Being a female high achiever in the corporate world is challenging enough, but being a female high achiever in the banking industry is harder still and I relished my position as a senior executive at a large investment bank.
I’d taken time off to have two children and was proud of the fact I was back at the helm swiftly after each birth, seemingly juggling the demands of being a mum and a busy executive with ease. But what I didn’t see at the time was that I was actually working harder, being ever more demanding of myself than many of my male colleagues. I felt that I couldn’t show any glimpse of weakness or vulnerability and so pushed myself to the limits.
My performance at work was outstanding. I knew that not only from my bosses’ comments and my performance reviews, but from the huge amounts of money I was bringing into the bank and the bonuses I was earning. However, the harder I worked the less satisfied I seemed to be. I was growing disillusioned and cynical about my job, about co-workers and even clients. Whereas before I’d been excited to go into work each day, I now found myself dragging myself in reluctantly and taking little satisfaction in my achievements. It made no sense to me because I knew I loved my job. And knew how good I was at it.
Thankfully, I had a close friend and mentor who was able to see what was happening to me and explained, patiently, that I hadn’t suddenly ceased to be good at my job, I had just grown tired and disillusioned and needed to refocus. I made the decision to quit and take a three month sabbatical at the Phoenix Individual Retreat, taking time to focus on me, to recharge and re-evalute my life. My family were incredibly supportive and rented a property for a month near to where I was staying, so they were able to take part in my programme too.
I returned to London after three months and, within a few weeks, had three job offers, including one at my old firm. In the end, I chose one which also gave me the opportunity to oversee staff wellbeing and help others facing similar challenges to my own.