“I had the mindset of 'this is my job. I've made my bed, I lie in it'.”

Image of Lewis Cooper
From Hospitality to Big Retail

Lewis Cooper was exhausted by his job and wanted a change in lifestyle. So, he identified the skills he could bring to a new sector, overcame feelings of guilt around leaving his employer, and found work that supports his wellbeing. Here's his story.

What work were you doing previously?

I worked in hospitality for 16 years.

What are you doing now?

I now work in the commercial team at Sainsbury's, in Allocation and Replenishment (ensuring that suitable products are available in the right quantities at stores).

The role is office and home-based during standard office hours, whereas before I was working late nights.

How did you feel in your work before you decided to make the change?    

For me, my mental health took a back seat because of how tired I was all the time. 

When you're really exhausted you tend to sort of want to tick off the days. When you're unhappy or exhausted from a job, many things can decline. 

Why did you change?    

The job got harder for me the older I got, and my lifestyle was changing.

I’m getting married and having kids soon, so it was time to learn a new skill and get stuck into something else.

I also realised I wanted to change when I started craving day work and was trying to get as many nine-five shifts as I could in hospitality. 

Are you happy with the change?

Yes, really happy.

The knock-on effect of changing jobs is that I've been able to spend more time with my friends, family, and fiance.

I love walking, playing football and cricket, things I couldn't so easily do before, and didn’t have the time and the energy for it either. Often in hospitality, a 'day off' is like rehab, to get yourself back up to be ready for the next day's work.

So as part of the change I've now been able to look after myself and mental health. I get to enjoy life and have time for myself. The lifestyle balance has been very beneficial.

I've gone from managing people to only managing myself, which has been liberating. I can focus on how to get better in my job, rather than worry about all the different aspects of how a business runs.

It's a big company where other people worry about that, so I can focus on myself and my own skills. 

Being part of a new culture has also been really refreshing.

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

I miss the social aspect, although I get that now in other ways.

Working over online calls is very different to face to face interaction.

Otherwise there isn’t much I miss from my old career, while I definitely value everything I learned from it.

How did you go about making the shift?

It took me a while to pick out the skills I had that I could bring to something else.

Most recently in hospitality I’d started to do a lot more back-of-house work in stocks, so my skills in data analysis leant itself quite well to a role that utilised that side of things. Those were the skills I ultimately took into my current role.

I applied for many jobs. I prepped by reading up about retail and what was happening in the industry at that moment. The preparation was pretty key for me.

For the interview with Sainsbury’s I’d prepped very, very well. My fiance has also worked for Sainsburys for eight years so I knew a little bit about their work culture and what to expect on that side of things. 

That helped me decide it would be a good fit for me.  

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

Me and my fiance are good with money and would always have an emergency fund for these sorts of things.

The career change happened in a year where we decided to get married and move house. Although we didn't struggle, there was an element of relief when I got the job, to not have my employment situation lingering in the background.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

I wouldn't say anything was difficult because the change was so welcomed .

There’s been an element of having to drive my own development a little bit at the start of my role, but I've been energised by that.

What help did you get?  

I got support from my fiance, friends, and occasionally I’d ask my family what they thought.

What have you learnt in the process?

I've learnt to try to be more self-aware, in terms of knowing that if you’re tired and unhappy it might indicate that you're ready for a change. 

If you're particularly exhausted it can be difficult to pinpoint what it is exactly you're stressed about. I never really blamed my job. I had the mindset of 'this is my job. I've made my bed, I lie in it', but I think that's a very negative mindset. 

You can actually put yourself wherever you want to. If you have to learn a new skill, I think you have to be willing to do it and put yourself out of your comfort zone.

So particularly in my career, I will now know when it's a good time for me to move on.

If you're physically and mentally exhausted on a regular basis, you might just have got a bit older and your priorities have changed. It’s okay to admit that. You're not bad at your job, you're just at the end of the line with it. 

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

Don't let other people within the sector that you work in dictate what you should do.

Use your personal support network to seek advice rather than asking for advice from people you already work with.

You need to make a good decision for yourself. If that means leaving and that upsets someone, then so be it. 

A lot of bosses don't want to lose good workers, but sometimes you have to be a bit ruthless and do what's right for you and not what's good for a business that ultimately can move on without you.

I spent a lot of time thinking 'I don't know how they'd survive if I wasn't working 13 hours on a Saturday'. But the fact is they will always manage, and there will always be another person to take over.

When I left my role it was at a busy time of year, so there was a lot of guilt involved around letting people down. But you can get in your own head and think that people will be more angry than they actually are.

If you think you're ready for the change and you're having that thought, then the chances are you are ready.    

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

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.