There comes a point in your career where you have to decide to try harder or give up. Fact. That point came for me at age 27. I had been working in arts fundraising since graduating and had made some progress up the career ladder but had hardly excelled at my job. When my line manager left and her job came up, colleagues inevitably asked if I was going to go for promotion. I fobbed them off by saying I wasn’t ready, that I wanted to gain more experience and that I would get that by working with a new manager. The truth was that I didn’t want the job. Simple as that. What wasn’t so obvious (to me anyway) was why I didn’t want the job.
Over the weeks that followed I did some serious soul searching about why getting a promotion didn’t appeal to me. At first I blamed the organisation I worked for. Maybe it wasn’t the right environment for me to really thrive. So I started to look around at other organisations for that next rung on the career ladder. I had reached the point in my career when I had to try harder. After several months of searching I admitted defeat. There were no jobs out there that appealed to me. Why? The truth, I came to realise, was that I found my career boring and just didn’t see myself doing it long-term. It was time to give up.
Lifestyle is more important than finding your passion when it comes to changing career
To cut a long story short, I spent close to a year finding a new career. I’d love to say I ‘found my passion’ but that would be a lie. If you’re looking for an inspirational guide about leaving your corporate career behind to pursue your dream then this isn’t for you. Stop reading now.
The fact is, I don’t neccessarily believe your job has to be your passion in order for you to enjoy it. It’s more important that your job fits the lifestyle you want to lead. For example, a friend of mine was really passionate about her allotment. So therefore she should look for jobs as a gardner right? Wrong. Pottering about on her allotment to feed her family is very different from being a landscape gardener, working for clients who want half their garden covered in wooden decking! So instead, she got a job as a Postman. Where’s the logic in that, you might ask. Well, being a Posty meant her working day was over by 2pm, so she could then spend the rest of it pottering about on her allotment. For her it was win win. She gets to pay the bills whilst having time to pursue her passion.
How I started a new career in four simple steps
1. Firstly, I ditched the crap written by ‘experts’ about finding my passion and identifying my transferable skills. I wanted a total career transformation, certainly not one were my report writing skills would come into play! So I started in reverse and tried to pin down all the things I hated about my job. Top of the list was sitting at a desk all day producing masses of paperwork that just got filed away never to see the light of day again. It became clear to me that I needed a more practical career.
2. Next I looked to friends and family for inspiration. My sister is a radiographer and I liked the practical element of her job and the fact that she couldn’t bring work home with her. For a while I even went back to college doing an evening class in biology but soon realised the whole science/health thing really wasn’t for me. I had a friend who retrained as a plumber and whilst the thought of unblocking u-bends for a living didn’t appeal, I did like the idea of having a trade. After months of having all this stuff swimming around in my head, my eureka moment came whilst talking to an artist’s assistant. This guy had made three perfect marble spheres completely by hand. I was in awe. And that’s when it hit me. I needed to produce something physical, I needed a craft. I had at last found the focus of my new career search.
3. I immediately started researching different crafts to see what fitted with my interests. I narrowed it down to traditional building crafts as I had an interest in historic architecture, having done a degree in Heritage Studies. I contacted relevant organisations to find out about routes into the career and checked job adverts to see what qualifications and experience employers were looking for.
4. It was the Roman philosopher Seneca who said ‘luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’. Well I guess I got lucky. Having decided that I wanted to try and secure an apprenticeship in stonemasonry, I was looking for somewhere I could get some work experience to put on my CV. The cathedral in my home town had it’s own workshop so I went onto their website to see if I could find the correct person to contact. Out of interest I clicked on the ‘Get involved’ page. My heart skipped a beat as the page uploaded and there in front of me was a job advert for an Apprentice Stonemason! I applied. I got the job. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
My advice to anyone looking for a change in career is keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to experiment. People will tell you you’re making a mistake, that what you are doing is a massive risk. In truth, if you hate what you do, then you have nothing to lose. And let’s face it, all your years of experience aren’t wiped off your CV just because you change career. If you hate your new career then just quit and go back to your old one. The likelihood is that you won’t look back. I certainly haven’t.