As I waited on the phone it felt like a lifetime before an unfamiliar voice picked up and to my horror said the words that I will never forget "Hello Eastern Palace, can I take your order?"
I put the phone down, turned off my computer, picked up my bag and walked.
I got in the lift, left the building and got onto the tube home. It was 3.30pm and I'd just walked out of a well-paid advertising agency role where I was respected, had good prospects and was surrounded by encouraging managers and friends, not to mention a fantastic set of clients who I adored working with.
I came home, cried and beat myself up for getting the digit wrong on a phone number that you will have gathered by now, was for a piece of direct mail that I was responsible for that had very little to do with Chinese food!
I made a rash decision that day that I could not cope with stress. The ad industry was not for me.
A complete perfectionist, I had proof read that telephone number several times but as I now realise with symptoms of stress, the more you try to make everything perfect, the more you miss the very simple things and then every little thing that you miss eats away at your confidence and perpetuates a cycle of self-doubt, low confidence, mistakes and increased stress.
Getting a telephone number wrong was obviously the final straw for me that day, like a lot of people; I waited until I 'perceived' I could not handle the role as opposed to taking more notice and positive action in response to the signs that led up to that day.
When I look back with hindsight on this situation I smile at how insignificant it all seems now and how grateful I am for the learnings that have really helped me drive my career forward:
• Caring too much, at the cost of your health is not a sustainable strategy for career success. When you're conscientious, advice like 'it's only a job' doesn't help, but what does is gaining perspective and having other activities that focus your energy.
• Your personality and reputation can be the most important building blocks for great work.
• Belief in yourself and your abilities can become like personal armour, helping you to cope with difficult situations with confidence, no matter how 'stressful' they are perceived to be.
• Perhaps most importantly, doing a job you love is by far the most important factor in limiting stress.
I called the NABS helpline that day; the charity helping improve life for those working in the world of advertising and media. A guy I had worked with at the agency had mentioned them to me before, but I was dubious about what they could really do for me.
I spoke to an advisor and explained what had just happened and how I had seen a job post on their website for a Support Advisor role within the company. After an interview process I was hired by NABS and began to embark on a programme of training and coaching for my new role, everything from employment law and state benefits experience, to coaching skills and, you guessed it... stress management!
I have been at NABS for 7 years and am now Director of Partnerships, building relationships with ad and media industry heads and driving mass engagement with NABS to help industry employees reach success in a healthier, more balanced, less stressful way. We do this through peer-to-peer networking, mentoring, coaching and talks with industry leaders who share their learnings to ensure the next generation of rising stars are better equipped to cope in the fast paced industry environment.
As NABS embarks on another brand new launch, the Resilience Programme, aimed at giving industry individuals new skills and tools to build mental toughness to high pressured situations I can't help but join the numerous people who have said to me over the years, "I wish I had known about NABS when..."
I fully champion organisations like ours that provide support to rising stars and I salute the Third Metric debate for pioneering this step change. Pressure will always exist, in life, at work, (in proofing copy!) but with the right tools stress can wash off us without draining our colour.