Why I Left a Job I Really Enjoyed to Work Independently


I recently finished working at Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA). Those of you who have follow me on social media or read my blog know that I really enjoyed my job. So you may be wondering why I have decided to return to working independently.

The Job I Enjoyed

In November 2011 I started a 6-week contract with CCA to design a national approach to capability development in Supply Chain.  One thing led to another and I joined CCA in early 2012 as an employee to lead the Supply Chain Technical Academy.  At the time a completely decentralised model was in place for technical capability development with an independent, inconsistent approach in different locations. CCA had invested heavily in a range of equipment and platforms, and wanted to ensure that their capability to use these was sustained and improved. The introduced a robust national approach to developing core technical capabilities via blended learning utilising the 70:20:10 framework.

aitd-awards

Australian Institute of Training and Development Awards to CCA Supply Chain

In early 2014 the Supply Chain business strategy changed. We updated our capability strategy to maintain alignment and strengthen governance. We also explicitly added continuous workplace learning to our strategy, which we defined as ongoing learning outside of structured programs. To execute this strategy we set about modernising our Learning & Development approach and capabilities.

2015-dr-alastair-rylatt-ld-professional-of-the-year-finalist-michelle-ockers

Finalist – 2015 AITD L&D Professional of the Year

My time at CCA was a period of significant professional growth – due both to my work experience and self-directed learning. In 2014 I transformed my professional development, as described in, and symbolised by, this blog. I have developed a strong global Personal Learning Network (PLN), adopted Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) and Working Out Loud (WOL) practices. This enabled me to step-up my strategic leadership and implement modern approaches to workplace learning. One business challenge I became particularly interested in is improving the use of knowledge and expertise to improve business performance.

At CCA I had the opportunity to be innovate. I felt I could make a positive difference to the daily work experience of people across the organisation. My role was a vehicle to impact individual, team and organisational performance. I worked with people I liked who were professional, reliable, and cared about what they did. For the most part I did work I enjoyed that gave me a sense of meaning and contribution. However, over time my strengths and interests shifted – and I wasn’t able to find a way to focus on those within CCA.

Why I am now Working Independently

Having realised that it was time to move on, I could have looked for another corporate role. Instead I have chosen to return to working independently. Here are the reasons for this choice.

1)  To focus on work that plays to my strengths and interests – I want to pursue projects that focus on the things I am really good at and that bring me the most satisfaction. In a corporate job I would be in a weaker position to say ‘no’ to elements of the role that don’t meet this criteria. Working for myself increases my position to choose what I work on.

2)  To have greater impact. Working independently extends my reach. My personal vision statement includes the aspiration: “I make a positive difference and leave people, places and organisations in a better state than I found them.” Working with more people and organisations increases my opportunity to make an impact.

3)  To learn even more. When I last worked independently I found that working with a range of organisations accelerated my learning. I get to see what is working well and what could be improved in every project or task I work on. My capacity to create value constantly increases through exposure to a variety of organisations.

4)  To be valued more – As my external profile increased through networking, writing, and speaking, people from other organisations sought me out. They wanted to know more about what I did and how I did it, or to use me as a sounding board for their work challenges and opportunities. This tells me that I have knowledge and experience that I can contribute to others in a range of organisations. As an employee people inside your organisation often value your contributions less because you are one of them and not an external expert.

As an aside, why do people leave it until someone’s farewell to say ‘thank you’ for your contribution and tell you what they appreciated about your work?   Tell a colleague today what you value about their work and thank them.

5)  To improve my productivity – I don’t need to spell this one out in detail – less corporate administration, less organisational politics, fewer distractions and interruptions, less commuting. I’m very good at organising myself and find it easy to focus when working independently.

6) To improve my lifestyle – I want greater flexibility to work when I want in the way I want. Working independently increases my capacity to create balance across the many roles in my life. Another consideration is that while I am still energetic and passionate about my work, I am closer to semi-retirement than high school graduation. I am in a better position to create ongoing income sources working for myself than for an organisation.

laptop-on-grass

What I Will Miss Most

The thing I will miss most is the daily camaraderie and energy of my Academy colleagues. They are professional, reliable, willing to take a risk and try new things, and have a growth mindset. They supported, encouraged, challenged, guided, inspired and motivated me.

What About You?

What is your current work situation? Do you work for yourself, or are you considering this option? Why? Leave a comment to share your experience and thoughts on working independently versus being an employee.

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  1. #1 by arunpradhan on October 1, 2016 - 9:17 am

    Thanks for sharing this. So you are contracting now?
    We should talk!

  2. #2 by Dave Lee on October 1, 2016 - 1:29 pm

    Good luck with your new direction, Michelle. I have had two stints in my career working independently. While I loved being a contractor for many of the reasons you list, I learned a great truth about myself. When I’m working on a project, i throw myself 110% into it. This is an awesome characteristic to have in general. I get focused, tenacious in the face of challenge, and driven to succeed. Unfortunately, this “strength” is borderline suicidal for an independent consultant. I just couldn’t master the half of me focused on the current gig and half of me seeking out the next gig attitude needed for success. So in my current transition back to workplace learning, I’m focusing on joining an organization rather than independent contracting.

    • #3 by Michelle Ockers on October 3, 2016 - 5:10 am

      It’s very good to know yourself when making all sorts of choices in life, including how you work. All the best with your search for a great organisation to join.

  3. #4 by tanyalau on October 5, 2016 - 8:36 am

    Hi Michelle! Really interesting to hear your thought process for this decision. I am also currently thinking through some life & work choices…so it’s interesting to see what factors others consider. Am seeing the importance of considering the whole picture of your life in making decisions about work – to choose a path that enables you to maximise your strengths often results in better balance too. Interesting points about improved productivity when not working within an organisation …it’s incredible how much time & energy can be sapped from being involved in the internal workings of an organisation! This also tends to be the work that isn’t always visible or ‘valued’ but can be important to maintaining the fabric & smooth running of a team or organisation. Look fwd to seeing what you do next – exciting times ahead!

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