Elizabeth Sheeran recently left a career in IT consultancy to work in coffee. Here she talks about the small changes you can make prior to leaving to prepare for your big escape.

I have been an Escape the City reader since it started and attended one of their events back in August. It convinced me that my decision to leave my job in September was the right path. I had been working in IT consulting for five years but I couldn’t shake my long held dream of working in coffee.

However, such a big change seemed overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start. After a couple of years of being unhappy in my job, I decided to take control of my career path and make small changes to prepare me for a career change when the time was right.

It is always going to be scary to leave the security of your big city job, however, there are ways to mitigate your determined risks and prepare for the new life you dream of. Here are some of the actions I took to get ready for the big jump!

Define your priorities

It’s not always possible to know exactly what career you want to move into but it is possible to define the things you want to prioritise in your ideal life. I knew I could survive without the little luxuries in life but I wanted enough savings to start a business or invest in property if needs be. This gave me something to work towards whilst still in my consulting job.

Sometimes friends and family can actually be unhelpful when you are going through this process, so if you are getting a lot of unwanted opinions, I suggest keeping quiet about your escape plans! My parents lived through two recessions and the thought of their oldest daughter jumping ship for a minimum wage job actually brought my mother to tears. Now that I’ve left, she is supportive but if you are scared it’s likely the people that love you are doubly scared for you!

Skill Up

I spent almost three years living in hotels. The shine of having your bed made soon wore off when I was working 12 hour days and fending off the advances of the adolescent porter over my dinner tray of microwaved curry. Living like a warped Alan Partridge made it difficult to appreciate the value of working in the corporate job.

Your saving powers are strong, the opportunity to attend courses on subject matter close, and sometimes quite distant, from your day to day job are easily attainable (often paid for!) and finally, the rigorous training of city jobs gives you a discipline far better than your student days of watching marathon runs of Deal Or No Deal at university. If you can hold on a little, you can get what you need from your city career to help you in the next career turn you take.

Just before I left work, I completed the City & Guilds Barista certification. It is not necessary in order to be a good barista but it did help me get on top of the subject and meet useful contacts in my next stage of getting a job in the industry.

Clean Up

The London city scene can be one of debauched boozing and corporate credit card one-upmanship (tell me who hasn’t flashed that AMEX in their first six months of a graduate job?). But if you don’t like your job, avoid buying into the lifestyle. If you do manage to escape the job, it’s unlikely you will be able to maintain those frequent trips to your local Hawksmoor for that burger.

I started cleaning out my life about six months before I left my job. I sold a lot of thoughtless purchases on Ebay, reviewed my spending habits and went on a shopping diet. I tracked my expenditure and started maintaining a personal profit and loss sheet. It was a real eye opener and helped me reach my saving goal prior to leaving.

What now? I’m earning 20% of my previous salary and it’s not hurting quite as much as it could have.

Keep the Faith

Finally, as my dad says, keep the faith. Not everyone yearns for adventure in their career. That drive for something more is a gift that will drive you forward to success. Although I have not finished my plan yet, I do feel a sense of freedom and self-control I didn’t have in my old career. I’m determining my own fate and it feels good. What’s the worst that can happen?

Everyone will have a different way of finding a job they love. For me, it was the small steps over a couple of years that allowed me to finally take the leap! I started working as a barista in a tiny West London café in November. Eventually, I want to open my coffee shop but for now I’m happy and excited to finally work in my dream job.

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