“My work misery was my last thought as I went to sleep and my first thought as I woke up.”
What work were you doing previously?
I was in School Business Management.
My work involved finance, HR, premises, facilities, IT, health and safety, and Governance.
What are you doing now?
I am now Assistant to the Practice Manager in a law firm.
My work tasks cover much the same topics as School Business Management. Most of my work to date has been financial with some premises and facilities tasks; however, my duties will widen as time goes on.
How did you feel in your work before you decided to make the change?
Despite being good at what I do, I'd been miserable in the school environment for longer than I care to admit.
Long hours, daily problems, difficult to please senior leaders, unpleasant colleagues, unreliable contractors, local and central government bureaucracy, appalling pupil behaviour, always too much to do with insufficient time, money or resources... all of these factors were literally sucking the life out of me.
The Sunday feeling of dread about going back in on a Monday started getting earlier and earlier – so much so that 'that feeling' was starting on a Friday evening.
Work misery was all-consuming; it cast a shadow over me when I was undertaking hobbies, seeing friends or trying to relax. It was my last thought as I went to sleep and my first thought as I woke up.
I'm a positive and cheery character by nature; however, inside I had this constant gnawing feeling of trepidation.
Why did you change?
Quite simply, I'd had enough.
I was sick of hearing myself moaning to my friends and family about how unhappy I was in my job. And yet, having only ever really worked in education, I was feeling completely trapped.
I didn't 'know' any other sectors; plus I'm in my late forties and couldn't afford to take a significant drop in salary.
Yet, something had to change; we only get one chance at life and I didn't want to reach retirement full of regret.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
I knew in September last year that I had to make the change.
The thought of starting another long autumn term, with the added complexities of managing Covid-19 measures and working for an impossibly difficult boss, was taking a toll on my mental health. I was feeling constantly anxious.
I knew I had to get out of education but had absolutely no idea what to do instead.
How did you choose your new career?
I didn't choose it. In fact, a friend chose it for me!
I'd been trawling job sites and been trying to write a CV with no focus whatsoever. In desperation I typed 'career change at 50' into Google and stumbled across the Careershifters website.
The relief of discovering that I wasn't alone in feeling like this about my job was a bit overwhelming. I read the case studies and felt so inspired that I signed up for the workshop.
Meanwhile, I'd been telling friends that I had to find a new job. One friend sent me a job advert advertising for an Assistant to a Practice Manager in a law firm.
Are you happy with the change?
Yes, very happy. It's been life changing.
I feel (and apparently look) ten years younger! I'm working shorter hours, in a friendly, pleasant environment, doing tasks that I enjoy and 'that feeling of doom' has completely gone!
I look forward to going to work every day.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
I miss some of my wonderful work colleagues, but I literally don't miss anything else about school life.
This has provided me with solid confirmation that a career change was the right thing for me.
How did you go about making the shift?
The job advert wanted experience in five out of ten areas, and I felt confident in eight of these.
There was no salary mentioned and no job description, so I rang the solicitors to find out more. It turned out that they had deliberately not written a job description as they were looking for the right person and didn't want to get too prescriptive.
Before reading the Careershifters website, I wouldn't have picked up the phone to the solicitors as I would have found all the reasons in my head as to why I couldn't change job sectors (lack of knowledge, financial security, fear of change, etc).
I had an amazing conversation with the Managing Partner, who asked me to submit my CV. I was interviewed two days later and offered the job. The speed of finding a new job in a different sector was incredible.
How did you develop (or transfer) the skills you needed for your new role?
It turns out that all my skills from School Business Management have been transferable.
Financial knowledge, HR knowledge, IT skills, premises and health and safety experience – the overlaps are huge.
I knew that it wasn't the tasks that I was unhappy with; it was the environment. I'm enjoying learning more each day about the legal sector.
What didn't go well? What wrong turns did you take?
I was so fortunate as I didn't have a chance to take wrong turns, as finding a new job happened within days!
I only wish I'd made the move months or years earlier.
How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?
I have taken a perfectly manageable pay cut for an immeasurable improvement to the quality of my life.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
In the end, nothing!
I went into the law firm for an induction morning whilst I was working my notice period at the school and went from 'hoping' that the new job would be OK, to 'knowing' that it was going to be great.
I realise now that all the obstacles that I thought would be in the way had actually been put there by me.
What help did you get?
The support of my friends. If I hadn't told them how unhappy I was, then this one friend wouldn't have sent me the job advert.
I will be forever grateful!
What resources would you recommend to others?
Read the Careershifters website, and do the workshop – it's brilliant.
Even though I managed to change career between signing up for it and the workshop actually taking place, I still went on the workshop. The leaders are excellent and guide you through exercises and discussions; giving you useful tools on the way.
Had I not found a new job before the workshop, the experience would have empowered me to do so.
What have you learnt in the process?
That life is too short to be unhappy at work.
One of my aims in life is to be 'envious of the life I'm leading, rather than being envious of others' and this has become a reality.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
Have courage to commit to making the change.
Talk to friends.
Use the Careershifters website and attend the workshop.
What lessons could you take from Nick's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.