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Anonymous - Established

Non-science background

3 minute read

Read this anonymous story from one of our colleagues 

I'm from a non-science background and for a long time I wasn't too sure what career I would go into. I thought I'd work it out at university and teaching seemed like a logical progression. 

After graduating, I tried TEFL teaching and private tuition as a potential career path. I then realised that teaching wasn't for me, although the feedback was positive. I was struggling with the planning because I'm quite a perfectionist. I had other transferable skills, so I started looking for a job in admin. I had experience from various admin roles including voluntary.  

I then worked in local government admin for a few years before I found the role at NPL and I've been in a coordination role here for the past few years. 

My average day consists generally of various admin and coordination tasks, both routine and responding to more urgent incoming requests as these arise, making sure that anything that needs arranging is sorted. I start the day looking at my priorities and planning. I try to keep mornings quite free for focus time. I’ve been increasingly involved in NPL communities at lunchtimes too. 

Throughout the years I’ve had various ideas of where I’d like my career to head. I think I was rather idealistic at university, so I wanted to either work for the UN or the Foreign Office or GCHQ - I did pursue some of those but I was unsuccessful. 

I've always wanted to write from childhood. I certainly never thought I'd go into admin and probably would have found that idea quite boring as a child. Not something to aspire to, and certainly would have never thought I'd be in a science institution. 

I think a big barrier throughout was my mental health. I have a bipolar diagnosis. I was diagnosed in 2013 and it got to the point where I barely managed to finish my studies. I was just thinking of dropping out because things had become so difficult at university. 

This was before I had my diagnosis. From about the age of 14 or 15, I'd struggled with depression, and it seemed like the help I was getting wasn't enough. And then the diagnosis made sense because it was a fuller picture of the highs as well as the lows. 

I had a relationship breakdown which kind of triggered a hypomanic episode, and I knew it wasn't normal to be feeling on top of the world, but that's how I felt at the end of the breakup, and it became clear that I was really struggling to organise my time. 

I was struggling to heal, and find healing, after the experiences at university and the breakup, so my mental health was a real issue. 

After that I was in counselling and with a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist through the NHS. That helped a lot, but I just couldn't see myself in full time employment of any kind and I wasn't terribly happy being a teacher. I felt like a burden. It was all really difficult and I've recovered a lot from that time, and I don't think in the same way now. 

It was a nice surprise when I got the job in a local authority as an administrator. It was a massive learning curve, but it was a big surprise to me that actually I was capable of working full time and by that point I'd learned a lot of skills and built a support network too.  

My advice for anyone going through similar experiences is to be kind to yourself and make self-care a priority. It's quite cliche, but that's important in a work setting. One thing that I never appreciated until I started having serious issues in my job, before NPL, was that even if you feel stable and after mental health crisis, even if you've had professional help, it's in your best interests to, if you can, be open with your manager about that because they want to support you. 

And even if it's not an issue at the moment, just having that awareness that things might return some way. Having that conversation is protective to yourself and it means that your manager will be able to support you in the best way. 

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