“You’re Allowed To Ask For More.” Arianna's Real-life Career Change Lessons


Ever find yourself 'putting off' your career change for later? You're not alone. Here's how Launch Pad graduate Arianna found a hidden career idea in her procrastination, and started getting paid for something she says she'd happily do for free.

My career history is a complete patchwork.

Until now, I've never found something I really liked and clicked with.

I studied International Relations at university. I was a therapeutic horse riding instructor for a while, and then, when I moved house, I started working at a food company in customer care. From there, I moved up to a contract manager role, and then project management, and eventually to quality assurance.

It had two advantages: it was convenient because it was part time and they were flexible with the kids, and I liked the people. But that's where it ended.

The work wasn't interesting. I wasn't happy there.

I kept thinking to myself: I'm intelligent, I'm educated, I can and should do so much more than this.

I wanted to be using my brain and doing something that was more in sync with who I am. I couldn't shake the feeling that there had to be something better out there.

I knew I was selling myself short. But at the same time, it was comfortable.

It was easy to stay, so I did, until management went down the drain and we were all made redundant.

When I left, I didn't know what to do.

If I hadn't had young kids, I probably would have gone back to university.

Midwifery, psychology, something practical.

I like security, structure, qualifications. I'm drawn to things that are 'real' and solid, so retraining would be my immediate instinct.

But with two young kids I didn't have the time or the money for that. I wanted to have a profession that would earn well and be satisfying without me having to go back and re-qualify in something.

And that was what I kept on bumping up against – I couldn't find a way around it.

I spent hours and hours putting different things in Google about career change.

What I thought I wanted was a coach, initially.

Or, more accurately, a machine. I wanted to find someone where I could just give them loads of information about myself and they'd say "Ta-da!" and give me my ideal career on a spoon.

I didn't find that… but I did find you guys at Careershifters.

I followed the weekly bulletin for weeks and weeks, until you convinced me that you weren't quacks.

There are so many scammy-sounding things out there, people charging loads of money for a lot of hot air, so I wanted to be sure and go carefully.

And at the same time, I was sending CVs to people in the usual way.

I knew I could probably get another job doing what I'd been doing before, and that was potentially a slippery slope for me.

I had a couple of offers on the table which I ended up rejecting.

I kept thinking about that old saying:

"If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got".

I needed to try something radically different. 

And that's what the Career Change Launch Pad looked like to me. I was right.

It was exciting and fun.

First of all, I wasn't alone, which on its own was a big deal.

There were suddenly lots and lots of people around me – good people – in the same position as me. So I realised that I wasn't stupid or a failure or anything. There isn't anything wrong with me, it's just the way things are set up. We haven't been taught how to navigate the world of work in a way that makes sense.

That in itself was a huge relief.

And then the Missions – even the ones that seemed very outlandish at the beginning – they really did something.

They didn't directly give me job interviews on a spoon like I thought I wanted.

But they did change my mindset, which I didn't realise I desperately needed.

That mindset shift, it turns out, was more important than anything else.

It's huge, but it really happened. It taught me that I can be in control of my life.

I finally felt like I was really in the driver's seat.

Until then, I'd made small choices about when to do things, and how, but fundamentally I'd just sort of let life happen. And for the most part that was fine. I ended up with a man I like and kids I like, and that's great, but then it reached a point where what life was throwing at me wasn't good enough.

There's a TV show I like called House of Cards. At some point in that show, they say:

"If you don’t like the way the table's set, reset the table".

And that's what the Launch Pad felt like for me – this awakening to control.

Don't get me wrong, there was no Big Bang Moment of realisation… it was more like learning to play a musical instrument.

One action after another, we built it up, brick by brick, until I was there: I'm standing on my own two feet, I have my eyes open. I can do something. Let's give this a shot.

I did have one kind of Big Bang Moment, though…

On the Launch Pad we had Get It Done Days, where we'd work together to achieve all kinds of things over the course of 12 hours.

One of the coaches was pushing me to complete one of the Missions I'd been putting off.

Instead, I tidied up my wardrobe.

I took all my clothes out, started having a good clear out, and that's all I had to report back on in our next call an hour later.

But in doing that, I remembered that my mother once hired a team of women when she moved house. These women unpacked and organised the whole house in a few hours, and my mother, who's no fool, paid quite a lot of money to have that done.

I had done that for her the previous time she'd moved house and loved it.

And any time my friends move house, I always get really pushy about volunteering to help, because I love doing it. I find it really relaxing and enjoyable.

I love this. I'm good at it. And...

I suddenly realised, people will pay for this. People will give me money to do something I'd happily do for free.

So, I thought, if it's possible, then sod it, I'll try.

I did some research, and I came across APDO: the Association for Professional Declutterers and Organisers here in England.

And it just rolled from there.

Once I saw that there was something accredited and a structure I could lean on for support, it was much, much easier.

It wasn't all just one simple path – I was exploring other ideas too.

Alongside the organising route, I was thinking about becoming a doula, and I knew I loved music, so I was considering that too…

I applied the things I learned on the Launch Pad: how to test my ideas, how to find support, and I discovered quickly that if you approach them in the right way, people – even busy people – are usually very happy to help you with whatever you need.

Nobody said no, which was a total revelation for me.

So I spoke to as many people as I could, until I felt the picture I had was clear enough.

And the choice for me was mostly pragmatic. It quickly became apparent that music wasn't the route for me.

And I'm still interested in becoming a doula, but I knew I couldn't start doing both at the same time. I had to choose, and organising felt more accessible.

The biggest thing I learned was how limited most people are in what we think is possible.

I think the classic career market gives us a very false, one-sided image of what work can look like.

Job sites, recruitment channels… it's all depressing as hell.

The Launch Pad showed me that what I saw on my computer screen every day – the job sites, the adverts – that's not the only option.

I felt that I wasn't being a 'good girl' if I didn't go to the job sites and apply for things, even if I didn't want those jobs, because this is what you have to do. I have kids, I have a mortgage, I'm a grown up. I must play the game, because I'm not going to be a rockstar.

If I dared to dream any bigger, I was acting like a 15 year old.

And I think my biggest lesson is that – it's not one or the other.

It's not being a secretary or a rockstar. It's not black or white, corporate grind or performance art in a field. You don't have to be a treehugger or a child to not accept something that doesn't work for you. It's OK.

There are so many things in between, so many possibilities out there that are perfectly realistic and tangible and doable.

You're allowed to ask for more, and to expect something more.

You just have to nudge, push things enough times, explore a little further.

At some point, I realised that my happy place would be to be freelance – to work for myself.

I was sick and tired of being the backstage assistant for someone else at work, being a little cog instead of the whole machine and making a difference myself.

It's important work, but it's not for me.

I like to shine a bit more, and I realised I'm allowed to. I'm good enough to be able to offer my own stuff.

So, once I realised that I could create something to offer on my own, I could narrow my search down a bit more. No more looking for jobs, no more applying to companies.

That was a huge relief for me – giving myself permission to stop looking for jobs, and to say, with clarity to people around me:

"Don't send me any more job adverts, I'm going to work for myself."

It felt like a ton of bricks lifted off my shoulders.

My non-negotiable is being a sole trader. That was a new level of clarity that really helped.

Knowing that, I could be more discerning in what I looked at. I could be a coach, a doula, a musician; I could organise dinner parties… I wasn't looking for a needle in a haystack, considering every job advert out there. I could cross things off the list and play more.

And I feel more comfortable about the future, too.

I like organising and decluttering, but if I end up doing something else, that's OK.

Right now, as I build up my business, I'm doing some other bits and pieces, translating for a movie studio and things like that on the side. It'll take a little while to get the business going, but that's OK with me. I know I'm on the right track.

Working with my first client was amazing. It felt like Christmas.

The job itself was so much fun – and then she put this wad of cash in my hand. Suddenly, it was all so tangible.

She handed the money over with this huge smile on her face – she was happy with what I'd done and she was happy to be paying for it, and that felt just amazing.

I'd have honestly done it for free, and there she was giving me money for it!

I had this thought:

"I'd better run away quickly before she realises what I've done!"

What I really loved, too, was that she said it was meditative, cathartic, which is exactly how I feel about it. Hearing that from her felt wonderful.

Because the process of letting things go really is about taking a mental load off, too.

I think that's a big part of my 'why' for doing this.

The clients I work with are people like me: they're people with careers and kids and they've just lost track of things.

And if I can give them some mental freedom, cutting through the physical chaos around them, that's perfect for me.

Arianna took part in our Career Change Launch Pad. If you're ready to join a group of bright, motivated career changers on a structured programme to help you find more fulfilling work, you can find out more here.