“I was fed up of not being in control of my working life.”

Image of Laura Sigsworth
From Publishing to Travel

Laura Sigsworth was miserable with her work situation. After a disheartening time trawling job sites without any results, she decided to try a different approach. Here, she shares how she shifted into an industry she's passionate about, and what she learned along the way.   

What work were you doing previously?    

I was working for a big educational publisher in a marketing role.

I'd been there for about nine years.

What are you doing now?    

I now own my own business as a travel consultant, helping people plan and book holidays and business travel. 

It’s a franchise set-up, so I get lots of support from other business owners and my umbrella company.

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

I'd moved around a bit within the company but had never been particularly happy. 

It was a good company to work for in terms of work-life balance, especially with having young kids, and my colleagues were lovely. But I was quite bored and often felt frustrated by work politics.

Then I was going through my second restructure (during the first restructure I'd clung on!), and in this second restructure I was moved into a role which didn’t fit me at all. I was pretty fed up of not being in control of my own working life.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?    

I went on maternity leave and was determined that during that time I was going to decide what I was going to do.

I didn’t want to go back and get stuck for another nine years!

That's when I joined the Career Change Launch Pad. I knew I needed to do something differently because I'd spent hours trawling job sites and not getting anywhere, so I needed to do something a bit more proactive and with a bit more structure. 

How did you choose your new career?    

Initially I had lots of ideas but none of them were particularly clear.

One of them was museums and museum education, which I was keen on but was worried about the financial implications, and it would probably mean starting again at the bottom.

Then I explored writing and spoke to a few people who share their writing online.

While I knew I liked travel, it wasn't the first thing I thought of when it came to a career. I’ve travelled and worked abroad quite a lot, and it’s always been a big part of my life, but I wasn’t sure how to make it into a job.

I did a bit of travelling as part of my previous role but not really enough, and I didn't get to choose necessarily where I went, which weren’t always the most glamourous places.

So travel was always there in the background as an idea, but it was always a bit hazy in terms of trying to pin down exactly how to turn it into a work option.

Are you happy with the change?    

I absolutely love my work now. 

It feels brilliant to be making decisions for myself and my business, and to be working in an industry that I’m passionate about.

It can be a bit of a rollercoaster. I’m still getting used to being crazy-busy one week, and very quiet the next, but overall I'm really enjoying myself.

How did you go about making the shift?    

While exploring ideas one day I was googling 'how to become a travel agent' and the first thing that came up was Travel Counsellors, which is my travel umbrella company. 

I phoned them up, spoke to the lovely team at Head Office, then got in touch with about half a dozen working Travel Counsellors about how they got into it, and what their job is like.

And then I made the decision to sign up within 24 hours.

When I got off the phone I went to my husband and had a little cry. I was so relieved to have found ‘my thing’. I thought I’d need to compromise in my next role, and only get bits that I wanted, that this dream job might not exist. 

Everything sort of fell into place after that. I gave my notice and started my training within six weeks.

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

There was a question on timing, if I should stay longer in my old role to save up more money before making the move. 

Probably if I hadn’t been so miserable in my job I would have waited, as I’m naturally more of a cautious person, but my husband really encouraged me to just do it.

I had enough savings to keep me going for a bit, and then just crossed my fingers that the business would take off! 

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

I struggled to fit in testing things out.

With two young children and a full time job you're limited with time. So I tested things out through having conversations with people rather than doing unpaid projects or volunteering etc.

You can go round in circles with fears and doubts, but I try to take practical steps to address them rather than let them swirl around in my head.

I was so motivated to make the change because I was so miserable, and I think that's what pushed me to follow through on my shift.

What help did you get?

My husband was incredibly supportive. 

I also really appreciated having an instant community of other Travel Counsellors to learn from and lean on, particularly the group that I did my initial training with. We’re still in touch pretty much every day, just to chat and compare notes.

What have you learnt in the process?    

I learnt how useful it is to have conversations with people. 

Most people are happy to talk to you and you can have really interesting conversations.

When I was exploring options I went in with really specific questions: was I the right kind of person for the job, would I have the skills needed to do it, whether it was financially viable. All the things that I was really worried about.

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

Plug in time wherever you can to focus on your shift. 

Talk to people wherever you go – at parties, at the shops, on the school run.

I had a whiteboard at home that I used just for my shift, which was a great visual reminder, and you can use it to map things out and jot ideas down on in one place.

To find out more about Laura's work, visit travelcounsellors.com/laura.sigsworth

Laura 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 Laura'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.