• Stephen Hanlon

One Door Closes as Another Opens

Updated: Feb 3, 2020

This past Monday night I was fortunate enough to sit down and have a lovely meal with a fantastic group of people as I bid farewell to An Óige – Irish Youth Hostel Association after almost 2 years working for the organisation in a marketing capacity.

Every leaving meal is kinda like The Last Supper

To say I had mixed emotions about leaving is an understatement. While I hope I’ll be moving onto something that turns out to be bigger and better, An Óige will always hold a special place in my heart. It was probably the first place I actually enjoyed working, which says a lot as I’ve almost 5 years’ experience in various public relations and/or marketing positions. But while other companies or agencies I have been part of taught me a lot, they always took a little bit of me with them, and not in a good way. I used to come home each day and found myself both mentally and physically drained and hating the idea of having to go back the following day for more of the same. An Óige never felt like this. It never felt like work. It felt like fun.

There are many reasons why I didn’t like my previous positions. Some I was just bad at because I lacked a passion or enthusiasm to give my fullest to the role. Others were so stagnant that a day often seemed like a week, and the lack of work or prospect of gathering future clients really sucked the fun out of what could and should have been a great place to work. Another I despised due to the snobbish workforce, the majority of whom thought of themselves as God’s gift to the world and who wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire to put you out. But overall, most places I worked felt the need to constantly look over my shoulder ever five minutes as if they lacked a belief that I could be left to my own devices and get the work done.

If you don't think this once a day, do you even work?

My first day working for An Óige, I was given a quick induction by the then Marketing Manager Roy, and was left to get on with it. While I know this isn’t the norm for most organisations, it was a refreshing approach and one that I appreciated. The fact that trust was placed in me to do the work without management feeling the need to constantly check in on my progress was liberating.

And it was a trust that was rewarded in kind. For the two years I was with An Óige, I produced some of the best work I have in my professional career. I went to work almost every day with a smile on my face. Just how many can say that and mean it? By the time I decided to move on, I had achieved more than I could have ever imagined when I first met with Roy and the Programmes Coordinator Colin for an interview to decide if I was a suitable fit for the organisation. During my two years at An Óige I managed to achieve the following milestones which I am proud of;

  • Co-created the An Óige Environmental Week which saw (in 2018) the organisation achieve its highest ever Facebook and Twitter statistics, and (in 2019) achieve the most traffic the An Óige website ever achieved through social media clicks.

  • Established the HI Family campaign which saw the highest number of engagements from other HI countries in over 5 years and has since seen other HI organisations follow suit and do the same.

  • Built from scratch a brand new Wordpress website for the organisation.

  • Increased the traffic to the An Óige website by 34.4%.

  • Won Best Facebook for an NGO at the 2019 Sockie Awards.

  • Restructured the An Óige Google Adwords campaigns which led to an increase of 56.9% more clicks.

Not bad for a guy who entered into the role dejected with his professional career and unsure what the future held.

If I was to buy myself a leaving card, this would be it!

I can honestly say that two years later I’m a completely different person. I’ve left An Óige a far more confident person who no longer second guesses every decision he makes. I’ve also made some incredible friendships for life along the way, and while I know that An Óige wasn’t perfect, for me, it was definitely the saving grace that helped springboard me into the marketing professional I am today.

So I guess the moral of this piece is that while there may be organisations and staff within the workplace that make you miserable and hate going to work every day, there are also those that will do the opposite and allow you to enjoy what you do to the point it becomes more than just a pay check at the end of the month. I just hope that if you’re not already in one of these places, that you find one someday soon!

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