“The work-life balance was non-existent.”

Image of Edward Vennelle
From Primary Teacher to Residential Centre Tutor

Edward Vennelle was fed up with his job, but didn't know what he'd like to do instead. So he decided to bring in some support. Here, he shares how he shifted into work that's a better fit.  

What work were you doing previously?    

I was a primary school teacher for about six years.

What are you doing now?    

I work at a residential centre where primary schools go on school trips for a few nights. 

It's not quite an outdoor activity centre with rock climbing etc, it’s for younger kids and involves teaching. 

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

Very fed up and disillusioned.

Once I finished my teacher training I already had an inkling that perhaps long-term it wasn’t the career for me.

Then it got to the point where my first daughter was born, and the work-life balance was non-existent. As a teacher you take work home with you and it's non-stop.

As much as there were bits I really liked, the workload and the things I didn't like doing made me fed up with the whole thing.

But I felt a bit paralysed as I had no idea what I'd do instead.

How did you choose your new career?    

For about two years I’d done that thing that I think a lot of people do of just trawling through job sites.

I was desperately trying to find something, not knowing what I was really looking for and feeling more depressed than when I started.

I came across a newspaper article that mentioned Careershifters. I went to a workshop and after that decided that it would be worth doing the Career Change Launch Pad.

The big appeal to me was that it would hopefully give me a better idea of what I'd want to do, so I could have a plan rather than feel like I was just treading water.

Are you happy with the change?    


I have breathing room again. When I come home I don't have to think about work. It's a lot better at home. My wife would say the same thing, that I'm 'back' when I'm home rather than still having my head in my job.

The people I work with are very nice, and I enjoy what I do. It's the fun bits of teaching without the rest of it.

The school I used to work at was very big and it was easy to not be noticed in a way, while here it's a smaller team so I feel like I'm appreciated a lot more.

And I’ve been able to nurture my interest in art by taking an art class on Monday nights, which is something I'd have never been able to do with my old job.

How did you go about making the shift?    

Prior to the shift I'd dropped a day at work to give myself more time to work on my shift, which did include a cut in pay.

I tested out a few different ideas.

The first thing I looked at, which I told myself was just to fill a gap, was to sign up to do online tutoring. I’d talked to some different people who did it and talked to the owner of this business. I thought it might be different, but quickly realised it wasn't for me.

I reached out to someone who brought virtual reality into educational settings and during a conversation he actually kind of semi-offered me a job.

But the more I looked into that side of things the less it felt like it was for me, and the role seemed more to do with travelling sales, so that became a dead end for me.

Another area I'm still interested in is 3D art, whether that be for architectural things or even something like video games. I have a friend who's in that sort of area who very kindly asked me to do a little project for her.

I tried it out and I think it was just a step too quick  – I partly didn't have the skills for it but also while I liked the idea of it, the actual day in day out of it, sitting at a computer struggling through these projects, made me think that wasn't the right area for me.  

The advert for my current job came up through some people I knew. Someone spotted the job ad and I thought 'I'm not sure if this is what I want to do, but I'll go visit it and talk to some people there to see if I want to apply’. 

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

There was a lot to learn in the first few weeks at the job, but with my background it was quite easy for me to slot in.

I was sent on a first aid course but it was a very specific one for outdoor activities. I now know what to do if someone gets bitten by a snake, or what to do if there’s an avalanche!

What didn't go well? What wrong turns did you take?

I remember quite early on after finishing the Launch Pad I was reaching out to lots of people.

Maybe in my excitement or enthusiasm I was a bit pushy with how I reached out to someone and it didn't work out, I think they might have been irritated with me.

It was okay, they just said no to me and the experience helped me get better in how I reached out to people. But at first I took their response quite personally.

Over time, now if I get a no or it doesn't work out, I don't take it so personally and it doesn't really matter.

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

Probably the biggest compromise has been income with this role.

I did take a bit of a cut, but as I'd dropped a day in my old role that had helped me adjust to living on a lower income.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

The feeling that I was falling behind, like there's a clock ticking: 'it's been two years since I started to look for something new, if I leave it another year it'll be too late'.

I got past this by just getting on with the shift and taking action, and also reminding myself of examples of where people had made big shifts in their lives, including those who were older than me or later in life.

What help did you get?

One of the big things I got from the Launch Pad was the community, and the year following the course a trio of us were meeting monthly which helped keep the momentum going.

When there were periods during the shift where things felt like they were stalling or there was a slump, I’d reach out to the people I’d met on the Launch Pad and others to help me get going again. 

What have you learnt in the process?    

One thing that stuck with me from the Launch Pad (and maybe it's also because I spend time around young children with my job), was the idea of being like a child in your approach to things – more unfiltered and less ‘realistic’. 

Seeing that approach work over time has changed how I do things, being a bit more bold and not assuming 'oh that idea won't work so it's not worth trying'. 

Even if I think something might not go anywhere, now I see there's still the excitement of the potential there, of what could happen as you never know unless you try.

Also learning that talking to people about my shift is beneficial. At first I didn't like telling a lot of people about the fact that I was trying to change.

After having spoken to a few people I found it was more beneficial than not, because people often have all kinds of different ideas or viewpoints, and it also led to discovering my new role.

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

Be patient.

Before I made the shift, I wanted an answer straight away and I wanted to be able to shift quickly. I felt like any small bit of progress wasn't enough. 

Also be open to the idea that it won’t necessarily be one shift or that your next role will be what you do forever. My mindset was that I had to find the one answer, the one career and then I'd be sorted forever.  I found it hard to see things as a series of changes over the longer term. 

While I'm in a job I really like and am happy here at the moment, I'll likely make another shift. And now it’s exciting rather than daunting to wonder 'ooh, what am I going to be doing next?'.

Edward 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.

What lessons could you take from Edward'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.