“Doing anything for nine years is tough. I’m not very good bored.”

Image of Angeli Vaid
From Portfolio Career to Trainer

Angeli Vaid had been managing a complex schedule of freelance work for years, but was ready for a new challenge. Here, she shares how she refreshed the balance of her portfolio to feel more aligned with her values, and why it's never too late to make a shift towards more fulfilling work. 

What work were you doing previously?

I was a full-time freelancer working across projects in health, social care and the arts, all focusing on evaluating community impact.

I’d been doing that for about nine years: I went freelance to fit in with my family and what they needed, after working for one company in salaried roles for nearly 20 years.

What are you doing now?

I now work as a trainer: my title is Training and Inclusion Manager in Public and Patient Involvement and Engagement, for Oxford Biomedical Research Centre – they’re the people that invented one of the Covid-19 vaccines.

I work part-time for them, and I’ve kept some freelance training and facilitation work, across two or three projects.

So there’s one big pot, which is very fairly paid, and the other areas are much smaller pots that give me freedom.

Why did you change?

I changed for career development, and because I was bored.

I think doing anything for nine years is tough. I’m not very good bored – I’ve got a very low boredom threshold – and I really like learning new stuff.

If you’re a freelancer working on small projects, you have to take full responsibility for your own career development, and make decisions about which directions you’re going to go in. I had so many hops in so many different directions – I needed clarity.

Another factor came from friends and family saying I was really undervaluing my ability.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

One day during lockdown I had a conversation with my brother, who’s an executive career coach.

I hadn’t discussed my own career with him much before. I was telling him my work had exploded during lockdown, and I had more work than I knew what to do with – but was also homeschooling my son. I told him I felt all over the place, doing so many different things.

He said, “Oh, you’ve got a portfolio career.” I hadn't heard the term before. So I googled 'portfolio career', and the first sensible thing that came up was an article by Natasha from Careershifters.

I signed up for the Careershifters emails and did a session online. I felt like I was on the same page as the other people on the call. I think that was the point when I just thought: right, I’m changing. These people have done it, I can do it too.

How did you choose your new career, and how did you go about making the shift?

Nine years ago, when I left my salaried job, I did what you’re not supposed to do: I just went in one morning and resigned. I had a bit of a plan, but nothing major.

So this time, when I realised that it was time to shift, I knew I needed something much more subtle. This time, it wasn’t about hating the work at all: it was about moving forward with intention, it was about career development.

With my current job, I started quite recently, but I did a lot of freelance work for them beforehand, and got to know them a bit. And then in the middle of doing the freelance work, the job came up, and I applied for it and got it. I don’t think I would have applied for it, and certainly wouldn’t have got it, had I not done the Careershifters Career Change Launch Pad!

So while it sounds like a very sudden change, it was a culmination of what I’d been working towards.

Are you happy with the change?

I’m really delighted to be doing my job. It’s in a small team, it’s exactly the kind of thing that really suits me, and it completely sits with my values.

And I’ve still got the opportunity to do some of the things I’m really passionate about through my freelance work.

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

I did have to make some uncomfortable decisions.

As a freelancer I had repeat clients that sort of regarded me as staff. But I had to tell them I had another piece of work and wasn’t going to be available: I had to say no to a lot of people who fully expected that I would say yes. Some people were not at all happy. So I had to be very resilient.

Obviously, when you’re freelance, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid – but if I’d kept accepting those jobs then I was never going to change. So it was a turbulent time.

I’d also set up an arts consultancy as a freelancer, and I needed to tell my colleagues that I was leaving. They were really nice about it. But it was difficult to say goodbye to that – I’d set it up, it was my baby. The last thing I did was take my profile down from the website. That felt really hard.

What do you wish you'd done differently?

I had to leave some clients, and it was really important to me to leave in a good way.

There was one occasion where I didn’t get that right, and I regret that.

It’s OK now, it’s resolved. But it was hard.

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

I think the skills I use across my work sit together well – coaching, mentoring, training and facilitation. They’re all in the same basket.

What help did you get?

One of my brothers was really helpful – I would call him and talk things through. And my husband was great.

What resources would you recommend to others?

The resources we were given on the Launch Pad were all I felt I needed.

What have you learnt in the process?

I learnt a lot about myself and the choices that I made.

I could see that I’d made some good ones and some bad ones. When I left university in the 90s, the big pressure was to go into advertising, law or finance: virtually everybody I knew, apart from a few oddballs, did that. I had assumed that everybody lived happily every after, when they chose a career like that – but I learned that it wasn’t like that at all.

I’d always thought I’d made really bad choices, but interacting with other career changers made me realise how nuanced and complicated it all is – there are lots of reasons we do the things that we do.

And what matters is that I’m here now and it’s not too late.

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

If you’re struggling with controlling a portfolio career, identify very clearly what your intentions are, and move forward intentionally.

You need to keep some sort of control so that you’re not just client-led or finance-led.

You need to understand your own values, your needs, what matters to you most, what feels important, and what your skills are.

To do that, you need support: it’s not something that’s easy to do on your own.

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

Angeli 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.