From Customer Service to Learning and Development: My Journey at Leaderful Action
By Nick Kilby Learning Co-ordinator
We recently held our Associates Day, where we had a chance to meet up with some of the great people that we work with.
We started the session with an icebreaker, where everyone introduced themselves to the group, giving a little bit on their background and how long they’d worked with Leaderful Action. For me, having just passed the six week mark, being in a room full of L&D professionals with decades of experience between them was both inspiring and a little intimidating. To quote Disney Pixar’s Encanto (I have a 2 year old son so basically speak in Pixar quotes these days):
“Surrounded by the exceptional, it's easy to feel unexceptional.”
Prior to joining Leaderful Action I’d worked in Customer Service for almost nine years. I’d had the opportunity to take part in a few L&D projects over the years and had always really enjoyed them but, for some reason, had never considered pursuing L&D as a career. Looking back, I’d say I was safely in my comfort zone and it was only when the option to take voluntary redundancy came up that I gave serious thought to what I actually wanted to do. It seemed like the right time for me to take a leap of faith and try a new path.
When my redundancy came into effect, I allowed myself a month of downtime- to relax, to reflect, and to plan my next career move. This month of relaxed contemplation quickly came and went though and, while I was no closer to ‘finding myself’, the task of finding a new job loomed large and scary. One month became two, two became three and, with the novelty of spending all day in my pyjamas long since worn off, the realities of unemployment had well and truly set in. It is, for many, a time of anxiety, stress and self-doubt. Compounded, in my case, by the fact that I was trying to break into a new sector in which I had very little formal experience.
When I saw the advert for the role at Leaderful Action I applied immediately. It was not just the role that interested me but the company itself. I really liked the ethos of helping people to achieve their potential. I’ve also always found psychology and psychometric tests fascinating and the company’s use of these really appealed to me.
I prepped hard for the interview and, minus a few silly answers from me (Director: “What do you think a psychometric test would say about you?” Me: “That I’m very employable?”), felt that it went really well. I got a call later that afternoon to say that unfortunately I didn’t get the job but that there was the option to do some freelance work, if I wanted. It wasn’t the outcome I had hoped for but I was grateful for the excuse to change out of my pyjamas twice a week and, more importantly, the opportunity to gain some real experience in L&D.
Two weeks later, on a Friday evening as I was wrestling my son out of the bath, Natalie
called to tell me they were offering me a full-time job. I was over the moon. And wet. But mainly over the moon. I was going to be a Learning Coordinator. I’d officially made it into L&D. I no longer had to perform verbal gymnastics on my CV and LinkedIn profile to show how my skills and previous experience matched up with the jobs I was after. I no longer had to watch people’s eyes glaze over as I defensively explained how I had previously worked in Customer Service, was hoping to move into Learning and Development but was currently not working at all (the postman stopped asking how my day was going after the third time this happened).
This feeling of jubilation didn’t immediately vanish (in fact, I’m happy to say that I’m still able to tap into it) but it was soon joined by feelings that were all too familiar: anxiety and self-doubt. Instead of worrying about breaking into a new sector, paying the bills and supporting my family I was now worrying about how I was going to actually do the job. How to convince a company that had put their trust in me that they had not made a huge mistake, how to hide my natural clumsiness or the fact that, contrary to what I may have said on my CV, I was not an expert on Excel.
The transition from customer service has not been without its challenges. The nature of the sector meant that, unless I had been assigned to a project, there was little need to manage my own schedule and workload. There was an entire department that did that for me, in fact; telling me when to come in and when to go home, when to take a break or have my lunch. I’d always longed for more freedom and responsibility but, once I got it, I initially struggled to adapt, feeling a little like Morgan Freeman’s character in The Shawshank Redemption, after he has been released from prison but still cannot go to the toilet without asking for permission (just to be clear- I’m not actually comparing customer service to prison).
Fortunately for me, I had a great team around me. In fact, I could genuinely not have found a nicer or more supportive organisation for my first L&D role. Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming, going out of their way to make me feel a part of the team. Nobody even complained when I broke the laminator (and then broke it some more in my attempts to fix it). I’ve been eased gently into my responsibilities whilst still getting to try my hand at a wide variety of work. I’ve been supported all the way and have been assured that there is no such thing as too many questions. I was also given my own Insights profile, which I have already found to be incredibly useful in understanding my own behaviour and that of others. I honestly found its assessment of me to be spookily accurate, as did my wife when she read it.
All in all, my journey from customer service to L&D has, like most journeys, had its highs and lows but I am happy to say that I consider myself to be on a high point right now. I’ve already learned so much and seen my confidence grow. The journey is far from over though and, after meeting some of our associates, I’ve seen some of the exciting places it may lead. I’m sure there’ll be further challenges down the road but, with a great team to support me, I’m sure I’ll be able to meet them head on.