When I was very small, I remember my wonderful Yorkshire grandpa saying to me “Find something that you enjoy doing, and then find someone who will pay you to do it!” I used to laugh at him, but I now understand that he was telling me to find my passion and make it my career.
After many years working in Human Resources for the local council, I began to realise that this was not where my heart lay. Although I was in a good job with a salary to match, I dreaded going to work each day. I was demotivated and struggled to make decisions or to stand up for my beliefs in such a large organisation.
I was working on disciplinaries, grievances, and attendance management – all of which were adversarial, with a winner and a loser. I felt uncomfortable about this but didn’t know why until I was given the opportunity of taking voluntary redundancy. At this point, I took some time out to reflect on what was bothering me.
I made a list of everything that I enjoyed in my life, and I came to the conclusion that my passion in life is helping others. I have been visually impaired since birth, and often have to ask others for assistance, but it was very rare I am asked for a favour by someone else.
I took voluntary redundancy without a clear vision of what to do next. I have a Law degree and wanted to return this if I could. I did some research and discovered the Society of Will Writers. Of course, I knew that solicitors can write Wills, but I had never heard of independent Will Writers who visit clients at home. This is not surprising as there are only around 600 in England. I retrained and joined the Society in May 2011.
My passion for my new venture drove me on to overcome the associated challenges. My visual impairment means that I am not allowed to drive, and yet I was setting up a business (during a recession) where I would be visiting clients at home throughout Nottinghamshire and beyond.
I may have said that I don’t like confrontation, but I rang Access to Work – a government organisation that provides transport for disabled employees to help them to stay in employment. Normally they would fund a specific daily journey from home to the office, and when I said I would like transport to clients throughout my local area, there was a pause at the end of the telephone line! But finally, they agreed. I then spoke to friends and family, and members of my local community and “recruited” some volunteer drivers. They choose which jobs they want to do each week and are paid an hourly rate and mileage for driving me. I couldn’t run my business without them.
I was also anxious that clients would think I was unprofessional because of my disability – but I have been proved wrong on this countless times. Many of my clients are unaware of my challenges, but those who know have given me lifts home, or an extra cup of tea while waiting for a taxi. In ten years, I have been amazed at how understanding people can be.
I love my job and never dread going to work now. I enjoy sitting in clients’ homes (or speaking over Zoom) and listening to them as they tell me about their lives. I need to know about their wealth, their health, and their relationships. Some wise person once said to me that the best gift you can give to someone is to listen to their life story – and this is what I do. I work from home, so have plenty of time with my family. My office is full of thank you cards from clients – including from the families of those who have passed away – and I look at these regularly. I have also had gifts from clients – lots of fruit and veg from allotments, and on one memorable occasion two bunches of yellow roses (I was on the bus that day, and getting them home was interesting).
I am not telling you this story to impress you. But I hope it will make an impression. My point is, everything is easier when you are working with your own values, and in line with your passion. I love my job, and my clients can see this in the way that I deal with them. It does not feel like work.
I urge everyone to follow my example and find their passion in life. My grandfather died when I was 14 but his words stayed with me for a reason, and at the age of 40, I finally heard him. Can you hear him too?
Also, if you ever need a favour – please just ask!
Amanda Harris LLB (Hons) MSWW.