“Deep down I thought I had to make a change, but I was stuck in a 'velvet rut'.”
What work were you doing previously?
Since leaving university I've always worked for very big global packaging companies, looking after large accounts as a business development manager.
Lots of motorway munching, flights, being inside factories and big warehouses, supply chain analysis, and ultimately being responsible for having happy customers or getting new customers.
What are you doing now?
I’m doing a similar role in a different place.
I've moved to an even bigger company with a slightly different twist on my job, but the people and workplace culture are unbelievably fantastic.
We're treated like adults, there's no micromanaging. I'm just left to get on with it.
In all my years of working in this industry I've never worked anywhere where the bonus structure is based on the team achieving. We don’t have individual targets. If the team hits, we all get a bonus. If the team doesn't hit, then none of us gets a bonus. This means we all help each other out.
How did you feel in your work before you decided to make the change?
I'd been very happy for a long time, but for the last few years I'd known that something wasn’t right.
Deep down I thought I had to make a change, but I was stuck in what I call the 'velvet rut'.
You get up in the morning and know what you're doing, you've got lots of experience, your colleagues say you're doing a great job, you're earning good money, the penison’s there, you can afford holidays or weekends away.
But I was bored and getting increasingly frustrated.
Why did you change?
Towards the end of my ten year stint at my company, the management and strategy was changing. I was bored and getting increasingly frustrated.
I jumped from this company to a new company in desperation, only to find this new one was even worse due to micromanaging. I lasted two years.
I wasn’t in a great place and I was getting miserable.
I knew I had to do something, so I was googling 'career change', 'career coaches', and stumbled on Careershifters. I thought I’d give the Career Change Launch Pad a go.
How did you choose your new career?
I thought I was going to do something hugely different and I'd never have to think about pallets, prints and quality issues again.
In my heart I'm an environmentalist and have always been involved with charities, so I thought I'd end up in the green sector.
As part of the Launch Pad, I conducted lots of informational interviews. They were gold dust. I spoke to leaders and founders of environmental-related charities, as well as a politician, and the more I spoke to people in this arena I discovered a few things.
I had none of the specialist knowledge required, for me personally the salary range within the sector was too big a step down, and I thought 'well this is just sitting behind a desk'. While it's really important stuff, a lot of it is number crunching. But I like getting out there, meeting new people, and getting my hands dirty.
I wasn't going to get that with my skill set at my age in the sector.
Along with insights that came up about my personality and skills during the Launch Pad, all these things helped me realise that actually, I'm quite happy with my skills.
So it made me wonder, ‘is it that I'm doing the wrong thing, or am I doing the right thing, just in the wrong place?’
Are you happy with the change?
I'm much much happier. I'm a lot more sociable than I was and I've got my mojo back.
For a really big firm it feels like a smaller company. It almost feels a bit like a startup as we're always looking for the next new thing, and always looking to try and do something differently which just wasn't there with my previous employer.
If any of us are unsure about anything we can convene a quick team call and get each others input.
There's genuinely no politics or grandstanding.
Also for a big corporate there's not too much unnecessary corporate procedures or backstabbing. People don't get promoted because their face fits while they’re no good at their work (which is something I've seen with previous employers).
I've also had the headspace to recognise other things I need to change. I'm in the process of moving from the city to the coast, which is something I've always wanted to do.
How did you go about making the shift?
For me it was about understanding the skills I had that I thought were boring me.
It wasn't the skills I was using, I was just in the wrong place.
While going through the Launch Pad process, for the first time in years I recognised in myself what I'm naturally good at, and where I could contribute.
I love what I do, but I needed to be reminded of that.
I picked the phone up to a recruitment firm that specialise in my sector. Within a month I landed my new role.
I was very lucky.
What didn't go well? What wrong turns did you take?
There weren’t any wrong turns, but I was very careful.
I'd been at my previous employer for over ten years, so I guess there's a slight risk as the grass isn't always greener. You don't really know until you're in the new role.
If I'd have had fear it would have been 'have I joined the right company?', but having been in the industry a long time, I kind of knew about the professional capabilities of this company. It was just checking the workplace cultural fit.
How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?
In many ways it was a safe shift.
I didn't have to worry about money as there wasn’t much of a salary change. I didn’t have to move house as part of the shift. It was just taking my skill set from one place to another.
When I was seriously considering a move to the green sector, I sat down with my partner, we did a budget and we looked at what we could get away with living on if a salary drop was needed for me to work in the sector.
What help did you get?
As part of the Launch Pad, going through the process with other people was great.
We shared everything, talking at weekends and supporting one another. I made friends with alumni from other cohorts too. These conversations that took place outside of the scheduled activities were invaluable.
What have you learnt in the process?
That being passionate about something (like the environment) and doing a fair bit of it in your personal life doesn’t mean it has to be your career.
I think in my desire to make a change I immediately thought that since in my personal life the environment is so important to me, that this is going to be the right thing for me as a career.
It took speaking to a lot of people to realise that actually, I can get my environmental kick by doing a bit more in my personal life. I can get my fix that way and that makes me happy.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
For me, clarity came from talking to people.
I got to know myself better through talking to people – lots of informational interviews, talking to friends and family, talking to other career changers (on the Launch Pad).
Andy 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.