“I'd known for a while that I wasn’t fulfilled by the role. However I didn’t know what to do next.”
What work were you doing previously?
I worked at EMI in London, as the Vice President of Global Marketing. I oversaw the strategy and marketing for the music catalogue.
What are you doing now?
I teach and coach ‘Positive Meditation’, my own brand of mindful meditation and self-enquiry. I work with private clients, as well as groups, and deliver workshops and courses, mainly in Bristol. I have been teaching for four years now.
Why did you change?
I left EMI in 2006, and for a while had known that I wasn’t fulfilled by the role. However I didn’t know what to do next! I wanted to take some time out to spend time with my kids, travel, and think about what I wanted to do.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
In 2005 I realised I no longer wanted to work for EMI, but I didn‘t know what I was going to do instead. A year later I was made redundant and used it as an opportunity for some time out. I was also going through a divorce at the time and was looking into ways to manage stress.
As part of that, I’d been practicing and teaching a bit of yoga, and was inspired to go to India to learn more techniques around mindfulness. While I was out there, people were coming to me informally for counselling and advice, so I could see that that was something I could do when I returned to the UK.
Are you happy with the change?
What do you miss and what don't you miss about your old work?
I miss the restaurant! The food there was great. I thought I might miss all the gigs I got to go to, but actually I don’t.
How did you go about making the shift?
When I returned to the UK from my travels, I printed off a hundred fliers advertising myself as a meditation teacher and put them through neighbours doors. About six weeks after, a woman got in touch who needed help to cope with her divorce. It went well, so I built a basic website. Back then there weren’t many private meditation practicitioners advertising online, so my site was ranked highly on Google. From that people started coming. I started to pick up one-to-one clients then building on from that I created a six-week group course. The course went well, so I continued to roll it out.
How did you handle your finances to make it possible?
Whilst I had some savings and redundancy pay, it supported me through my travels and divorce, so when I started as a meditation teacher I had to live frugally for a while. I lodged in peoples houses and lived in a shared house for a while to cut down on rent costs.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
Saying no to other opportunities that came along after I left EMI! Once I left, people would say ‘there’s a job you should go for here’ in a related work area. I had to be resolved that I wanted to take some time out to really know what I wanted to do next. After saying ‘no’ to lots of these offers, I actually did wonder if I would have no options. I suppose there was a fear of the unknown.
I also found it difficult assimilating all the things I’d learnt about meditation and living well into a coherent system I could use. For me, meditation by itself was not enough as it wasn’t changing things like limiting beliefs. Initially I was distilling the best of each technique I’d used to find the best fit for myself. Then I had to work on fine-tuning what worked to create something that I could use with clients.
What help did you get?
There was no one person who helped me. I met lots of amazing people with great wisdom along the way . I studied books and online courses which were helpful, as well as spending time at retreats and ashrams.
What do you wish you'd done differently?
Nothing. I wouldn’t even have left EMI earlier. It was the right time for me to go when I did.
What would you advise others to do who are in a similar situation?
If you are stuck in a job you hate and are scared to leave or scared to go after what you want, face those fears. Explore what happens when you go to your worst case scenario. Take yourself through the fear. For example, if you are scared of failing, what would it look like to fail? How bad would it be? Then turn it around and tell yourself ‘I can handle failure’ because you can!
This will shift your perspective around all the ‘what ifs’. Maybe they won’t be so bad after all and you can move forward knowing you can handle your fears if they arose.
Leave your role when the time is right. Don’t leave in a reactionary way. Maybe there are ways to improve your experience of your current job whilst you work towards your next career.
What resources would you recommend to career changers?
I would recommend reading 'Zen And The Art Of Making A Living' by Laurence Boldt. It really helped me.
For those people struggling with making the leap then I offer Skype-based training sessions for those people that can't come to Bristol for a session!
Read more about what Mark does at www.positivemeditation.com
What lessons could you take from Mark's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.