“Sometimes if you stay in the same place for a long time you start to think ‘this is all I can do’.”
What work were you doing previously?
I was a substance misuse youth worker in the charity sector for sixteen years.
What are you doing now?
I’m a Practice Coach for the county’s Children's Services.
I now support practitioners who are family facing in work that was similar to the work I was doing in my previous role.
This means that they get an extra layer of support that's different from supervision or peer support. I provide them a space where they can share where they're stuck, or if something at work is annoying them, and I can use coaching skills to enable them to find a solution or different ways of approaching a problem.
How did you feel in your work before you decided to make the change?
It was really rewarding.
I love working with young people and am really passionate about making sure that they feel heard.
But the other side of working in that kind of environment is that you hear quite a few stressful, upsetting things, and so you have to look after your own personal wellbeing as well.
At one point I did have a kind of burnout. I got very stressed and anxious, and had some time off work.
But my employer was really good and gradually phased me back into work, where I was well supported with my mental health and things were good.
Why did you change?
I felt ready for a change.
I knew that I had a lot of skills, but also recognise that my wellbeing is important and I have to keep myself safe as well.
There was a chance for promotion to a team management role that had less frontline work, which I thought would be a better balance for me.
I decided to apply for it, but at the same time I thought 'if I don't get the promotion, what will I do?’.
That was the time when I started to look around at other similar positions that would be a step up for me.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
I knew that I wanted to change at this point, whether that was through getting the promotion or from a job elsewhere.
I went for the promotion and I didn't get it.
Maybe a previous version of me would have accepted it and thought that I wasn't ready for the promotion, and just continued on with my existing role.
But I'd been in a much better place looking after my own mental health and self-esteem, so I thought 'I know I can do that job, and if that's their decision that's fine but I need to be somewhere where I feel fulfiled.’
Because of the change in my attitude, I had the guts to go somewhere else.
How did you choose your new career?
I still wanted to be able to support families and young people.
But I also knew that I’m very empathetic and feel things a lot, so I do have to distance myself a little bit rather than being in the thick of it.
I started by thinking about how I could transfer some of my skills to something different.
I knew that people in similar jobs in social work can have stressful experiences and can get burnout. I wanted to help change that, as that impacts them, the families they work with, everybody.
Are you happy with the change?
In my new role I'm still supporting families by supporting the practitioners who are doing that frontline work, so I'm still making a positive impact.
And the work-life balance is really good.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
I miss my team, although I really like my new team as well.
Where I am now is a lot bigger, there's a different set up, so I don't see my team so much.
I don't miss the paperwork, as I do less now.
How did you go about making the shift?
I saw the role advertised when I was thinking about applying for the promotion in my old place.
It was on a children’s services website and Indeed, I think it was also advertised on LinkedIn. It was really the only role that jumped out at me, that seemed a bit different.
I checked the closing date just to see if I’d still be able to apply if I didn't get the promotion, and was glad to see that the closing date to apply was a bit longer.
I put my application in the next day and got an interview.
There was hardly any transition time between my old job to this one.
How did you develop (or transfer) the skills you needed for your new role?
I had lots of initial reading to go through to get my head into the right space for it.
They’re going to put me on a coaching course that’s specifically around coaching in the workplace.
And I have transferable skills from my old role that I can still use here.
How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?
Before making the shift I had been worried about finances, which is why I hadn't made the change sooner.
It just so happens that the role I went for is higher paid, so making the shift was a good thing financially.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
Being in the same place for sixteen years, it’s hard to see what else is out there in the world of work.
Sometimes if you stay in the same place for a long time you start to think 'this is all I can do'.
Taking the plunge is scary, but if you don't do it you never find out and you'll always wonder 'what if'.
Everyone's got transferable skills, so that’s what I decided to focus on.
What help did you get?
I contacted my friend who works where I work now to ask them a little more about it, which was useful.
I spoke to my manager about what went wrong in my interview for the promotion, as I wanted to know what led to that decision. It was all about the actual interview rather than my skills or experience, and that I didn't sell myself enough.
When you're trying to get a job within your current organisation, it's hard to sell yourself to people who already know you.
My manager helped by going through some of the things that I could have been stronger on.
I was very open and said that I needed to move on, and any help I could get with my interview style would be great.
My friend gave me some interview tips as well because she worked there and knew what they were looking for.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
Identify your transferable skills and what you can take with you.
Get clear on what you feel is important in your life when it comes to work-life balance.
Look at exactly what it is that you're not enjoying, and if a new role you’re considering will help address those things (or not).
At the bottom line is, there’ll come a point where you have to just do it. No more being scared.
What lessons could you take from Freya's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.