“I wanted the work-life balance of being in my child’s life and having a successful career.”
What work were you doing previously?
I was a primary school teacher for 15 years.
What are you doing now?
I’m now a financial adviser, with my own financial advisory practice.
How did you feel about your work before you decided to make a change?
I loved my job and enjoyed teaching at primary school level.
But I knew if I wanted the work-life balance of being in my child’s life and having a successful career, it was time for a change.
I still remember my time teaching fondly, but I’m glad I made the change.
Why did you change?
Your life and priorities change when you become a parent, and sometimes your job also needs to change.
Becoming a father made me realise that as long as I was a teacher, I’d miss picking my children up from school, and wouldn’t be present at their Easter or Christmas services.
So shortly after we had our daughter, I took the difficult decision to leave teaching.
How did you choose your new career?
I was already seeking financial advice from a St. James’s Place financial adviser, and we had a good rapport.
Whilst discussing my situation, it wasn’t long before he offered career advice. He pointed me toward the St. James’s Place Financial Adviser Academy, and I went to several events to find out more and ensure that it would be a good fit for me.
I wanted to ensure I went into this new industry with my eyes wide open.
Are you happy with the change?
I’m thrilled with the change.
Starting my own financial advice business has allowed me to build the life I want around my family.
I can be there for my children when I’m needed most. I can now say ‘yes’ to school trips and be involved in my daughter’s school life.
And I also have a business I can grow at my own pace.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
I miss some interactions I had as a teacher, both with parents and the schoolchildren.
I spoke to parents often around sensitive and essential issues. I needed to think on my feet and answer challenging questions.
In contrast, I spent a lot of time speaking to ten and eleven-year-olds, and would take an interest in football or current affairs to chat with them on their level. It was about being able to adapt to the situation.
While I miss these interactions and relationships, I don’t miss them entirely.
This is because I can still use these skills now, when meeting new clients.
How did you go about making the shift?
I undertook a six-month programme at St. James’s Place Financial Adviser Academy, where I achieved my Level 4 Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning.
During the programme I built up my technical knowledge, advisory skills, and how to build a sustainable business.
Once I graduated, I set up my practice with the backing of St. James’s Place.
How did you develop (or transfer) the skills you needed for your new role?
I discovered that the experience gained through my years of teaching would be put into practice in a way I couldn’t have imagined as a financial adviser.
The ability to make people feel at ease can’t be underestimated. You need to gain your client’s complete trust. But first, you need to build a rapport with them. Building rapport means different things to different people. It’s a skill. It starts with listening and understanding where they’re coming from.
How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?
I was able to utilise some of St. James’s Place’s financial support alongside my savings to invest in my future.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
Working within the public sector, you’re sheltered from many operational things behind the scenes.
Moving to the private sector, I was suddenly working without a timetable and needing to make difficult decisions quickly. How would I market the business? How could I best manage my time?
While this was a real challenge, it also became a driver for me. While there was an element of the unknown, I found it motivated me.
What did surprise me was how emotionally invested I would become. It’s my business, and it’s within my control to make it a success.
What do you wish you'd done differently?
I wish I’d taken on more support sooner.
I only recently hired some admin support to help me manage meetings and organise referrals and correspondence. It’s enabled me to apply to be a governor at my daughter’s school.
This means I can now attend observations or a recruitment day as required, and still fit my work around it.
What help did you get?
I couldn’t have gotten where I am today without my support network, not only from the St. James’s Place Academy itself but also from the cohort that I graduated with.
They were indispensable. We’re in contact regularly and meet several times a year. They’ve become a sounding board and even a lifeline in the early stages of the business.
The experience has been hugely valuable and will continue to be important as my business progresses.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
Life is too short to be doing a job that doesn’t work for you or fit your lifestyle.
You can work a lifetime in a job that doesn’t make you happy, or make the change.
Looking back, it was a monumental decision to leave teaching and pursue financial advice, but it was absolutely right for me.
Thanks to our friends at St. James's Place for this story. To find out more about the Academy, visit www.sjp.co.uk/academy.
Also, find out more about St. James's Place Academy in our Retraining Directory.
What lessons could you take from Zac's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.