If you’re just getting started on your career change journey, or you’re stuck in indecision or fear (both very normal!), these simple tips from women who’ve made the leap might just give you the prompt you need to take a step forward.
Tip #1: Have a real conversation with yourself (and others!)
“I think it’s about really being true to yourself and being honest with yourself, and a skills or strengths audit is a beautiful place to start. But also think about, what’s missing from the day to day? What is not feeling satisfying and what would need to come into your work life for it to feel more satisfying? And have conversations with people… through talking to other people, I think you can connect the dots in a way that you can’t necessarily do on your own.”
Emma McMillan built a successful freelance business as a copywriter and copy coach after leaving her teaching career.
Tip #2: Follow your curiosity
“My best advice would be to follow your curiosity. I stole that from Elizabeth Gilbert, who’s the writer of Eat Pray Love, but she also has a TED Talk and I think it’s a podcast as well… and basically if you’re lost and you have this burning desire to do something but you’re not sure what it is, she now says to follow your curiosity. Because for the longest time she was telling people to follow their passion, and I got told that a lot: ‘Follow your passion! What are you passionate about?’ and I genuinely didn’t know… but by following my curiosity of doing pharmacy, tour guiding and then also wanting to help people, it just sort of brought me to where I am now.”
Chamani Weerasekera started her career as a pharmacist and is now making a name for herself as a conscious fashion designer.
Tip #3: Get out of the daily churn
“Take some time out. Go and do a 10-day silent Vipassana [meditation] retreat. Go and fly to India and do a month’s yoga. Get yourself out of your normal environment and give yourself the thinking space. I find that when you’re in your usual churn, your usual thing, it’s hard to see anything different. Even if you don’t want to do yoga, you don’t want to be silent for 10 days, then just go somewhere and get out of your normal environment and maybe even journal. I know, groan! But seriously, you’ve got to have a really good, long, hard conversation with yourself. And it might not take half a day. You might need to go away for a couple of weeks.”
Tamara Pitelen retrained as a sustainability consultant after leaving her media career.
Tip #4: Reality-check your ideas
“If you [think you] want to make a change, you probably really do want to make a change. But I would always advise that you live a week in the job that you want to do because it may not be the right one. You might want to leave for a certain reason, but it’s always good to trial the thing that you want to do (for example, by volunteering or shadowing someone in a similar role) and then that will just make the decision even easier.”
Jane Hutcheon is treading a new path as ‘creator-in-chief’ of her own projects after leaving her high-profile TV career at the ABC.
Tip #5: Focus on what you want, not what other people might think
“I had to recognise that I was really quite concerned about what other people were thinking, so that was the [first] thing I needed help with. And then the second realisation was, they were not thinking about me… I was thinking about what they thought of me, which is a different thing. That was quite a freeing moment.”
Dervilla McGowan is breaking barriers in the world of gin after leaving her career as a research scientist.
Tip #6: Take one step
“Sometimes when we think about the big thing, it [can feel] incredibly overwhelming. But sometimes the changes come from breaking it all the way down to, what is the smallest thing that I can do now? And that might be reading that book or signing up for that course or talking to a friend. Little steps make great changes.”
Melissa Chan has made multiple career changes, from working in PR to working for a PM, to management consulting, making a documentary film and more!
Tip #7: Back yourself!
“[You have] to back yourself, which is really hard if you’ve gone through a stage where you’ve lost confidence. A bit like, I hadn’t interviewed for so long… so it was a bit of a rollercoaster of learning how to rebuild those skills. But just know there’s many ways you can do that. I basically just kept going to anyone saying, ‘What do I need to do?’ I’d go to recruiters and say, ‘Teach me what I need to do’.”
Jen Webster made the move from corporates to charities after going through a redundancy.
Want to hear more?
All of these women have shared their career change stories in Season Four of What She Did Next. Listen in your favourite podcast app or find all of our episodes here.
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