“I was good at my job, but I was exhausted. I barely saw my husband, let alone my friends. I had to take stock.”
From Landscapes to Wagging Tails
What work were you doing previously?
I was a chartered landscape architect with over 15 years' experience.
What are you doing now?
I'm the proud owner of my own pet business: Barkers Pet Services.
We offer dog walking, pet sitting, home boarding and a pet taxi service in the Salford and the wider Manchester area.
Why did you change?
I decided to become a landscape architect when I was eleven years old thanks to the influence of a great art and design teacher.
Once I was actually qualified and working in the profession I wanted to love it because I'd planned and studied for it for such a long time.
The problem was I didn't.
I persevered because I'd invested so much into it: five years at university, my chartership study and exams... How could I possibly turn my back on it all?
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
I'd been offered a job in Dubai by an old boss that had moved out there.
Though I was happy where I was, I accepted. I thought "If you don't try, you don't know". Besides, I could always come home if I hated it. As it happened I didn't hate it, met some great friends, built a life there and ended up staying for seven years in total.
My professional life in the UAE culminated in me running the Dubai landscape office of a large international multidisciplinary company. At this stage I was doing 80+ hours a week, living on stress-induced adrenaline as I struggled to meet the clients' ever increasing demands and deadlines.
I was good at my job, but I was exhausted. I barely saw my husband, let alone my friends. I had to take stock.
I'd always been an animal lover and dogs in particular set my heart alight.
Due to working long hours and living in an apartment we couldn't have a dog over there, but I started to foster cats through a local charity while they waited to find their forever homes, and, when I took a Saturday off work, I would go to K9 Friends charity to walk the shelter dogs and help them socialise.
I fell in love with one particular dog there, Benton, and that was it. I adopted him before leaving Dubai and he's now a true English gent.
Are you happy with the change?
I now love waking up in the morning rather than dreading it, usually to a house full of wagging tails and canine smiles.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
Funnily enough, I miss the pressure.
I didn't realise I loved the rush so much.
What I don't miss is the effect of that pressure: insomnia, back pain, physio appointments, headaches and the appearance of GREY HAIRS!
However, I'll be walking the dogs down in the local woods and then I'll think to myself "I'm in the office right now" and I practically do a little skip.
Pressure is overrated.
How did you go about making the shift?
I decided around three years before leaving Dubai that I had to change, for my health, happiness, and, essentially, for my soul (that sounds cheesy but it's true).
That's when I found Careershifters. I realised that I wasn't alone and that I wasn't going crazy in feeling the way I did. You can't believe what that's meant to me.
Following Careershifters' advice, I thought first about what I truly, wholeheartedly loved, and realised it was dogs / animals. After some thought about how to make that my focus and turn a passion into profit I decided upon opening a dog daycare service when I returned to the UK.
I'm good at saving; I always gave myself monthly 'spends' but everything else was put aside. I researched it all to the finest detail, sorted out my finances, and started scouting out the best possible locations based on commuter traffic, demographic, average wage...
I picked two main locations, both perfect. I knew I could do well in either of them.
What didn't go well? What 'wrong turns' did you take?
Within the six months before I came home, other dog daycare businesses were set up in both of my chosen locations.
I was devastated. Other people had clearly done their homework too and I'd missed the boat. I searched for miles around to find another location just as suitable but it was hard and then finding the right premises in those locations was proving impossible. I spent six months searching, ate up a lot of my savings and realised something had to give. That's when Barkers Dog Daycare turned into Barkers Pet Services.
As it happens, I now see this as a blessing. What I'm doing now is so much more personal, and the overheads are nothing in comparison to renting a 7,000 square foot industrial unit and hiring staff.
How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?
I was lucky I had built up my own funds, although after six months they were depleting rapidly thanks to mortgages and general living costs.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
Turning my back on everything I'd put into my previous profession.
It was so scary. However, I never felt I wouldn't be able to succeed - I believe that if you want something enough you can make it happen. I knew that my honest and complete passion for dogs / animals would be evident to my pet parent clients.
What help did you get?
Aside from Careershifters (seriously you guys were a rock when the nerves set in), my main support was family.
My husband has been great and my mum now 'works' for me as an additional home boarder when people are looking for a holiday home without other dogs present. She's absolutely loving it.
I have to say my dog Benton has been a huge support too, always ready with love when times felt hard. I'm not sure who saved whom!
What have you learnt in the process?
I'm more resilient and determined than I'd previously given myself credit for.
I've surprised myself and it's a fantastic feeling.
What do you wish you'd done differently?
I wish I'd moved away from my dog daycare plan sooner.
But then I understand why I didn't; after all my planning it felt like I was giving up on my dream.
What I'm doing now is a variation on a theme and it's turned out to be a far better one.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
If you're passionate about something, give yourself the backing you deserve, believe in your ability and allow yourself to be happy.
Plan, plan and plan again. Ensure you have what you need in place (knowledge, finances), but believe in yourself first and foremost.
Plus, if you hit a fork in the road, persevere but don't be blind to alternative routes; your new destination could prove to be a happier one.
What resources would you recommend to others?
I would strongly advise people to contact those in a similar industry.
You'd be surprised how generous people (even strangers) can be, and, after all, what have you got to lose?
To find out more about Janet's services, visit www.barkerspetservices.co.uk
What lessons could you take from Janet's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.