“I was fed up wasting my creative energy and not making a positive impact on the world.”
What work were you doing previously?
My prior career journey led me through corporate training, medical billing and coding, accounting and sales.
What are you doing now?
Now, I'm running my own business as an interior designer.
I'm focused on helping individuals and families restore natural rhythm in their lives so that they can grow and be happy.
How did you feel in your work before you decided to make the change?
I felt trapped, sad and disappointed.
Once I'd learned everything about a new job and became bored, I'd find myself using all my creative energy to make the best out of a bad situation. It felt embarrassing to be 36 and not know what I wanted in life; to bounce from job to job, never finding satisfaction.
I felt misunderstood by those around me as well, who asked: “Why don't you stick with it if you're so good at this job? You're asking too much, you want too much. You should settle.”
Why did you change?
I was fed up with wasting my creative energy and not making a positive impact on the world.
Every job felt like I was working overtime. And I wasn't getting paid for my creative strategy and input.
I was done with being taken advantage of; with giving all my creative energy away for no good reason to companies that weren't ethical (by my standards), and that didn't align with my values.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
It was a week before Christmas. My husband saw me have my fourth panic attack in three months.
It felt like even though I was professionally the furthest along in my career I'd ever been, I was the furthest away from where I wanted to be. My husband said "It's not worth it", and supported me to leave to find my passion.
How did you choose your new career?
I scoured the Careershifters website.
Every piece of advice I could find I wrote down until I had made myself a map of steps to take.
It was the first time in my life I'd ever realised that I wouldn't find my passion on a job website, or by looking at my job history. I wouldn't find it by thinking about it.
It was the first time in my life anyone had ever said to me that having lots of career interests is a good thing, that you don't need to go to school to find it first, and that maybe your career is something that you need to make up from scratch, from the inside out.
I then connected with people who inspired me. I reached out to anyone and everyone I knew, asking if they knew of anyone who was in a creative career. I asked those people if I could do informational interviews.
It was through asking around that I reconnected with an old friend who it turned out in the past year had created a group online specifically for artists trying to find their creative way in the world. Through this one connection I was able to join her group and meet graphic designers, painters, people who worked with glass and ceramics, and musicians. I further interviewed and connected with those people from the group who inspired me.
I also reached out to the 'butterflies' I know in my circle. I told them what I was doing, where I was doing it, and stressed that I needed quick and easy creative projects so that I could figure out my direction. There was no shortage of hands raised! I was amazed at how quickly my friends spread the word and wanted to help me on my journey. It was very touching.
I also reached out to people I didn't know, online, just to tell them how their work inspired me. And I volunteered to do some product photography at a local bakery.
I carried out other Shift Projects, too. I asked a friend who owns a vintage booth if I could organise / merchandise it. I tried out a weekly photo challenge prompt to see if I enjoyed photography / self-portraits. I connected with a friend who was a professional photographer and she allowed me to be a guest at a professional photography group's training seminar. I practised product photography in my home. I set up a blog and began to write (about 5 posts).
I also asked around for anyone who had a graphic design project for me, and did a few projects on the side as well as taking classes from Adobe Creative Cloud and 'design-alongs'. And I coached a friend as a personal coach through a few sessions, as well as doing some professional organising for her.
It all changed when I redesigned a room in my own home (my bedroom). It was then that I began to get deeper into Feng Shui and the concept of 'living in rhythm'.
The interesting thing is that I never previously considered interior design at all because it felt 'empty' to me. It wasn't until I went further into interior design and allowed myself to explore, that I realised how much I love Feng Shui, and began to piece together its more personal meaning to me.
I began to embrace how interior design and simple manipulation of the home environment can be transformative in others' lives.
Are you happy with the change?
I am beyond happy, I am ecstatic.
I feel relieved, hopeful, connected and useful. And I feel more inspired than I've ever been.
I feel as though I've found what it is I was meant to do in this world, and the 'how' I'm doing it reveals itself a little more every day.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
I miss the pot lucks, the customers, the challenges to be creative and bring teams together in the workplace.
I don't miss the boredom, the questioning, or the self-doubt that came along with finding myself in yet another position that I had to force myself to care about.
How did you go about making the shift?
I used a daily journal to help track how I felt about each shift project and new relationship I made.
I followed what gave me energy until I arrived at interior design. Then, I allowed that to evolve while doing even more design projects until I figured out my why, which really clarified everything for me.
In terms of my business, the first thing I did was start an Instagram. This gave me a place where I could experiment and get used to sharing my work publicly. Once I was really picking up momentum towards design I created a website using Squarespace. Through the website I was able to continue with projects and then tweak my design process as I went along.
Right now, I'm relying on word of mouth. I've just designed business cards and begun to use those. Next, I plan to start doing Instagram Lives and learning about Squarespace SEO.
What didn't go well? What wrong turns did you take?
I can't say that anything didn't go well because even the shift projects I didn't enjoy helped lead me to exactly what it is that I'm doing now.
How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?
My husband supported us through the shift, and I kept to a strict weekly grocery budget along with limiting meals out.
Thanks to all the new connections I made, I did a little freelance web design and personal coaching on the side to help with the transition.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
Changing my mindset away from the traditional ways of finding a job and a career.
Not knowing, and having to learn to trust myself. I had to learn to be OK with the in-between / liminal phase.
Having the bravery to start over again and shake the stigma of that.
What help did you get?
I've had help from almost everyone around me and the new circle of friends I've made because of this shift.
What resources would you recommend to others?
Careershifters all the way!
What have you learnt in the process?
I've learned that I can trust myself, and to listen to my intuition.
I've learned that the most meaningful career comes from the inside out, and cannot be found on a website.
I've learned that there's no feeling like growing into the possibilities that you alone can dream up for yourself.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
Challenge yourself to try on a different mindset, and use the help that Careershifters provide on their website.
To find out more about Brenda's business, visit www.brendaboyddesign.com.
What lessons could you take from Brenda's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.