culture – which for the most part stem from what happens when a group of people get together and collectively act in a way unique to that group.

So, it is people that drive many of the factors that make a workplace a great place to work, or somewhere you cannot wait to get out of.

For me, it also did not help that I was probably the most annoying person to manage on the planet. But that is a different story.