“I never really felt 100% happy.”

Image of Maria Soleil
From Employee to Self-employed

Something had always felt 'off' in each of Maria Soleil's jobs. But it wasn't until the pandemic hit that she decided to re-evaluate. Here's how she built up the confidence to make a transition she didn't think she'd be ready to make for years, and how she's now helping businesses with a mission that's close to her heart. 

What work were you doing previously?

I was a marketing manager at a niche travel agent.

I’d had quite a varied career in terms of sectors, but always in marketing and communications roles. I guess I was going up the traditional marketing career ladder.

What are you doing now?

I run my own business, Soleil Marketing.

It helps purpose-driven businesses achieve growth with better marketing strategies and impactful content. I’m passionate about working with businesses that are focused on people and planet as much as making a profit.

Why did you change?

I was generally quite happy with my job, but when the pandemic hit I was put on the furlough scheme, and I knew I probably wouldn’t have a job to go back to.

That threw me into a sort of career turmoil. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do.

I felt like I hadn’t quite been getting what I wanted from the jobs that I’d done. Even before the pandemic, I'd been pushing for more and more flexibility in the hours I worked and working from home. I just never really felt 100% happy with my jobs.

It was also a difficult time to be applying for jobs, as many companies stopped hiring. But something just felt wrong. My heart wasn’t in those applications. I didn’t even know if I wanted to do marketing any more.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

I had a Zoom interview for a stationery company.

I asked the CEO a question about remote working, and it turned out he was completely against it. He said that most people would be back in the office four or five days a week once things were back to normal.

He didn’t realise how long the pandemic was going to go on for – or how much it was going to change things.

That interview made me realise there had to be another way that I could craft a career that worked for me – rather than fitting a square peg into a round hole.

How did you choose your new career?

After finding Careershifters through Google, I did the Career Change Launch Pad, which helped me explore a lot of wild ideas and different career paths.

The course gave me the confidence to go self-employed, which I hadn’t ever really thought about before. I'd always thought previously that if I was going to do that, it wouldn’t be until I’d gained a lot more experience.

And I also realised that I wanted to do work for purpose-driven businesses. Discovering that Careershifters was a B Corp was part of that.

Are you happy with the change?

Yes. Although, it’s never actually finished! Careers evolve all the time.

How did you go about making the shift?

I did a lot of research, made a business plan, told a lot of people I was doing it, and things snowballed from there.

Speaking to ex-colleagues and contacts and joining communities helped a lot.

What do you miss and what don't you miss?

I miss the support network you get from working in organisations.

But the positives outweigh the negatives.

I don’t miss workplace politics, or the lack of flexibility.

How did you develop (or transfer) the skills you needed for your new role?

I’m still in marketing, so the skills I’m using are similar.

But I’ve honed them. My work is more focused now.

For example, I got a certification about a year ago in marketing strategy, so now I’m quite focused on strategy. I help with content planning, too. I’ve developed some specialisms.

And of course running my own business requires new skills. I’ve actually started to realise that I really like that stuff – even all the admin.

How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?

I was on furlough. It was a privilege to have that time.

What didn’t go well? What was the most difficult thing about changing?

My mental health has been battered.

That’s been the same with everyone during the pandemic, but it has been really hard.

I had a bereavement two months after I went self-employed. So I really struggled during the first few months – getting going was the hardest part.

What help did you get, and what resources would you recommend to others?

As well as the Launch Pad, I joined a lot of online communities, like Facebook groups and Slack communities.

I’m part of the Launch Pad alumni group, a Slack community for self-employed people called Leapers, and something called the Digital Marketing Union, which is really, really helpful. There’s also one called Business of Purpose, which is for purpose-driven business owners.

What have you learnt in the process?

It’s a cliché, but nothing worth doing comes easily.

And also, you never stop learning. I ask myself a lot: do I want to do exactly this for the next 20 years? And the answer is no! I’d get bored. But I’ll learn new skills and do different things.

What do you wish you'd done differently?

I wish I’d explored other avenues even more, although I did do a lot of that as part of the Launch Pad.

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

Don’t rush things.

There’s always pressure to feel like you have things figured out. But you don’t necessarily have to find the answer quickly. I think most people make things up as they go along!

You should feel confident in exploring different options.

To find out more about Maria's services, visit www.soleilmarketing.co.uk.

What lessons could you take from Maria's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.

Maria 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.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at [email protected]. and you could win a £25 / $35 voucher in our monthly draw.