But when insecurity set in, was Lucy’s career switch a mistake?

When I first started experiencing symptoms of burnout at work I had a fast-paced job as group sales director at an advertising technology company. I had been in sales for eight years – jumping through promotions and consistently hitting targets – but I was starting to feel lost. When a male peer was promoted above me for a top job, it set my mind racing.

“I became stuck in a negative thought spiral, constantly wondering when I would be good enough for the next step up, without stopping to consider whether or not I was on the right ladder.”

I’d always been most motivated and energised by the parts of my job that involved helping others grow and develop so, after seeking help from a career coach, I approached my company to discuss a career switch. I had realised that a lot of the skills I had acquired from my sales role were totally transferable to a position in people management, which was much more aligned with my personal values and strengths. As well as the opportunity for more learning and development, I loved the idea of working to make other people happier and more successful at work. Working with a coach had helped me to identify that my passion was for nurturing people, not sales pipelines!

The career switch
At this point I didn’t know how my employer would respond to my plan for a career switch. I prepared a pitch that highlighted the value I could bring to the company in a new role, giving examples of all the skills and strengths I had developed and how I wanted to use them in the future – and I also committed to as much training as possible. It worked and in 2019 I was appointed Global Learning and Development Manager.

However much we may want it, in the first few months of a new role most people start with a heightened awareness of just how badly they think they are doing – and I was no different. I had just started to move out of this period of self-doubt and to feel really confident and competent in my new role when the pandemic hit and I was put onto furlough.

I felt really disorientated and adrift without the structure of work and paralysed by a sense of fear. I missed the sense of achievement I got from my work but beneath that, there was also an underlying fear and uncertainty coming from my recent career change. I had been in my new role for less than a year and it was a position that I had convinced the company to create for me. Remembering this made me feel very vulnerable and I started to wish I had stayed in my old sales role, where I had been ‘first in the door’.

“At a time when the media was talking constantly about cut-backs friends and family were experiencing redundancy I couldn’t help wondering if that could happen to me – all because I had pursued my dream job.”

But my mind kept returning to the sessions I had with the careers coach when she encouraged me to identify my core values, beliefs and passions and to aim for a job that aligned with them.

The power of learning
I love gaining new knowledge and feel inspired and motivated when I am in learning mode. I realised that being on furlough actually gave me the freedom and opportunity to devote more time to learning. At this time I was half-way through a coaching course and decided to devote my time on furlough to completing it and so I could start coaching people outside of my main job.

Once I had received my qualification I began to coach my first clients and build up a small base of career coaching clients – initially just through word-of-mouth and Instagram. Many of my clients were attracted to working with me because of my own personal experience of burnout and uncertainty. My experiences meant that I understood their worries and fears and could relate to the statements that I heard over and over again: “I’m staying in my job because I don’t know what else to do”, “I don’t know what there is that would suit my skill set”, “I don’t know what I want but I want something different”.

By the time I went back to work after furlough ended I’d developed a taste for running my own business. As well as the coaching work, I was enjoying the creative challenge of building my brand and the freedom of choosing my own hours and tasks. So I asked my company if I could reduce my hours to give me time to run my coaching business alongside my day job. Incredibly they said yes.

Now I am slowly building my coaching business one day a week. As well as working with paying clients I am also doing pro-bono coaching and mentoring for some excellent organisations like Saddle Up! who provide support for people who have recently experienced redundancy and Like Minded Females – a charity that aims to bridge skills gaps with a global mentoring programme. All of this work meets the core values I identified in my first ever coaching session: learning, creativity, freedom, fairness and care for others. I’m so happy I made the move into this new career.

If you’re in need of change or are feeling uncertain about the next steps in your career or an unsettling situation such as furlough or redundancy, identifying your core values is a great first step to seeing the way through. A good way to start this process is to ask yourself these questions:

1. What skills and strengths do I recognise in myself, that not everyone has?
2. What skills and strengths do I enjoy using on a daily basis?
3. What must I have in my life to feel complete and happy?
4. What are the things I talk about that get me most excited or animated?
5. When was a time I felt really passionate about my life or work?

Once you know what your core values are, there is nothing stopping you from carving out a way of making an income in a way that matches them.

Words: Lucy Shutt-Vine

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