Career Change and Happiness – The Inspirational Women of Walthamstow

A few months ago on the train on my way home, in a moment of “there must be more to life than this”, I posted the following on my local parents’ FB group: “OK parents, who LOVES their job and if so what do you do? Has anybody left a safe/well paid job to follow their passion/dreams and earn a lot less money? I’m sure there are some very happy inspirational local people out there! Parent related as a happy parent helps make a child hap-py! (In theory at least) Yes, it’s been one of those weeks…”
There were 93 comments to my post and even more “likes”, that’s when I realised that this was definitely a hot topic and I had to share it on my blog. Some people shared their career stories and some shared their dilemmas. Indeed the logistics of childcare (opening times, costs etc.), request for flexible working, the traditional office setup, financial pressures, stress etc make it hard for people (parents or not) to find a good work/life balance. Having children was definitely the overwhelming factor in promoting people to rethink their careers and the loss of earnings was definitely the biggest factor in preventing a career change. It’s also scary to leave a stable career and completely change direction, it takes courage and removing owns safety net is never easy but from what I’ve read with the support of friends, family and other organisations it can be done and nobody seems to regret it! Running campsites seems to be a common dream! What’s yours? I’m still to determine what mine is and I think that can be the problem, people aren’t always happy but are unsure what would make them happy…
There were so many amazing stories, so much courage, people following their dreams, people making it work, it was really inspiring. My motto is “carpe diem” and I don’t always follow it but these local women have and I hope you enjoy their comments and stories. So pour a glass of wine and settle in for one of my longest blog posts ever. Thank you to all the contributors! (I have only used the extra info sent directly for me to be used on this blog not the other comments).
I have tried to organise them into different sections:
• Teaching
• Charity/Helping Others
• Social media
• Creative
• Other

These were the follow up questions they kindly answered:
-what did you do before your big career change?
-what helped you take the big step? (A particular event, someone’s support etc)
-what do you do now and how does it make you happy?
-what was the hardest thing about changing careers?
-what would be your advice be to anybody unsure about making a big career change/following their dreams?
So let’s see who loves their job and who took the big step of changing careers!
Teaching:

Lots of people mentioned they loved their jobs as teachers, I don’t have any detailed stories but from primary school to university, it seems like teachers do it out of passion and therefore the right reason so seem to live their jobs even though it can be very stressful  and hard work from the comments I saw and from the teachers I know.

 

Charity/Helping Others:

J: “Before my career change I was doing admin and IT roles in various schools. The thing that changed my mind was after I had my daughter I got involved in a breastfeeding charity, and absolutely loved it, and decided I needed to do that for a living because it felt like it made a difference – seemed like midwifery was the means to the right end. I now manage a midwifery-led birth centre and absolutely adore it – it gives me a real sense of achievement and has restored my own confidence in my skills and self! Massively stressful because it’s a nursing job in the NHS but worth every moment. The hardest part was studying and worrying about money and getting poor support from my partner at the time, on top of being a mother, but I got there in the end! My biggest piece of advice would be explore every option. I didn’t know how I’d afford it before I spoke to UCAS – there are millions of pounds of unclaimed bursaries out there especially for minority groups – get everything you possibly can and go for it!”

S
“1) I worked for an energy company in the City as a contracts negotiator
2) having my baby and wanting to be with him (part time wasn’t granted) whilst he was little helped me in taking the decision to change career
3)I have two businesses: I am a cloth nappy retailer and advisor (www.nappylove.co.uk) and a Hypnobirthing practitioner (www.hipmamahypnobirthing.com). With the first job I know every nappy I sell is about 300 less disposable nappies in a landfill. A real difference. And I know with teaching my antenatal course I make a difference in empowering women to get the right birth on the day.
4) the hardest thing was…letting go. Of the security of the payslip, the benefits, the perks etc. Once you get going, you just use that momentum
5) don’t be scared, you will need to be open to learn new skills but apart from that it’s exhilarating to be solely responsible for a business venture, whatever that is. Beats any day in the office”

C: 1. I was a PA in further education 2. There was a massive restructure and I realise I was happy anymore and wanted more 3. I’m a midwife now and so glad I made the change 4. Training and studying meant sacrificing time with friends and family and especially my daughter who was 5 when I started my training but for 5 she was incredibly understanding when mummy had to work and study 5. Do as much research as you can it’s a huge step and make sure you have the support of those around you as when the stressful times come you will need them for help, love and support…and wine lots of wine 😆😆 lol”

Creative/Social Media/Arts:

M: “Since graduating I’d been an Artist-in Residence, taught in art centres and made a few murals to commission for schools. I moved to London in ’97 and got sucked into a full-time Web Editor job (because the money was good and the team lovely and I felt like a teeny fish in a massive pond here so was scared t push the art) Getting RSI (from long hours on computer) was a blessing in a way. In ’99 I set up Artyface Community Art and it has been enormously satisfying, making public art and community murals (the one at Winns and also the ones opposite The Camel pub behind the Buddhist Centre Bethnal Green to name a few). Making, teaching, training other artists in clay and mosaics, involving parents and community, enabling teachers and children to try something new- and to transform blank walls for everyone to enjoy. It’s been hard work, current austerity cuts are biting all school budgets, but I am very proud of the past 17 years of hard work. I am also a single mum and sometimes I feel I am not doing anything well enough, but everyone feels like that don’t they, with small kids? Www.artyface.co.uk is our website and we work with primaries, secondaries and nurseries: around 4,000 participants a year. Sometimes I’d love to retire because I’m exhausted… But I can’t afford to and I do love what I do. ”

L:
“Q: what did you do before your big career change? A: marketing manager working a 9-5 in central London for a well-known British heritage brand.
Q: what helped you take the big step? (A particular event, someone’s support etc) A: a friend at work who I respected immensely was in a similar position to me; I wanted to work and quite liked my job but I struggled emotionally to leave my little boy at nursery every day 8-6. My partner and i both hated our work life balance and felt like we were on a constant work treadmill. My work friend quit to do Digital Mums and it gave me the confidence to make the change too.
Q: what do you do now and how does it make you happy? A: after graduating from Digital Mums last year we moved to Folkestone and I now have my own marketing and social media consultancy Stokes & Co. I work flexibly from home mostly, around my little boy’s child care. He even gets involved in my work-recently taking part in a photo shoot I had to arrange for a client. We are all so much happier as my work actually works for me and my family; and I’m passionate about marketing again.
Q: what was the hardest thing about changing careers? A: the fear of the unknown and leaving a solid well paid job that I probably could have had for life if I’d wanted. Also leaving behind the office dynamic; most days it’s just me, my laptop and radio for company.
Q: what would be your advice be to anybody unsure about making a big career change/following their dreams? A: have a plan and try and stick to it-imagine what would life look like in 2 years if you made the change (the ups and downs). And also take stock of your finances. We realised that moving out of London, my working from home and our childcare costs for a 3 year old meant we didn’t need my big full time London salary to have a good lifestyle”

Other:

C:
“1) What did you do before your big career change? I trained as a secondary school teacher. I started in a school teaching French and when I left, I was also teaching French in the local primary schools.
2) What helped you take a big step? Every school holidays, I used to be unhappy. I was working more than 50 hours a week and didn’t have the time to rest nor think about anything else than work. I liked it though! And every school holidays, I used to say “I cannot carry on, it’s too hard” and each time I was going back to work after the break, the ball was rolling again and I didn’t have a second left in my timetable to think about anything else than work. In 2013, I had a baby and stayed at home for a bit. I was super happy to go back to work to be honest, life at home with a small baby was not for me at all. I started working my usual 50 hours a week… However my life had changed: I had to get up several times during the night and I was tired during the day. To be able to do all my work, I had to work after putting my son to bed and at the weekend, both Saturdays and Sundays. I guess it was bound to happen: I had a nervous breakdown, I was in tears in the car on the way to school, in tears on the way back because I had a shitty day, miserable at home, not enjoying my little boy. So what made me take a big step? I was concerned about my health and I wanted a change of lifestyle. I wanted a job with more flexibility and that would be a 100 times less stressful.
3) What do you do now and how it makes you happy? I now work in the publishing industry. After quitting my teaching job, I did a MA in Publishing and I enjoyed studying again, taking more time for myself. I work in a small publishing company and for now (touch wood), I haven’t had to bring work at home.
4) What was the hardest thing about changing careers? It was realising that I wasn’t happy and that my son wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t. It was also very hard to leave something I loved. I was good at my job but I think I didn’t get the right support when I was going through a hard time.
5) What would be your advice to anybody unsure about making a big career change/following your dreams? I wouldn’t advise “go for it!”. I would advise to think about the different alternatives, research what can be done and how it can be done. You need to know what is going to come ahead (applying for more than 30 jobs without getting any interviews) and save money! Career changes are expensive!”
L:
“-what did you do before your big career change?
I actually stayed in the same industry of UX (user experience) & Product design because I love it! But I switched from being at Lead level full time, manging teams and projects to an Independent freelancer
-what helped you take the big step? (A particular event, someone’s support etc)
Having my first child and the realisation of wanting more work/life balance but I did not want loose the career status I worked so hard at achieving as well as not wanting a pay cut. I knew I was experienced enough to manage my own time and efficient enough to pick projects that fit my skill set, so I wouldn’t waste time on projects that weren’t for me just because I was working for someone
-what do you do now and how does it make you happy?
I’m an independent UX and Product designer. I work on digital or products or services, usually apps or web based apps. It makes me happy because I only pick projects that I know my skillset is right for. I also pick projects that challenge me in the direction I want to advance my career. I also make sure my projects are open to flexible working hours as long as I manage expectations of the job at hand. It’s all about clarity and communication
-what was the hardest thing about changing careers?
The hardest part is losing the respect that I got as a manager, but that’s ok. In UK titles are more significant in decision making then in other cultures. I just have to prove and back up my ideas with a little more effort. At home I have a young child, family and expecting a baby soon and managing all that is enough for now, when they’re grown I can go back to the status/career thing, but it really doesn’t appeal to me now
-what would be your advice be to anybody unsure about making a big career change/following their dreams?
Speak to others that share you same ambitions, join groups, and go with your gut. Never be afraid to ask what what you want.
Before the change I spoke with other freelancers, an employment solicitor friend, and potential businesses I planned to target for work.
One big lesson I learned was to sell yourself, skills and experience before discussion flexible working. Once they love you, flexible working is no big deal. But if you start a conversation off with the idea that uou want flexible working, that sticks with them before they dive deep into skillset. I learned that the hard way. This group was very inspiring to me, they are all about flexible working : http://www.aherdtorunwith.com/”

P:”-what did you do before your big career change?

I was head of HR and Operations for a Charity

-what helped you take the big step? (A particular event, someone’s support etc)

2 reasons – I was in a very busy roll which constantly fed into my home life on a daily basis (i.e calls, emails etc during family time) and also the nursery my kids were at narrowly missed being shut down due to it’s lack of care and neglect. That’s when I realised that I had to sacrifice something and it certsinly wasn’t going to be my kids

-what do you do now and how does it make you happy? I returned to the nail and beauty field which has always been my first love! And I still continue to do HR work but on a consultancy basis. Both roles allow me to work at my own pace and more importantly around the kids
-what was the hardest thing about changing careers?

Money! I was giving up a very well paid job and taking that initial leap into the unknown world of freelance and irregular pay

-what would be your advice be to anybody unsure about making a big career change/following their dreams?

Go for it! It’s scary but if you don’t take a chance you’ll never know! We only get one go at life and it’s way to short to have regrets. I always told myself thst if it didn’t work out I could always work checkouts”

N:”1. A technology project manager in Investment banking

2 Taking a sabbatical year to travel to help me look at my options from a distance and get some perspective. Also I decided to do it slowly and retrain whilst my job remained the same

3 I am a career and business coach and I absolutely love it because it has real purpose (investment banking is a joke!), I predominantly help people take control of their careers or businesses and be happier. I also love running my own business – the challenge of being the accounts clerk, the marketing manager, CEO, digital person and actually do the job is amazing – I have learnt (and continue to learn) so much more about businesses and customers than I ever learn’t in 15 years in IT. I also love the flexibility that running your own business brings and the piece de resistence is the low stress lifestyle 🙂

4. Hardest thing was to truly believe in myself that I was capable of having a viable business that I could live off and dare to dream it was possible to still make a living without the long hours and stress.

5 Advice I would give is – try and make sure its the right choice of new career (over half my clients are working on “the decision what to do with the rest of my life” as they are concerned about making the wrong one) It is good to be cautious but don’t let that stop you taking the plunge. Speak to people who are doing that career/business already to find out more about it and what it’s like to work in that environment. Save money to help fund you through the transition (it’s easy to give up when money becomes a bit tight). Have a plan and know where you are on that plan at all times – it keeps you focused along the way. Have strategies for helping you through doubt (a friend you can call, something visual to focus you, whatever works for you) and find others who are going through a similar process so you can help support each other. Developing a network in the area you are moving into early is very important to your future success and if you can find a mentor all the better. A coach will also support you through the process and keep you on track, deal with fears and doubts, check the job/business is viable and meets your criteria/values and is right for your skills. I truly believe at the end of the day we only get one life and why spending 50 years of that doing something that we don’t love or that makes us unhappy.”

Inspiring right???? I have nothing to add, I am in awe of all these women. Go forth and be happy!

Please share your story if you have taken the plunge too and made a big career change or if you simply LOVE your job!

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The Happiness Project – Week 3

I’m going to try and stay in my happy Friday mood and ignore the fact I just lost the draft to this post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway…happy Friday everybody! A definitely had the Friday feeling this morning after another messy breakfast! ( I don’t really enjoy weaning at all!!!):

I'm so happy I made a big mess that mummy has to clean up! Yeahhh!

I’m so happy I made a big mess that mummy has to clean up! Yeahhh!

Yesterday I spent most of the day without A and it was LOVELY! My mum looked after A whilst I went to the office to discuss returning to work. This is what I enjoyed:

  • sitting on the train in peace
  • not having to lift a buggy onto the train
  • going for a coffee with a friend ALONE
  • going to a shop ALONE
  • not having to feed her lunch ( I really don’t like this weaning business much!)

I really wish my mum lived here! Not just so she can babysit of course 🙂

Monday was a very happy day visiting Great Granny, I’m really lucky to still have 3 out of 4 grandparents.

Yesterday A decided to make daddy happy by learning to do squats, they can now go to the gym together:

Other happy moments included my best friend’s baby and A falling asleep at the same time in their buggies in the park so we could have a nice chat, seeing how big the NCT babies have become whilst sitting in high chairs in the pub and seeing my mum.

What has made you happy this week?

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The Friday Happiness Project – Week 2

Happy Friday everyone! This week was fine, I had one bad moment, which I will blog about another day but this post is about happy things! So what has made me happy this week?

-watching all of True Detective, it’s VERY dark but so good. I think it contained some of the most twisted stuff I’ve seen in a long time. It ended at Lafayette General hospital, in the same town of a shooting at a cinema yesterday, very sad coicindence. America, please put down your guns. Moving on…what are we going to watch next?

-I got creative and finally decorated one of the walls in A’s room, still not finished but looking much more like a child’s room. I am now obsessed with gettingr the flat really finished, one last project before I go back to work.


– This might not seem like much but I’m going to be sent my first baby product to review soon, which in my life as a blogger is an exciting milestone!

– I weigh the least I have weighed in years #sorryimnotsorry

– A discovered the joys of strawberries and started initiating peekaboo #proudmummy


  
What made you happy this week?

The Friday Happiness Project – Week 1

Happy Friday!

On Sunday night, I watched the “Happy Movie” (http://www.thehappymovie.com/), it was a really positive movie with some interesting scientific facts thrown in (some people are genetically less predisposed to happiness – unfortunate for them!). It made me think about what makes me happy and what would make me happier. I recently wrote a post about winning the lottery, for me the main advantage to becoming a millionaire would be to be able to make others happy, indeed winning the lottery won’t make me happier – this is actually a scientific fact “As people earn more money, their day-to-day happiness rises. Until you hit $75,000. After that, it is just more stuff, with no gain in happiness.”. What would definitely make me happy would be to make my closest friends and family financially secure and to be able to spend time with them by going on amazing holidays!

The plan is reflect on the week every Friday and remind myself of some happy moments in the past week. So here goes:

  • Arabella getting her second tooth this week, this means that hopefully the crazy night teething will pause for a few days! Its also really cute to see her with 2 bottom teeth.
  • Eating a delicious lunch at Shake Shack with my best friend and our babies
  • My brother is working at my sister’s company for the summer and he got an email thanking him from a customer on his third day at work, that made me really happy
  • Monday was a really happy day, my sister came to visit us and its so nice to see how excited she was to see and play with Arabella

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  • Arabella wearing her first hair clip – so cute!

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So this week, a lot of the happy moments came from family and friends, not material things (well except a cheap hairclip). Some THING that is going to make me happy is the Chipotle Burrito my husband will bring back tonight for dinner!

Have a happy weekend everybody!