Career Change Advice: It Can Be Done
This weeks post, on how to change your career, is brought to you by a lovely friend of mine, Ellen Lloyd. Enjoy :)
“Pee into the wind”
Lucy and I have little in common.
She is diminutive and slim (Ed: Thanks mate....but diminutive, I ain't) I am tall(ish) and have few extra cheeseburger-shaped bumps around my mid-section. She has an infectious smile and amazing laugh, whereas I came out of the womb with RBF (that’s Resting Bitch Face to those not yet down with the kids). If we were famous people, Lucy would be Natalie Portman (Ed: Ellen is somewhat visually impaired....;) ) and I would be Lena Dunham (but with less aggressive feminist views and bigger boobs).
So imagine my surprise, after frantically trying to re-add old friends and acquaintances on Facebook after rejoining for about the 18th time, I discover that she and I do indeed have something in common…
It transpired that, unbeknown to us both, we had both taken a daring plunge into a previously unknown scary world: the career change.
So here’s my story…
In 2007 I was lucky enough to finally, FINALLY, be offered a job. After a year of searching, applying, interviewing, temping (a soul-destroying experience if ever there was one!), someone finally saw fit to give me a job. And this was no ordinary job. This was a job at a very prestigious high street retailer, part of a very prestigious entertainment company run by a very prestigious rodent. A company with whom I had had employment-related dalliances with in the past and whom I loved to the very core of my being. It doesn’t matter that I had no idea what the job role was, or what it meant, or what I’d be doing. I had arrived.
As with all jobs there were pros (An actual salary. Sample sales. Meeting Lucy, obvs!) and, for a time, these far outweighed the cons (a 90-minute commute, annoying bosses, menial tasks). But fast forward five or so years when I found myself still doing the same job, still being treated with a contempt that only arises from being on the very bottom rung of a corporate ladder and having people be promoted over me, I was getting to the end of my tether. To be totally fair to the employer, I had an 18 month gap where I left and then came skulking back, so had set myself back a short way and this was entirely my own fault. Hands up. Taken the blame.
The commute had got no better (worse, in fact, if you take the rising cost of London train fares into account), the pay hadn’t really risen and yet the expectations on me had. Performance reviews (the very bane of my entire existence, whether at work, in school, or just when my mum tells me off!) were making me jaded, angry and had whittled my attitude down from feisty, tenacious and ready to fight back to just apathetic and with minion like futility.
My previous love for the company I worked for was bleeding over into resentment and I just hated everything about my life. I was out of my house for more hours than I was in it, for no gratitude or recognition and I had no time or inclination to enjoy anything. Everything was about work and I was a big fat fed up.
Then a light bulb moment! “I know. I’ll get a new job!”. Easier said than done, but eventually (two years later!) the employment gods shone down on me and I left to go elsewhere.
Onto a new chapter. My commute improved (a record 20-minutes shaved off!), my salary increased, my responsibilities greater and this new place was truly grown up. I mean I nearly fell off my chair the first time we had a drink IN THE OFFICE. AN ACTUAL ALCOHOLIC DRINK. (NB: I did not fall off my chair from the alcohol).
And they got me business cards. And a company credit card. I mean, this was the real deal. I finally felt like someone who was making it in life. Over the next 12 months, I did a lot of shit. I travelled (Geneva, Frankfurt, Leeds….oh, the glamour!), I made acquaintances with high up people in important places, I went to posh paid-for dinners in places I’d never heard of. I even got to go on a 5 night trip to New York. NEW-FUCKING-YORK. It was amazing.
But gradually I began to fall out of love with it all and started to realise this type of life just wasn’t me. I didn’t fit. I smiled and nodded and tried to keep up and pay attention but my eyes always glazed over and my mind wandered elsewhere most of the time. In January 2015, after another performance review where all I heard was “You need to be more like this”, I realised “I just don’t care!”.
I didn’t care about any of it – the job, the credit card, the dinners, the trips. I definitely didn’t care to be told what I was doing wrong and what I could do better when I didn’t care about any of it in the first place. I mean, we were hardly finding a cure for cancer, were we? It just wasn’t important to me. But when I realised that I didn’t care about it, it begged the bigger question…what did I care about?
And the answer was this: children.
I don’t have any of my own. I don’t even really have much of a maternal inclination to have any. But my whole life I had a gut feeling that I wanted to work with children. It is always something I had aspired to do.
So after some considerable conversations with my wonderfully supportive husband who has my back all of the time, even when I’m being a dick, he gave me his blessing (which I felt duty-bound to acquire…we are a team after all!) to quit my job and pursue my dream. Yes we’d have less money, and yes it would probably be stressful, and I may even be unemployed for a while, but I had to do it to save my sanity and because I couldn’t waste any more of my life not caring about what I was doing.
This next part is probably the best conversation that has ever happened to me: Me: Can I have a word? Manager: Yes of course Me: I’m handing in my notice Manager: Oh no. That’s a shame. You’ll really be missed (etc etc etc). Where are you going? Me: Nowhere.
Even now I still grin on the inside when I think about this! ☺ It is one of the single-most satisfying things I’ve ever said to anyone.
Down to nothing but sheer dumb luck, the likes of which I may never experience again and for which I do not take for granted, I managed to get a job in a local primary school as a SEN LSA (Special Educational Needs Learning Support Assistant). My days are now taken up with learning about and dealing with autism, times tables (I pray no child asks me for help with! Not my strong point!), wobbly teeth (which are gross!) and fish fingers for lunch on Fridays!
I even cleaned up some actual poo last week! I am poorer than I’ve been in a long time and more tired than I’ve ever been in my entire life. But I am so happy. SO HAPPY. I have dinner at 6pm. My commute is now a 30 minute bike ride (25 minutes if I’m feeling energetic!). I cook, my house is clean, I am fitter and (slightly) thinner.
I have more time. I find myself wanting to go to the pub at the end of the day instead of straight to bed. I make a packed lunch. I do all these things I only dreamed of having the time to do before. Quitting my job (or what I thought of as my existence) was the biggest, scariest thing I have ever done but it has truly paid off in so many ways. I know it could have been a different story but I had to do it.
I would have gladly been completely broke and on the dole and gone back to (soul-destroying) temping if that’s what it had taken. I knew I had to try.
The great philosopher, Joey Tribbiani, once said “Stare down the barrel of a gun. Pee into the wind”.
I metaphorically peed into the metaphorical wind.
Best. Decision. Ever.
Ellen Lloyd is a fickle, sensitive thirty-something. She never wears heels and is usually quite emotional. By day she is a special needs teaching assistant, wife and chief washing up fairy in the absence of a dishwasher. By night, she goes to bed at a reasonable time because she needs her 8 hours. She has secretly harboured a lifelong dream to be a published writer, but generally lacks imagination.
She prefers Instagram to Facebook because she doesn’t like reading status updates of people seeking attention. She can also be a complete hypocrite Find Ellen on Instagram and tell her how much you love her. Flattery will get you everywhere.
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If you loved this post as much as I did, send Ellen some love in the comments - I'll make sure she sees them ;) And if you have ANY questions about changing your career, please ping me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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