“How Do I Break Free From Others’ Expectations?”

Haywood always longed for a creative career, until life – and other people’s expectations – took over. Now, after years of hard work, he’s a corporate success who inspires pride in the people he loves. But the 9–5 isn’t him, and he longs to give it all up. How do you change course, when it means disappointing those closest to you?

What's your career history and current job?

I'm a compliance manager, working for a retail goods company.

Before that, I worked in TV and film production. My intention was to be a film producer. But I reluctantly gave that up, after I realised I couldn't create a financially stable career from it.

How do you feel about your work?

I'm good at my job, and I enjoy the sense of accomplishment I feel at the end of every day.

I moved naturally into compliance because I found that I was good at research, negotiation and problem solving. I'm detail-oriented with an analytical mind, which means I'm skilled at compliance work. Within a few years, I've achieved promotion to manager level.

But the environment I work in is very chaotic and disorganised. It feels like there's no real structure, and there are a lot of internal politics that make me feel uncomfortable.

I'm not suited to a corporate environment. There are far too many rules to follow when you work in an office, and it often feels like a lot of people are only out for themselves.

I also have no interest in what the company does, which I find very demotivating.

What would you like to be doing instead?

My ultimate dream is to relocate to Amsterdam, and pursue a creative career.

While I'm not sure exactly what form that would take yet, I have a strong interest and background in film and TV to draw upon. I'm still producing films during evenings and weekends, so my skills and experience are up-to-date.

I spend almost every waking moment outside of work being creative, because it makes me feel happy and alive. I do a lot of painting, so a career in art and design could be an option too.

I worked in Amsterdam some time ago, and I instantly fell in love with the people and culture. I felt at home immediately.

Now I go back at least twice every year, and I've made some good friends there.

What's the biggest obstacle in your way?

I'm scared that if I give up my career and follow my dreams, the people I love will view me as a disappointment.

I don't come from an affluent or professional background. There wasn't very much money around when I was growing up, and life was a struggle.

I've worked incredibly hard to get where I am now, and the fact that I can refer to myself as a manager in a corporate organisation is something my family and friends are really proud of.

They've got very high expectations of me as a result, and I don't want to feel as though I've let them all down.

I'm also worried about the financial impact of leaving a well-paid career behind. While I haven't got a family to support, I know from experience that it's hard to find creative work that pays well enough to keep the bills paid.

I daydream about leaving my job with no back-up plan. Just moving to Amsterdam, then getting a job in a bar and seeing what happens from there.

The idea of doing that feels exhilarating, and I'm reasonably confident that I could make something work. I've got a unique combination of creative and business skills that I know could be really useful.

But there are no guarantees. If things don't work out, I'll have let down the people closest to me, and I'll be living a life of constant financial worry.

I've tried looking for creative jobs in Amsterdam, or even professional roles in creative organisations, but so far I haven't found anything that fits my skills and experience.

I've also tried sounding people out for advice, but no-one I've spoken to has said that they would give everything up for a life of uncertainty in a new country. In fact, most of them think I'm crazy to consider it.

But my dream won't go away, and I'm finding it hard to continue with my life and work as it is.

How can I plan the ultimate leap – a new career in a new country – without letting the people I love, and me, down?

Can you help Haywood?
  • Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
  • How do you think Haywood could move his shift forwards?
  • Do you know anyone he could talk to?

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