“Something was still missing. Even landing this amazing job only made me happy temporarily.”
What work were you doing previously?
I was a management consultant at KPMG, specialising in ‘People and Change’.
What are you doing now?
I run my own Yoga, Health and Fitness business, and a community yoga project for English speakers in Paris.
Why did you change?
Both my parents run their own business in sport and I grew up in that environment. However, I somehow never managed to follow through on this passion. Initially I wanted to do something different to my parents, and also as a school leaver I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to study business abroad, which was a very big deal and a very big investment on my parents' part. At that time, Business Studies seemed like a better return on this investment than a sports degree in terms of career prospects.
Fast forward twelve years, I found myself in my seemingly ‘dream job’ in the corporate world. Lots of variety, exposure to high profile business clients, international travel, an expense account, an intellectually stimulating and positive team environment, great pay... everything. But something was still missing. I never managed to feel satisfied by my work, and even landing the most recent amazing job only made me happy temporarily.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
I lost my motivation (strangely) after I won the ‘Employee of the Year’ award and was promoted shortly after. I celebrated over the Christmas break, but when I came back I felt as if I had ticked the ‘success box’. I’d proved that I can be successful in one of the top companies in the world and that nothing was left to prove. I think subconsciously I felt that quitting before I achieved recognition and success was going to make me look like a loser. But now I felt an overwhelming urge to leave my job and start the career that would make me happy, not just successful.
Of course the change didn’t come instantly. It took me another year of thinking, deliberating, being scared, and not knowing what to do instead. I took to sport for salvation to make me feel better which soon took up most of my mornings, evening and weekends. Even the trips to and from work would be a run or a cycle ride most days.
One day after a particularly frustrating day at work, feeling unmotivated and being told off for lack of performance I was running home through a park, and with no-one around I let go and in frustration cried out a question into the void, “If I’m so rubbish at my job. then what am I good at?!?” And the obvious answer immediately popped into my head: "You are good at what you are doing right now. Running, and everything that surrounds it. Sport, fitness, making people healthy and, as a result, happy." That was the epiphany moment.
I then still didn’t have the guts to do it straight away, and went on to do another project abroad for four months until I fractured my wrist snowboarding and couldn’t work. I had a lot of time to think, and being shaken up by the accident made me realise that the body is too fragile and that life is too short to wait for a different moment to ‘take the plunge’. I realised there is never going to be that moment when it's not going to be scary, so I picked up the phone and spoke to my manager.
Are you happy with the change?
Absolutely delighted. I love what I do now.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
What I don’t miss (or what I really appreciate now) is the freedom to make decisions, bold moves, or implementing unusual ideas without delay. I ask people for advice, and consult those who are more experienced than me, but ultimately it's me who makes the final decision on what to do next.
Oh, and I LOVE not dreading being told off when I do make occasional mistakes. It’s bad enough to feel it yourself so I appreciate being my own ‘performance appraisal manager’ and not having to worry about someone else pointing it out.
Also what I don’t miss is having no choice over who your colleagues are. It's so rewarding to be able to surround yourself with people you genuinely get on with on all levels.
How did you go about making the shift?
I asked for a six month career break, which I hoped would give me enough time to figure out if this is what I genuinely wanted to do. Thankfully it turned out it was, so I called them up in six months and said I wasn't coming back. They said they had a strong suspicion that that would be the case, and wished me the best of luck!
How did you handle your finances to make the change possible?
I saved up for the last year leading up to the shift, so that I could pay off my student debts and credit card bills. I then had enough savings to pay for my Yoga teacher training in India and basic living costs.
I asked my parents for a loan to pay for my Personal Training Diploma. After coming back from India my boyfriend was offered a job in Paris, France, and he asked me to move with him. I jumped at the opportunity to change my life even more radically. But then I soon realised that it's not easy to start a new career, business and life in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. Luckily my boyfriend offered to support us both until I got the business going. I wouldn’t have done it without the help of those close to me.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
Thinking that friends and people around me would think less of me for giving up such a successful job for a ‘manual labour’ career. But in fact I had the opposite response. I got a lot of respect and moral support from all my friends and family.
Further down the line, the most difficult thing was getting through the confidence lows that would creep in once in a while as I built up my business. Although I genuinely believed in the idea and was sure this was the right thing to do, sometimes I felt the task in front of me was just too big and wondered if I’d ever succeed. But searching for job ads in consulting and imagining returning to working in an office snapped me back into full determination.
What help did you get?
Great moral support from my friends, financial support from my family and my boyfriend. And inspiration from websites such as Careershifters. It was especially helpful reading advice from various career change advisers and coaches as well as other people's career change stories.
What have you learnt in the process?
My biggest learning was slowly realising that most of the constraints and potential obstacles to success were products of my own imagination. When I started working on new ideas with confidence and enthusiasm, all my fears always turned out to have been untrue! So even though it's still difficult sometimes, I always try to look at why each idea would work rather than why it won’t and just get on with it!
What do you wish you'd done differently?
I wish I was more decisive and it didn’t have to take me a fractured wrist to decide to take the leap!
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
Know the difference between taking the leap because you are frustrated, and because you have found absolutely the right career path that will make you happy. Get help from professionals, read as many inspirational books as possible, and discuss your ideas with your friends and strangers alike.
Try before you buy. Don’t take the leap without having had some exposure of what life is like in a certain profession. I had wasted several years studying things I thought were definitely my life passion (such as Interior Design) only to realise, after having a couple of friends as trial clients, that I absolutely hated it. I was thankful that I did this before handing in my notice! Make the change only when you are sure and have tried it out, otherwise you might find yourself in another career that doesn’t fulfil you.
What resources would you recommend to others?
Two books that really inspired me the most on my career change journey are Richard Branson’s official Autobiography, ‘Losing my Virginity’, and ‘How I Made It’ by Rachel Bridge, which is a collection of inspirational entrepreneurial success stories.
You can find out more about Anna's work here.
What lessons could you take from Anna's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.