This May 22nd sees the annual Carnival of HR, hosted by the irrepressible Doug Shaw.

The theme of this year’s Carnival is “Beginnings” and as my contribution I have decided to put together what is perhaps the most personal post I have written. The reader will have to forgive me while I indulge in a short trawl through a varied career history in order to add some context to what “Beginnings” means for me.

I am 42 years old. I left secondary school in 1989 with a modest clutch of ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels and with no clear idea of what it was I wanted to do with my life. I had an innate artistic talent and I had a couple of really good opportunities to use it that I failed to take advantage of. Most of my contemporaries from school were going straight on to university but I felt sure that it was not for me and I was keen to see what the world had to offer. I could see no sense in studying for an academic qualification that might never be of any practical use to me. There then followed a succession of jobs that were as unsatisfactory in the long run as they were varied in description and number: Trainee army officer; pub manager; restaurant manager; antique polisher; car valet; office clerk; retail manager and so on. Finally, I settled in Financial Services for 8 years where I held senior operational management roles until the collapse of the bank I worked for in 2008 left me redundant. Shortly after that I joined a global real estate services provider, again in an operational management role until once again being made redundant in June 2012. Throughout those last 12 years I led, recruited, coached and mentored lots of people and worked with some incredibly talented individuals, a great many of whom had a real passion for the business and role they were in. It was always the people in organisations that I felt most passionately about and the deathly dull process, politicking and mundane tasks of office life that left me cold and led to the longest hours and the most stress. People were never a source of stress but of opportunity. To learn, to help, to promote and to solace. Those relationships saw me through good times and bad and I think this is, in part, why my professional network is now predominantly made up of creative, passionate, inspired and inspiring HR, OD and L&D practitioners of all hues.

So, what does any of this have to do with “Beginnings”? Well, after redundancy I sat down with my wife and we decided together that if I was ever going to make a living doing something I was naturally gifted at and had a real passion for, that time was now. So I have become a micro-professional, a Consulting Artist. I still have primary daytime childcare responsibilities but around that I have started to build a body of real work with real businesses who are genuinely interested in exploring how to see things differently. My corporate background lends me credibility but it is the artistic talent I never realised on leaving school that results in the tangible output of my vision. At 18 I feared that using that talent for work would mean I would lose the passion for it. In reality nothing could be further from the truth. I recently had the good fortune to work alongside a client during an intense three day leadership programme. A packed schedule and long hours, but it never felt like work. So this is my beginning. Right here. Right now.

As an artist, I believe that creativity is all about beginnings. You start afresh or with a clear vision to build something anew; to embark on evolution or revolution. We each of us hold a creative spark of some sort. Even a deft mind for figures and spreadsheets can be creative in the workplace.

HR can and should be the catalyst to ignite that spark.
So it seems fitting that Carnivals are so often celebrated with fireworks.

Go into the organisations you work with or for and light the blue touchpaper…

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