I found moving back to London from Singapore quite difficult. When I move to a new country the excitement of being somewhere different tends to override any of the discomfort of having to set up a new life, find a new friend network or adjust to the everyday routine of a place. However, moving back to the UK gave me none of the excitement of a new place and all of the hassle of starting again.
It probably didn’t help that I arrived in winter – when the UK doesn’t get that much sunlight. I bought a light box which is designed to help people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder which seemed to help a bit.
I also bought a rice cooker. I’d grown up only eating rice occasionally. But ever since I lived in Singapore I start to miss rice after a few days without.
I moved back to London for a job with a management consultancy. The company, Gallup, is best known for polling but moved into areas such as employee engagement and talent selection. Many of the team had come over from McKinsey & Company which is one of the best known management consultancies in the world.
Gallup published a series of books which made it sound as if the company was on a pro-social mission to improve the happiness of people at work. Once I started working there, I soon realised that I had been quite naive in believing them. The books had been ghost-written (they paid authors to write the books for them) and much of their content had been borrowed from elsewhere. For example their talent selection tool was based on the work of a leading Positive Psychology psychologist who offers a similar tool for free. The morale in the Gallup London office was generally low and it wasn’t much better in their headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska (I was sent there for 5 weeks …. which is another story). It was disappointing to find that a company which was selling employee engagement tools had employees who were often unhappy. I belatedly realised that the company was focused on profit and that it was difficult for me to be solely motivated by money.
Although my experience of working in the corporate world wasn’t positive I learnt a huge amount from it. Although the lessons I learnt weren’t necessarily the ones the company was intending to teach me. When I speak to students considering a psychology career I often encourage them to try working in another field first. Psychology is a career where knowledge of other jobs and alternative experience is a strong advantage. It helps to have some idea of what others have experienced. It also helps to have tried working in a different role. It’s easier to be confident that you really want to be psychologist if you’ve actually experienced an alternative.
My experience at Gallup proved to me that I wanted to have a career in psychology I set about the challenge of becoming a qualified Clinical Psychologist.
You can read about how I got onto the clinical course on this blog post.