From HR to Writing

Image of Nina Jervis

"I cringed every time someone asked me about my job. I hated talking about it." Nina Jervis was stuck and lost in a career she'd given 15 years to. Now, after some help uncovering her passion (and a push from a loved one), she's moved into work that finally feels like her. Here's how she did it, and the lessons she learned along the way.

What work were you doing previously?

I was an HR Manager in the City.

I'd been working in HR for 15 years. I thought it was all I knew how to do.

What are you doing now?

I'm writing for a living!

I still can't really believe I can say that. I'm helping people to tell their stories – from eulogies to dating profiles, from CVs to autobiographies.

Why did you change?

I went to see a headhunter and came away thinking I didn't want to do any of the options they suggested.

I'd put a lot of time into my career and qualifications. I'd also been through a divorce and I kept telling myself I needed the security, but the truth was I didn't enjoy my work. I cringed every time someone asked me about my job. I hated talking about it.

I tried to make more of my time outside of work but my job was draining. I was tired and I had an awful, soul-destroying commute. I really struggled.

I felt there had to be work out there that I could love. I had so much energy to give, if only I could find the right thing.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

It was the Easter long weekend.

Yet again, I was dreading going in to work. I said to my boyfriend: “I wish I could just go into work tomorrow and tell them I'm leaving to be a writer.” He replied: “What's stopping you?” I realised then and there that leaving my job would be challenging, but it was me that was holding me back.

The very next day I handed in my notice.

Are you happy with the change?

I'm really happy!

I feel great. I'm working harder and for less money at the moment, but I love it. I love going to meet people and helping them to tell their stories. My dream is to become a features writer. I'm not there yet but that's OK. For now I'm writing whatever I can, building experience and connections and embracing every opportunity.

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

I miss not having to worry about money.

When you have a regular, stable income you can spend so much more freely and you don't have to stress about the bills.

I don't miss the demands of my old job. The need to be on call, to work on someone else's strategy, to deal with office politics – I've left all of that behind now.

How did you go about making the shift?

It all started with a Google search for 'career change'.

I found Careershifters and then I signed up for the Career Change Launch Pad course. It gave me the momentum and confidence to get me to the point of leaving my job. I gave three months' notice to help with the transition. Then it was a leap into the unknown.

It's been hard work but it's all for me and I'm very happy with how it's all gone so far.

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

I had some savings to keep me going.

As the months have gone past, I've been able to use less of them. I've also been able to cut back my spending with a bit of thought. I may still look for a part-time job to supplement my income.

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

I honestly don't think I've made any wrong turns yet.

It's still early days but I've been really happy.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

Making decisions.

I'm in charge now and everything's on my shoulders. I feel that pressure. It's all down to me. I'm running a business, not just doing the writing. It's definitely not for the fainthearted!

What help did you get?

One of the things I learnt from the Launch Pad course was how to ask for help.

I was amazed by how much people wanted to support me when I reached out to them for inspiration. And now I've got the practical support I need because I've asked for it. My boyfriend helps me with IT, my sister-in-law does my accounts and my old colleagues have given me work or helped me with things like marketing.

What have you learnt in the process?

I've definitely come to realise now that nobody has the perfect life.

If you're not happy that's not a reflection on you. Everybody is unsure in some way. They may seem confident on the outside but they're struggling too.

This realisation has made it easier for me to approach people and talk to them. It's also helped me to jump in and give writing a real go.

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

Look at what's making you unhappy and take control of that.

It's easy to think that your job is all there is, but you don't have to stay stuck. Anything is possible – you just need to work out a way to make it happen.

To find out more about Nina's business, visit: www.ninathewriter.com.

What lessons could you take from Nina'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.