How to Finally Make that Career Change


Careers are something that we start thinking about from the start of secondary school but oddly enough seem to be the thing that “happens” to us rather than it being something of our choice.

I have met a lot of miserable people at work. I’ve worked in 4 different teams during my career in financial services and there is always that one character in the team who is just fed up. Fed up of management, the repetitiveness of their job, unsure what they want to do but sure it’s not this and in the end conclude that they should stay for the money.

All the grumpy people I know
Me as a graduate
When I was a bright eyed bushy tailed graduate – and I was the bushiest tailed #JustPleasedToBeHere graduate, I spoke to a lot of people while trying to decide what I wanted to do long term in finance. Whenever I asked other team members what got them into doing their role….it was one of those weirdly awkward conversations which quickly goes downhill and you are left trying to find something pleasant to say like “that’s nice” at the end of the tragic tale.

Some great ones were:

“I always wanted to work outdoors as a landscape gardener but there isn’t really a lot of money in that and the weather is never great here (Edinburgh). Then I got married and had kids…so I’m doing this now”

“I studied Middle Eastern languages at Cambridge University because I just wanted to get into Cambridge.”

“We are completely replaceable, what I am doing a monkey could do and if I left tomorrow it would make no difference to them, they would have someone else in here tomorrow”


“I’d rather not talk about my reasons, I’d prefer to keep that private”
– that happened to me in an interview.

Four years into my career and I had started to realise I wasn’t loving this anymore. To be honest, I doubt I was ever really in love, I never got emotionally involved with a financial product but how could I even dare to think like this!

I had stressed myself out in my final year of university and couldn’t believe I had managed to get onto a graduate scheme with a reputable investment bank. I swore I would never leave! NEVER (for fear they would realise I was totally useless and never take me back).

Secondly, in all honesty, who else was going to pay me as much, I would have to start from the bottom again and there is no time to look back! All of my friends are moving forward and I have to keep up in the rat race. Run ratty! Run!

I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had quite a few different interests, nothing that I could commit to as a career – I oscillated between World’s best Shoe Purchaser Ever and Advocate for World Peace (both fantasies were pretty spectacular). And lastly, what qualities did I have? I once told lovely husband that he was excellent at maths (which is true and seemed like a marketable quality) when I asked him what I was good at he replied….."You are a nice person".


Great, my fate was sealed. You can’t write “general all round nice gal” on your CV. I was doomed.

But long gone were the days of the girl who said when she got her first bonus “I’m just happy that they thought of me”…..disgusting I know.

When I started to think about it, lovely husband wasn't wrong to pick out a quality like "nice person". I started to think about how people describe me and I realised that you have to think about your qualities in a broader way than just looking at your current work experience and qualifications. It helped me to decide what I was interested in doing.

So here I am taking a sabbatical from my perfectly good job, off to do a masters in the area of war studies of all things. I would never have imagined doing this.

For me, I had to let go of my old way of thinking – that prestige and making money were the only things valued by others and that is what I must value too. At one point working in corporate finance was exactly what I wanted. I was a student needing to prove my M.A in Economics was worth something. But it wasn’t enough anymore. At the end of the day, it’s you who is doing that job day in day out for the best part of the day and when you walk out of there, no one knows if you are a neurosurgeon or a Zumba instructor (ok, unlikely to mistake me for a Zumba instructor…these hips don’t lie about hand-eye coordination). 

And money, well, if the situation became dire there was nothing preventing me from pushing money higher up the priority list when I needed to again. The pay cut was something I would just have to accept. And in my case, I was lucky beyond lucky. So many people would love to be in the position to take a year out of work, change careers, or just take the time to do something they have always wanted to do. For me to have every opportunity in front of me and still not take it….was just silly.

Me throwing away a perfectly good salary and a comfortable job

I have that excitement again. I don’t regret the time I spent in finance at all, I might even come back to do something else at some point but I will make sure I choose something I am interested in. I don’t know exactly what career I will land in right now or where this will take me but for the next year I am happy to be studying something I am interested in.

So, if you want to make a change, small or big, pursue a new career or just pursue a new interest on the side, bite the bullet and do something about it! Here is how.

Think about your qualities – Think about the things people say about you. Soft skills count just as much as hard skills.

What are your interests? – Don’t try and come up with viable professions, try and come up with interests. Research those interests and there is a job somewhere with your name on it. It might take time to get there but the pursuit will make you happier than being stagnant.

What are your motivations – Take time to understand what drives you. Think about past jobs you have had, what aspects did you enjoy?

Research – It will take time, but it must be done. Google is your best friend. Talk to your friends and family, the jobs people have had will surprise you. It might not be exactly what you want but it will give you an idea.

Work out the Numbers – Track your expenses and calculate how much money you would realistically need. Remember, the income you start off on in your new job will only be temporary. You will build yourself up again.

Transferable skills – Think about your experience so far. There are always transferable skills from your current job and hobbies.

Start moving in the right direction – Sometimes the long game is required. You might not be able to jump into the ideal job straight away but start moving in the right direction! Take a junior role or a role that will open more doors.

Volunteer – Not sure if an area is right for you? Don’t jump ship. Try it out. Be proactive and contact people within your interested area. Someone will always be willing to talk to you.

Patience – It takes time to figure out all of the above, but if you persevere then in the worst case scenario it will take you a good three years to figure it out like me but the alternative is you continue to plod along and nothing changes. 

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