After giving up her career to travel the world, Sarah’s firmly established herself in a brand-new field. But years later, the old one is calling her to return. How do you become a success all over again, when the competition is fierce, and you’re overwhelmed by how much has changed?
What's your career history and current job?
I took a course in newspaper journalism, then worked successfully as a journalist in my early 20s.
After completing a series of mental-health-related qualifications, I'm now a full-time therapist for children and young adults.
I left my old career in print journalism because I found the environment too harsh and competitive. I took some time out to travel the world, so I could discover what I really wanted from my life.
It was out of curiosity that I decided to learn more about mental health. I completed my postgraduate qualifications, then fell straight into therapy work from there.
How do you feel about your work?
I love that my work offers a lot of flexibility and control, such as working from home when I'm not seeing clients.
There's also a lot of variety. No two days are ever the same, which I really like. I also enjoy working with supportive and interesting colleagues.
The problem is that I don't enjoy practical therapy work. Unlike the majority of my colleagues, therapy was never a vocation for me. I think of myself as more of an 'accidental' therapist.
People often assume that I get a lot of satisfaction from my work, but the truth is that I enjoy learning about mental health more than practising what I've learned in face-to-face sessions. Even though I genuinely like my clients, I much prefer working on my own, with access to support as and when I need it.
What would you like to be doing instead?
I miss being creative, and writing for a living in particular.
In an ideal world, I'd return to my former career as a journalist, writing features that have the potential to help people.
I've set up a dedicated blog site, on which I'm going to write personal features and coaching articles. Some of these will be inspired by my career as a mental health professional.
I enjoy writing fiction, so I've subscribed to a writing magazine, and started a fiction-writing course for extra inspiration. I've also volunteered to do some writing work here and there, such as copywriting for a local charity.
I've started going to art workshops too, as I love painting. In the past, some of my artwork has been featured in exhibitions, but I'm not sure how I could turn my interest in that into a 'proper' career.
What's the biggest obstacle in your way?
The idea of going back to a writing career feels so overwhelming that I can't imagine it will ever happen.
I was successful as a journalist, but my experience is in the world of print. Now that side of the industry has all but disappeared, and so much time has passed that I worry I won't be taken seriously as a writer.
While the online world means there are more opportunities to write and promote yourself than ever before, it seems like everybody I meet now wants to be a writer, or do something creative with their lives. The amount of competition feels incredibly daunting.
I struggle with self-doubt all the time. I'll often find myself reading online articles with a heavy heart, thinking that I could never produce anything as good. I'm hesitant about sharing my writing with a wider audience, particularly when everybody seems to want to comment on or criticise what they read online. What if the feedback I receive is overwhelmingly negative?
Even though I've already written a crop of articles that I could publish, I've been stalling setting up my blog site, and letting people know about it.
It's hard to imagine why any potential employer would want to hire someone like me, when there are so many younger or more experienced writers out there to choose from. Meanwhile, I've established a successful career as a therapist. I feel it will be hard for me to explain why I want to take a step 'backwards'.
But I know that becoming a writer again is the best chance I'll have of being happy in my work. How do I move past all the overwhelm and self-doubt, and find my way back to a writing career?
- Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
- How do you think Sarah could move her shift forwards?
- Do you know anyone she could talk to?
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