Should I stay or should I go?

career change

I’ve always been intrigued by people who leave employment security and stability to follow a new path. The people that pursue the unknown, and in turn reject the predictable future that had been laid out in front of them.

I’m not talking about the ‘quit your day job and pursue your passion’ type advocates. Those who say you can abandon the rat race, work for yourself and turn your creativity into cash. I find these articles quite unrealistic and fanciful, as postulating that this pursuit is something that anyone can achieve is a gross generalisation.

What I’m intrigued by are those who abandon a perfectly acceptable career, for another of equal standing; who choose to go from the peak of one career to the beginning of another. I am drawn to these stories as we often seek out information that reflects who we are and what we want, as a means of validation. I look to these stories to make sure I’m not crazy.

Over 12 years ago I completed university and pursued a career in the events and entertainment industry. I went from admin assistant, to events coordinator, and after several years, became the General Manager of a boutique events and performing arts agency, managing clients Australia-wide. I had autonomy, security, money and respect. Then one day I made the decision to leave, to return to university, and to pursue a career in psychology. In the process I received a few raised eyebrows. However, despite the fact I can only work part time roles to ensure I have time for study, am heavily reliant on financial support from my family, and face being in my late 30s by the time I can even BEGIN my career, I have no doubt that I have made the right decision.

So when do you decide to make the leap? When do you decide it’s not too late? For me, it was the realisation that I was spending so much of my spare time pursuing extra curricular activities, short courses, volunteering etc. Anything that would stimulate my mind. This made me realise that my passions lay elsewhere and clearly I wasn’t getting the challenges I needed in my 9 – 5. It wasn’t about being unhappy, it was about needing more and knowing I could offer more.

I recently heard Christy Tania speak to a roomful of executives about her transition from project manager with IBM, to pastry chef. She was both delightful and inspiring. Whilst a friend of mine recently opened up about how my return to uni was inspiration enough for her to cut down on her graphic design work, a career in which she had worked for 15 years, to enrol in a childcare course. And did you know Colonel Sanders was a lawyer, and it wasn’t until he was 62 that he first franchised KFC?

The stories are everywhere, and we’re lucky to live in a generation and a country where career change and further education are acceptable and accessible pursuits. So if you feel your efforts could be better focused, or you could pour more of your heart into a different career, then it’s not too late. We’re living longer, working longer, retiring later. The benchmark for when one should feel they are ‘established’ has changed. It fact, it’s almost fluid. So like I said, this isn’t another “chuck it all in and follow your dreams” piece, but more a reminder to think about where your mind wanders, and whether that should be followed. It doesn’t have to be a giant leap, but rather some slow steady steps, which can lead to a worthwhile and long-term change.


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