Stuck in a rut at work and feeling unfulfilled? Four people who have successfully changed careers share their stories
We are expected to know from an early age what career we would like, but what happens if you decide you no longer want to do the job you have?
We spend an average of 3,507 hours working in our lifetimes, according to a study by the Association of Accounting Technicians, which is a lot of time if you are stuck in a job you hate.
Here, four workers share their stories on how they changed job, the difference it made, and their advice for others wanting to do the same.
Firefighter to freelance musician
“I dreamt of being a session musician”
Tobias Wilson, 51, who lives in Staffordshire, is due to leave the fire service in February after 25 years, forgoing his firefighter’s pension to become a freelance musician.
In his 20s, his dream was to be a musician, but he could not earn enough money from it. Instead of giving up his banjo, he worked on his music on a part-time basis. He now earns around £4,500 a month taking on music projects for businesses around the world.
“I have had an amazing career in the fire service, but I have also played music since I was four and this has always been my first love,” he says.
“I dreamt of being a session musician, but I wasn’t able to earn a viable income through it. Instead, I signed up to the freelancing website, Fiverr, which has meant I’ve been able to work for businesses around the world and this has made changing my career possible.”
Tobias has freelanced for a few years and has found most of his jobs on the website. There are several similar sites that match up freelancers with potential employers for short-term opportunities. These can be useful to give you an idea of what life would be like working full-time in a new career.
Tobias says it is always worth researching a new job market to find out what people are looking for, what you can offer them, and how much they are likely to pay you.
“I am lucky that I have been able to build up the freelancing income while also having a full-time job, so I have been able to prove that I have a sufficient and sustainable freelancing income before making the leap of faith,” he adds.
Marketeer to blogger
“There is a lot you can do before you quit”
Steph Douglas, 38, quit her job in brand and marketing for the Government and London 2012, after her blog on motherhood became popular and she realised there was a potential to make money from it.
“I started the blog before the business because I wanted to connect with people and see if I would be able to start a business myself,” she says.
Steph, who has three children Buster, eight, Mabel, six, and Frank, two, lives in Richmond, South West London. After her blog became popular, she then launched her online gift package business called Don’t Buy Her Flowers.
The website sells a wide range of gift packages from those for new parents and pregnant mothers to gifts for those who are ill or just people in need of a pick-me-up.
Steph says you need to have a realistic expectation of what will happen if you change careers including your finances and if your earnings will change.
“There is a lot you can do ahead of leaving your job to hold on to that security a bit longer – starting the blog grew my network and people were already engaging with what we were doing before we launched Don’t Buy Her Flowers.
“I spent my evenings and weekends researching products and competitors and writing a business plan. A lot of people start their business as a side project initially, while working. If you have a plan as to when to make that switch, it does add a layer of safety,” she adds.
How to boost your CV
• Choose your keywords deliberately: many employers will use computer software to scan CVs before they make their way to human eyes. >
• Be specific: when you list your accomplishments on your CV, be sure to include the context, action and result of your actions.
• If you have a blog, website or more useful information on a social media profile, link to this on your CV.
• Depending on what industry you are applying to, a non-traditional CV might help you stand out. Cre-ative industries or creative roles lend themselves more naturally to visual, dynamic and interactive CVs.
IT account manager to founder of vegan marketplace
“Having several jobs allows you to pick up new skills”
There are no rules on when you change careers, whether this is early or later in life, and Himani Sharma, 27, from London is proof of this. She was previously an IT account manager and now runs her own vegan marketplace, CARMA.
“I was able to earn and save money in my previous job as an IT account manager and I’ve used this to invest in something I really believe in.
“When it comes to food, it has never been easier to eat vegan but shopping for cruelty-free fashion, beauty, and lifestyle products is still difficult,” she says.
Himani saw a gap in the market to create a shop where people could go to without having to worry about where the products had been sourced from.
“Working in different industries and having several jobs is important as it allows people to absorb as much knowledge as possible and to pick up new skills. This also allows you to see the achievements and pitfalls of decisions being made and you can take the ones that work for you,” she says.
Himani adds: “If you genuinely want a change in your job, ask yourself what is stopping you. Eliminate or solve those issues now and then think about what change you want to make with your career.”
Changing jobs is not just for younger people either. Stuart Lewis, founder of the job and advice website for over-50s, Rest Less, says: “Today’s over-50s are fundamentally healthier and more active than previous generations, which has led to a significant increase in those taking on a new challenge, retraining or simply switching careers in later life.
“With potentially 20 years of active employment left, many are using this time as an opportunity to think about what they really want to do, rather than continuing the career they fell into in their 20s.”
Try an internship
One way to try something new without fully committing is to try an internship.
Jo Cresswell, careers expert at jobs website Glassdoor, says: “As career-pivoting becomes common, it is no longer seen negatively to start again from the bottom, and older workers are embracing this,” she says.
NHS workers to photography teachers
“There will always be challenges and learning curves”
Lincoln Roth, 56, and Perrin Read, 54 launched a business together in 2016 teaching photography classes, and quit their previous jobs in 2018.
“Both our fathers passed away within a year of each other and clearing their belongings brought home to us just how short life is.
“We’d seen other people deciding to change their lives and said to each other, ‘why isn’t that us?,’” Perrin says.
Before making the change, they both worked in different areas of the NHS. The couple from Leeds offer their photography skills to private and business clients for anything from headshots and business profiles to bespoke portraits.
“We love the fact our lives are spontaneous and not governed by the nine-to-five routine. We may be working all day Sunday but then we can sit in a quiet cinema on a Wednesday afternoon,” Perrin explains.
I asked Perrin her best piece of advice for others wanting to change careers.
She says: “Ask yourself why do you want to change careers at this age? If you have the answer to that question, then the ‘how’ part of it doesn’t matter. There will be challenges and learning curves, just focus on ‘why’.”
Four tips to help you change careers
1 Make a list of the job you’d like to do and decide what you want, why you want it, and what qualifies you.
2 Build a skills-based CV highlighting transferable skills, which will be relevant to jobs you are applying for.
It is not what you know, it is who you know. Reach out to your network for advice, mentoring and introductions.
3 Do you research: before you quit your current job, make sure you know exactly what a new job will bring. Do you have the right skills for it and, if not, is there a course you can take to get you there? There are lots of free (and discounted) courses online, or your new employer may agree to pay.
4 Depending on your situation, you may need to dip into your savings if your new role does not pay as highly as your previous job. Before handing in your notice, look at how your income will change, and for how long that will be the case. An emergency buffer can help as you don’t want to fall into debt if your income takes a dip.