I had worked towards being an ecologist for at least 3 years so I didn’t take the decision to leave lightly. My reasons were multifaceted and complex but the pared back version is this: I have moderate scoliosis which caused unexpectedly high levels of back pain during and after great crested newt surveys and watching briefs. The prescription painkillers I take for my background pain levels knock me out for 8 hours at night meaning I couldn’t handle the consecutive dusk and dawn bat surveys that Thomsons chose to do. As GCN and bat surveys are the bread and butter of larger consultancies, it quickly became clear that it just wasn’t the right job for me at this moment in time. Before leaving, I discussed the issues extensively with my team leader and one of the directors. They were keen to hold on to me and willing to make some allowances but it wasn’t enough to make the role viable. They even offered me a position within the support team instead, having recognised my transferable skill set, general aptitude and excellent work ethic, but I politely declined since it was well outside my field of interest or expertise.
Obviously, I already knew I had this condition before I went to Thomson, but I’ve worked as a subcontractor ecologist and full time field assistant before and always managed. I had in fact been going to the gym for a year to improve my fitness and strength before moving to Thomson, but when it came to such an intense full time position, those improvements just weren’t enough. My team leader herself admitted that Thomson is probably one of the most intense and physically demanding consultancies to work at – demanding so much from their staff is why they’re so successful.
I decided before I even officially left Thomson that I never wanted to feel limited in this way again, so I’ve taken a risk, and instead of jumping straight into another full time job or worrying about immediate career prospects I’m taking some time off to work on ‘me’. Since coming back up North I have started on a physio rehab program aimed at significantly strengthening my core and back muscles. This consists of 1-2 hours of strength and stretching exercises every day, and another form of low impact exercise most days. This does take up a lot of time, but I’ve managed to fit in some geeky self development too, thus far including working on my scientific writing, revising grassland ID skills in the field, and an online course into soil ecology.