Why I thought I wanted to be an airhostess (and what I really wanted instead)

“But Claire, work is supposed to be boring"

So a family friend said to me when I told her that it was because I didn’t think law was going to be for me. I’d collected the belief that as a so-called ‘high-achiever', I should go into one of the professions: teaching, medicine or law. But after evaluating that I didn’t have the type of drive required to be a ‘magic circle’ lawyer and trying to imagine myself spending 20 years in the type of solicitors firms I’d been temping for locally, I started looking elsewhere. 

So I had applied and been accepted for a graduate programme in tax, but it was not using the kinds of skills I knew I had or wanted to use.

Thinking of work you might love

Whilst still in the job, I one day googled: career change, and came across a site called Careershifters. There I found people who did what they loved for a living, and actually made money from it! Furthermore, many of them had transferred from other careers. It was possible!

This began my search for work I loved to do. 

There was a bit of an issue however. 

I had a tremendously diverse and varied list of fantastic sounding jobs and job titles, but which I had no qualifications in and no idea how to get started.

How could I possibly choose which one? 

How did I know I would even like it when I got there?

How long would this take??

My list

To give you an idea, here's a list of some of the professions I liked the sound of:

  • air hostess
  • journalist
  • area manager for a hotel group
  • UN interpreter
  • designer
  • photographer
  • actor
  • psychotherapist
  • virtual assistant
  • diplomat


Quite a variety.

I even wrote down ‘spy’ in one of my notebooks, but I didn’t want to use a gun or dye my hair (yes that was actually a reason) so MI5 didn’t make it onto the list. Thankfully for everyone. 

I was slightly apprehensive as I hadn't got the right qualifications for many of these jobs.

It would take years to retrain and how would I pay rent whilst studying? 

Disillusionment with the list

So often this puts people off changing their lives. They start thinking it through and wonder whether they’d actually like the kind of hours that job is reputed to have and whether they have the right aptitude or personality for the job and it seems overwhelming to start changing everything and disrupting a perfectly well-set up life like they have now, just to get a bit more satisfaction from their work. 

And after a long day at work, it’s easier just to pour a glass of wine and find the TV remote. 

I say hang onto the list (or if you haven’t already, make your own list). We’re so fixated on new careers that we are missing other aspects of life, like learning opportunities and experiences that we actually want to build into our work. 

Your ideas and loves will give you clues into yourself until you let yourself dream without limits. 

Only our biggest dreams have the power will motivate us to lead the lives we want to lead. Everything else will be dissatisfying. Not quite right. Not enough. 

How I got the juice (what you REALLY want)

So how did I take the list and work out what I really wanted? 

This was an exercise from John Williams, author of Screw Work, Let’s Play.

Firstly, I thought through what each job would actually entail, a sort of ‘What’s in the job description’. I made a list of the parts of the job that really appealed to me and the parts that didn’t. Here’s two examples. 

Example 1:  air hostess.

Parts that appealed to me: Travelling to lots of countries, staying in hotels

Parts that didn’t appeal to me: Being on a plane standing up for a long time and serving tea and coffee every day (would get bored)

This is where we can get a bit downhearted because we realise: If I don’t want to be standing up on a plane, I don’t think being an air hostess is for me, and then we berate ourselves, saying "Well that was hardly a viable option was it?"

Hold on. This exercise has given us some valuable information. It's tapped into one of my desires that travelling and staying hotels is part of what would make up MY exciting life. And serving other people tea and coffee isn’t. 

Example 2: Journalist

I only had a vague idea of what the life of a journalist was like, and this was high on the list of possible moves for me, so I pursued this a little. My friend’s boyfriend was a journalist and he agreed to answer my questions about the day to day work and challenges. I carefully composed the questions and he sent back very honest and detailed answers by email. It was brilliant. It helped me realise I did NOT want to be a journalist.

Hours of time, money, upheaval and unnecessary stress saved. 

Parts that appealed to me: meeting lots of different people and asking them questions, not just being in an office, writing and using language

Parts that didn’t appeal to me: Deadlines, scary editors, having to write about topics and issues I didn’t want to  write about. 

Do you see how it works? 

The rest of the list

For each one, I thought about the parts that appealed and the parts that didn’t. I was really interested in language, I knew that, but I wanted to be able to speak different languages, not actually be an interpreter. I didn’t want to be an hotels group area manager, I just wanted to be able to travel round and stay in hotels (notice a theme?). I didn’t want to be a virtual assistant, I wanted the freedom of being able to work from anywhere in the world. 

When you identify the experience you desire, it opens up new possibilities of how to satisfy it. I wanted work that allowed me to be location independent, so I could travel and see the world. 

When we start focus on the part we want, we stop trying to fit ourselves into someone else’s box, career or job description. When we let go of all the limitations, we can see more clearly. 

It is only by asking ourselves what experience of life that we want that we can create a true vision of how we want to show up, work and enjoy the world. 

How we really want to live. 


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