It was 7 years ago that I first googled 'changing careers’.
I hadn't known what I wanted to do after University so I took a gap year, temping in Canada. It was a whirl. An adventure. And then 4 of my close friends got engaged and started getting mortgages and sending out wedding invitations and I took fright. I needed to get a proper job. Settle down. Stop messing around.
My first job was on a graduate scheme. Creating spreadsheets to prove tax breaks for FTSE 100 companies. I applied and got in. I didn’t plan the career, I just decided it would be useful to learn about numbers and I needed a job which would be challenging enough for me not to get bored. I’d always done what was expected of me and this was no different. Job. Husband. Mortgage. The first box was now ticked.
I started out, suited and booted, working in the Surrey office of the tax firm. I was learning every day, and it stretched me intellectually.
I diligently applied myself to the mandatory postgraduate study alongside work and thought I was set - this would be my career.
But it was not fulfilling me. I did not have the kind of job satisfaction I wanted, despite trips around the country which got me out of the office and visiting clients’ premises.
I felt selfish and guilty. Who was I to have a job where I actually liked what I was doing? Surely everyone hates work? 'Claire', I told myself, 'it’s supposed to be hard and it's supposed to be boring.'
In fact, I felt as though I should be thinking, 'I should be lucky to have a job’, as the headlines daily reminded me about the University students who had bleak futures after Lehmans' collapse.
But my usual vivacity was showing up less and less, my cheerful demeanour at the office had succumbed to bouts of crying in the toilets.
There were two clinch points for me.
The first was my mock Business Tax exam (part of my post-graduate qualification). I left the exam having worked out that the most I could have achieved on the paper was 20 marks. I got 17. Out of 100.
I sat in a nearby park and waited for my colleague to finish. We talked about my experience in Canada and compared it to now. He said something which made my heart go cold. He said ‘You had your fun time in Canada. Now is the time to get serious and settle into proper career'.
I vowed inwardly that I didn’t believe that. There must be people who enjoyed their work.
The second clinch point was realising I WAS good at something, that other people weren’t.
You see, we had this client event. A 'do’. Where we had to talk to clients and prospective clients. Everyone else on my team was DREADING it. I couldn’t understand them…this was going to be FUN!
It was after a good connection with a target client and him following up with my boss, that made me realise I had so much to contribute. That staying in my current role was not helping me or anyone else. I didn’t need to feel guilty about leaving, my skills were better served elsewhere.
Quitting that job was the first step I made towards doing work I loved.
Over the next few years, I had several more 'career changes'…from tax into the more creative world of art. Then a foray into politics for more ‘people-focused work’, helping with casework for a local MP.
Then I discovered Twitter and Seth Godin and knew I wanted to learn more about marketing and small business. So I got a position with a marketing team in a corporate but creative project management company.
Although I was happier in my job than I had ever been before, I was earning more and getting more satisfaction from my work, I had more creativity in my job, I worked in a gorgeous office with breakout spaces and a policy of NOT eating lunch at your desk, it wasn’t working. It wasn't enough. I felt ashamed for feeling it, because I really wanted to shine.
I wanted to feel free, unencumbered.
Run my own show. Do my own thing. Have time for the things I wanted to do, not just fall in with the London life. I wanted something even more.
That’s when I stopped googling new careers and started dreaming BIG. Creating a vision, not a half-hearted sort of compromise. A life that wasn’t about fitting into job descriptions or fitting in a weekend away here and there.
I created a dream scenario - a picture of me living what I believed my purpose was, in all its colour and perfection. And rather than sigh and say I wouldn't be able to have it (and so what was the point?), I began to take the steps to live in that reality.
Your longing for freedom, for travel and adventure - or whatever you long for - may not be satisfied by a higher-paid job and 2 weeks a year in the Maldives. Go BIG, and be ready to find out how much more is possible.
What have you got to lose just by getting clear?