From Corporate Consulting to Start-up

“I had no time or space to have fun and create the kind of life I wanted.”

Bella

From Corporate Consulting to Start-up

Bella Zanesco earned big bucks in a sought-after role, but she was overworked and fed up with not making a difference. Now, with the lessons learned from her shift, she's created a business to help others successfully navigate change. This is her story.

What work were you doing previously?

I was Growth and Strategy Transformation Director in a large corporate, with several similar previous consulting / innovation roles in Australia, the US and the UK.

What are you doing now?

I'm the creator of My12for12.

We support highly successful people to identify, make and get into action with 12 life-amplifying decisions to support them to own the big game they want to play in their life and career.

Why did you change?

Because I was fed up doing work that didn't make a difference.

I had no time or space to have fun and create the kind of life I wanted. I was also disheartened by how the profit-focused organisations I worked for treated people who had families, lives and relationships to nurture.

But most of all, that pesky feeling of the bigger game I truly wanted to play wouldn't go away and every time I tried to bury it, another kick to my health and relationships would happen.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

The final straw came when the growth and strategy consulting firm I was working for in Australia expected me to put in super-long hours, including weekends.

As a result, my physical and mental health broke down, my relationships sucked and, as a passionate person, I lost the love for what I was doing.

It just got to a point where my desire to be healthy, to live a life in line in line with what mattered most, outweighed the desire to keep consuming and feeding a system where my values were constantly conflicted.

Are you happy with the change?

Absolutely!

I've never been happier in my life. Fully expressing ourselves in a career we love is not only a 'nice to do' but more like an obligation on our part to create a happier and healthier planet.

What do you miss and what don't you miss?

I do miss the certainty of a pay cheque and massive projects with big budgets.

I don't miss the politics, games, egos or working with people that were equally disengaged.

How did you go about making the shift?

I made 12 amplifying decisions in 12 months to get my health back, my zest for life, and explored new areas that could lead to a new career direction.

I retrained in Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), Positive Psychology and Yoga Teaching. I experimented in all of the areas I was passionate about, including photography, sailing, design, yoga, interviewing people about what made them feel fulfilled and mentoring start-ups in value proposition development, all with complete detachment from the outcome.

I just let go and trusted that with the right intentional action the right career solution would emerge.

A few highlights that resulted from these 12 amplifying decisions included being crowned a world champion in sailing, winning best pitch at TEDxSydney, being selected as a founding member of the Escape School by Escape the City and commercialising the My12for12 method.

What didn't go well? What 'wrong turns' did you take?

I joined a start-up that I was passionate about, but the founder and I shared different values and were at a different stage in our lives.

This helped me realise that I needed to blaze my own trail and create collaborative partnerships with other heart-centred entrepreneurs who were more aligned with me.

How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?

For the last seven years of my consulting career, I developed skills in photography and filmmaking, my first loves. Over time, this turned into my bridging career.

I got paid to do corporate photography for companies like Virgin, Westfield, and Barclays; I was commissioned to do wedding photography in Italy, France, the UK, Thailand and Australia; and I did shoots for yoga lifestyle brands in Indonesia, tourism operators like Abercrombie and Kent, and Kitesurfing Lanka in Africa and Sri Lanka. These projects funded my travels, love of all things nature, and most importantly kitesurfing holidays!

In addition, I changed the way I spent money based on what I valued. I invested in education, yoga, sailing and really nourishing food. Instead of buying new 'things', I bought recycled things, got things repaired, such as my bike, hung onto the old iPhone, and cut out spending on clothes, shoes and handbags. The funny thing is I don't miss this one bit. I've just stayed away from the shops and the need to have those material things dissipated.

Another thing I did that funded me in the transition was renting out my apartment on Airbnb (as I was travelling loads). When I was home, I rented my spare room to travellers, who've since become friends and even My12for12 participants. This was a major income earner for me.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

Missing the regular pay cheque.

Giving up materialism – but that's been the best gift ever. Who needs more stuff?!

Finding a tribe that didn't think I was completely crazy.

What help did you get?

An awesome coach and loads of support from friends and family.

What have you learnt in the process?

I had to first focus on paying close attention to the thoughts that were occupying my mind, reframing those, and then over time to changing my attitudes, behaviours and habits to those that were more supportive to the life I wanted to create.

I learned that we're way better when we do what we love. We inspire, engage and make shit happen for ourselves when we're fully expressed.

I learned to treat my career change as one big experiment. It's ok to get out there and create, knowing that the first thing you create may not necessarily be the thing you end up with.

What resources would you recommend to others?

What Colour is your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles – a book that helps you uncover your strengths and skills.

Rewire your Brain by John Arden – a book that presents the latest neuroscience and offers tools to support you in thinking you way to a better life.

What do you wish you'd done differently?

I wish I'd leveraged into some income-producing assets (e.g. property) while I still had the borrowing capacity.

I also wish I'd ditched certain people who wanted to see me stay small or back in my old career.

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

1. Find a tribe that supports you; limit time with people that try to hold you back (they're most likely just envious of your new found zest for life and creation).

2. Get very clear about your values, needs and what you want in your life, before you decide upon any career or start-up.

3. Nurture your mental and physical health as number one. It's impossible to go through major career change if you're not in good health.

4. Understand the real motivations for career change; ensure you're cut out for entrepreneurship before just jumping into it.

5. Have two years' worth of funds in savings.

What lessons could you take from Bella's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at hello@careershifters.org.