How To Create Your Perfect New Career When No One Job Ticks The Boxes

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A single off-the-shelf ‘job’ might not be the answer. If you love a lot of things, you like variety and don’t want to be trapped in a boring career, then creating a bespoke career opens up new possibilities. Marianne Cantwell explains how.

A few years ago, I made a big career change. I went from working in a City consultancy to working for myself. I’d made a career change before, from working in media (mainly at Disney) to strategy consultancy, but that was one of those compromise moves you make when you’re too afraid to make a really big change.

Second time around, I decided to get things right. Three things were really important:

  1. I realised that I loved SO MANY THINGS that they would never fit into just one job. Writing, building a brand, psychology, troubleshooting, performing, travel, outdoors, design, helping people be amazing… Lump that in with my need to have lots of projects on the go and it was pretty clear I had a choice: spend the next five years fruitlessly browsing job ads or admit right now that a regular job would never cut it. I knew had to create my own career.
  2. I wanted location liberty. I wanted the freedom to go on holiday somewhere beautiful and say “You know what? I think I’ll stay here another month and work from the beach”. Or closer to home, simply to spend the summer working in the sunshine of a London park ratherthan gazing mournfully out the office window, waiting for the weekend.
  3. I needed control over my hours. I wanted to be able to stay up to 2am when I had a flash of inspiration, safe in the knowledge that I could sleep until 10. Rather than having to stop just because of the clock… and find I’d lost my drive the next day.

The thing was, I didn’t know where to start. Looking at my CV, my list of things I loved didn’t really have an obvious home! I wasn’t a ‘writer’ and my work had been mainly intellectual rather than people-based. Plus, I didn’t have a business degree (and I didn’t want to get funding) – how could I work for myself?

Well, needless to say, I made it happen. One step at a time.

First step was that I picked something that would tick some key boxes – coaching, as it turns out.

Importantly, I knew that coaching (in its conventional form) was not my ultimate dream career when I started out. It was something that I was moulding to become my dream career. Kind of like buying a house knowing you need to do it up to suit you: when you buy it, it’s got the right foundations and size, but to make it perfect you’ll have to invest some time and do some work on it.

Three rules to custom-make your dream career (and stop looking for an off-the-shelf job)

  1. You need to have an idea of what is important to you, your strengths and what makes you tick. Prep work and understanding your personality is key.
  2. Get started before quitting your job (that way you can experiment safely).
  3. Make sure you have perpetual freedom by creating a free range career where you work for yourself and have the flexibility to change things to suit you as you go.

That’s what I did with coaching. I did my qualification while working full-time in a demanding consultancy. And, if I can do it working twelve-hour days, trust me, you can too! I experimented with my market while still working. Who did I most like working with? I created a brand that suited that profile and kept playing with it as it evolved. In that process, I quit my job. That gave me the push to take things to the next level.

Define your career 'wants'

Here were the ones I stuck to:

  1. I integrated all the stuff I loved into my career. I get to write, design anything from Free Range t-shirts to web pages, travel the world, be outdoors, perform...yes, all my ‘loves’, I have integrated into my career step by step. Best of all, it turned out that, while the idea of coaching appealed, I really wanted to work with groups. Turns out, running life-changing groups and workshops is my calling! I’d never, ever have got there if I’d sat around thinking about it. By getting out and doing something that had the right base elements, I got to tweak things and discover exactly what works for me. I broke the rules, stopped doing one-to-one work and now only run group coaching course, as well as workshops and tele-seminars. Funny thing is, that group course is the most effective programme I’ve run. Following what I wanted has benefitted others.
  2. I made my business location independent. Most of my courses are over the telephone – which allows me to do things like travel the world while still helping people change career in the UK.
  3. I enjoyed my time – working at my natural rhythm means I get a LOT more done. And I’m so much more energised from it.

Remember: one "off-the-shelf" job might not be the answer!

A life where you’re no longer putting your dreams on hold seems far away when you have bills to pay and a CV that doesn’t fit the things you’d love to do. But maybe it’s far away because you’re looking in the wrong places. A single off-the-shelf ‘job’ might not be the answer; relying on an employer to see your potential in a new field might just keep you paralysed in a career dilemma forever.

If you love a lot of things, you like variety, and don’t want to be trapped in a boring career, then creating a bespoke, free-range career opens up new possibilities. Possibilities that can happen in reality, not just in your head.

What would be possible for you if you considered creating a Free Range career?

PS: In case you’re thinking, "I can’t afford it", within a year I was back up to my old income. In a tough market, doing something completely new in an industry that was new to me. It can be done if you do things right!

How can you take your different interests and use them to build a bespoke career for yourself? Leave a comment below.