“I was in a community of people who just got it. I think that was the biggest and most unexpected power of the Launch Pad.”


While her job looked good from the outside, Karen Naya had been feeling trapped for a long time. The Launch Pad helped give her the tools to create a work life that suits her, and leave the Sunday blues in the past.

What were you doing for work before taking part in the Launch Pad?

I was a fellow in evaluation. 

I'd review public services (health and social care), write big long reports I'm not sure anybody ever read, and lead lots of projects.

How did you feel about your work?

I felt trapped. 

Increasingly, I was feeling anxious about it, like I wasn't very good at it anymore.

I was struggling to show up physically, and also struggling emotionally from the work. I felt ashamed and guilty about that. 

So in a low place. Stuck.

I kind of kick myself for not doing something sooner (although things worked out really positively in the end). It doesn't feel great knowing that I allowed myself to be in that position for the longest time. 

From the outside, people were really positive about what I did and recognised its value. There was some expertise or status associated with that. 

I had strong feelings about it but it was like it was some kind of secret. I didn't tell other people that this supposedly shiny great thing from the outside was really bringing me down, and I didn't know what to do about it.

What are you doing now?

Now I have my own company, and I have a portfolio career. 

I retained the best bits from my former role. Instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, I now work for myself.

I deliver masterclasses and commission programmes with people I choose to work with, doing lovely projects in a way in which I like to work: short term interim, sharp focused pieces. 

I'm also now an arts guide and arts consultant. Prior to the shift I'd hang out in galleries to get away and escape from my job, and would find myself fantasising about being a gallery guide during the day. But never once did I dream that you could get paid to do that.

Now I get to show people around, having fun and enjoying interacting with other people, and also can find lovely pieces for people that they take home and treasure. So I do this as a little bit of my portfolio as well.

How are you feeling about your work (and your life)?

I love the flow and the balance of it. 

Previously I'd lost so much confidence feeling trapped and in that dark place. I'd never have dreamt that not only could I work for myself and pretty much determine my own hours and ways of working, but that people would come to me and ask me to share what I know, my joy and passion with them. 

So the hugest change and the most wonderful feeling is that there are days when it doesn't feel like work. It feels fantastic. 

The work dread used to start off on Sundays, then I'd dread it from Saturday, and then I'd dread it from Friday etc. 

Now I work hours that make sense, that suit me and the people I'm working with. That's liberating. 

It's as much about the way in which I work as it is about the content of what I do. 

Why did you decide to take part in the Launch Pad?

A friend had taken part in a Careershifters workshop and quite discreetly said 'I wonder if you're struggling and finding it a bit difficult at the moment?'.

I think that really burst my bubble. I thought nobody else knew about how I was feeling. But it'd really become quite apparent to people who cared about me that things were not right.

I thought at that point 'I have nothing to lose. Anything that happens has to be an improvement on how I'm feeling now'. 

So I jumped in with both feet. I attended an introductory call, and felt the warmth and energy coming from the team. I felt reassured that I didn't need to come thinking I had all or even any of the answers (because that was a big concern). 

Plus, I'd seen some of the testimonials from other people and thought crikey, these are all really smart, fascinating, interesting people. If they can do it, maybe they were feeling a bit like me at the start. Maybe it could work for me.

Did you have any concerns about taking part?

I felt so blank and locked up, with no ideas.

Also, I think I'd lost confidence in my own judgment and my own inherent skills. I didn't even know what I loved to do anymore.  It was all confusion, I had no clarity. So I was concerned whether the Launch Pad could help me find that.

I was 49 when I signed up for the Launch Pad, and I thought that I couldn't afford to make a big misstep.

'How can it work for me? I've come with so much baggage, how could I do potentially a complete one-eighty, a complete shift with all of this history behind me and no experience really in any other fields?' 

What was the biggest difference the Launch Pad made for you and your shift?

For me it was the group – people who were sharing that experience and rooting for me, providing living examples of how this stuff can work.

It was also a group of people that I could share my newfound energy with, and get feedback from after feeling so secretive and ashamed about it all. 

I was in a community of people who just got it. It felt like I'd found my tribe, after the longest time. I'd not had that at work for years. 

So I think that was the biggest and most unexpected power of the Launch Pad for me.

What have you learnt since the course that you'd share with others making a career change?

I now feel in control of my work life, and how to make a shift. 

I have the power, the knowledge and the tools to be able to make change happen. 

And never, never again will I be stuck feeling that trapped. Looking back. I just can't believe how I got into that situation. I like to think I'm a smart woman. But of course as smart people often do, I tried to think my way out of it. 

The course has been a life changer. I didn't want to blow up my life by taking part in the programme but actually it has changed all of my interactions and how I deal with other people. So that was just an amazing, unexpected consequence. 

Anything else to add?

Do it.

Don't wait. Invest in yourself. I hadn't done that for the longest time partly because I'd lost confidence, and partly because I was so locked down even thinking about careers and jobs that it just made me switch off and retreat a bit.

You can find full details about the course on our dedicated Launch Pad page.