A guest post by Emily Nash, co-author with Nadia Finer of ‘More to Life Than Shoes: How to Kick-start Your Career and Change Your Life.’
It all started in the pub, like most great plans in history. My mate Nadia and I were moaning about our jobs. We both wanted to quit – Nadia wanted to start her own business, I wanted to be writer. Loads of our friends were also miserable at work but not doing anything about it. We all needed a kick up the backside and a bit of inspiration but we weren’t finding it.
That night, we made a drunken pact to go out and talk to women who’d made their dreams actually happen to find some inspiration. We spent the next three years interviewing women who made big life changes, and the result was our book, ‘More To Life Than Shoes: How To Kick-start Your Career and Change Your Life.’
We spoke to people from a huge range of careers who’d made sacrifices, taken huge risks and re-branded themselves in pursuit of their dreams. These are five things we learned from them about making the leap.
1. Adopt a split personality
Often when we daydream about what we’d do if we quit our job, we immediately write off the idea because it’s too crazy. We don’t believe we’re brave enough to do it.
Job-changers we spoke to told us that they got over this fear by acting the part of someone brave enough to take that step. There’s something slightly magical about creating a new personality with a crazy streak, and then laying all the responsibility on them.
Preethi Nair was working as a management consultant but dreamed of being a novelist. She quit her job without telling anyone, pretending to leave for work in the mornings and going to the library to write instead.
When she’d finished her novel, she created an alter-ego to act as her publicist, phoning journalists and pretending to ‘put them through’ to herself. She told us, ‘I needed to become somebody else, somebody who was confident, feisty, could accept rejection.’
2. Take a small step today
All that motivational advice about visualizing your dream life and sticking pictures of it above your desk can end up being intimidating rather than inspirational, if the gulf between where you are now and where you want to be seems too big.
Breaking it down into very small steps and then just focusing on the first of them creates do-able goals and gives you frequent feel-good rewards when you tick something off your list.
Preethi Nair told us, ‘Taking a little step towards your goal is the key – it shows commitment and things suddenly start to come your way.’
3. Tell people
Vocalizing your plans to friends, family and even colleagues is daunting, but it can make the idea more concrete in your mind and trigger some curious serendipity as your passion cross-fertilizes with the people around you.
There’s a balance to be struck between ignoring the nay-sayers and taking on board reasonable concerns.
Rebecca Stephens quit her job to go into training for her dream trip: climbing Mount Everest. ‘I was reluctant to tell people. I knew it would sound idiotic. But there comes a time when, if you want to do something, you do have to spill the beans. Unless you do, you won’t meet like-minded people.’
4. Don’t write off your experience
When you’re lusting after a creative or unusual job but your CV is distinctly corporate in flavor, you might think you have no chance of getting picked out of the pile. But don’t assume that just because the experience you have is in a different field that it won’t be considered valuable.
You may just have to work on presenting it in the right way.
Kirsty Joly was entrenched in a career in accountancy when she went for a wing-walking lesson in a stunt plane. ‘Once I tried it,’ she told us, ‘I realized I had no choice. I had to give up my career and make it my job.’ Unsurprisingly, her CV was thin on flying experience, but she re-wrote her assets to show how she could bring value to the team in financial areas. ‘Everyone has transferable skills: you just need to identify what they are and apply them.’
Kirsty says applicants who are making big career jumps can be attractive to employers. ‘If you’ve decided to make a change, you’re actually a lot more convincing than someone who’s just drifted along in their comfort zone for ages. If you’re taking a risk, you’re going to make a huge effort.’
5. Job Creation
It’s all very well making the most of your transferable skills, but it may be that the organization you dream of working for just doesn’t have a job that will utilize them. Rather than assuming they don’t need you, instead look at how you can convince them they can’t do without you.
Ella Heeks became MD of organic veg box company Abel and Cole, but before she called them her job didn’t exist.
She sold herself and her skills, and they created a position to fit her.
She told us, ‘Don’t wait for a job to be advertised. Your ideal role might not even exist yet, so you may need to make it up. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I’d love to work for you but realize you might not have any jobs. Could I talk to you anyway?”’