It’s just over five months since I had my last day in the office in Hanoi. In some ways it feels a million years ago, but in reality, it has gone pretty quickly and if I am really fair, we have crammed a lot in – and I did need to take a break. But as I have started to explore what I want to do next, I have been thinking a lot about how a career change works. For me, it wasn’t a simple decision of leaving one job for another but rather deciding I wanted to work in a different way and have a different lifestyle.
So, in no particular order, a few things I have learned over the past few months.
- If you don’t know what you want to do – at least you know how you want to work
This is the big one for me. Leaving the public service after 15 years was a lot to do with wanting to change the hours I worked, the environment I worked in and the way I worked. I knew I wanted more flexibility about where I worked and how I worked. I had some ideas about what I thought I want to do, but once we moved to the Barossa, I realised that I didn’t really want to be commuting to Adelaide (which is only an hour away), so I have started to explore some different options locally, including looking at my own business/consultancy.
- Be open to opportunities
While in some ways it would have been easier to have a very defined idea of what I wanted to do next (and of course many people do), the fact I didn’t has meant I have been able to look at options that fit around the lifestyle we want to create. For me this means looking at taking on a number of smaller roles or volunteer positions as both a way of finding what I want to do and building my profile in a new place.
I have been lucky that an email to sign up for a women’s networking lunch resulted in an invite to coffee from a woman who also gave me the push I needed to start this blog who then introduced me to some other friends. Since then I have also used my studies to connect with people in the local council and the arts field. I also a big believer in the power of social media to make connections when you move to a new place, and I have set-up a couple of meetings with people who have been able to share insights on the local area. It is amazing how willing people are to share their insights over a cup of coffee. These informal chats have also been a great opportunity for me to talk about what I have done and share the sorts of skills and experience I have to contribute. In a small place like the Barossa, this sort of networking is really valuable.
- Schedule time for your career change in your diary, just like you would work
Because I have had other commitments, including for the first time in 3.5 years, having to manage a household, do house work, shop and do the school run, I have often found that both my physical time and the headspace to research options, set up appointments or just read or listen to inspiring speakers has been limited. I have had to be more disciplined and set aside some time each day to blog, research and connect with people.
- Accept that it is a big change and try not to rush it
I’m a naturally impatient person and I am prone to rushing through things. But the reality is, for me, after a very busy 3.5 years in Hanoi, I did need to take a break and enjoy the down time. I also had to accept that moving to a new place, setting up a house, getting the boys settled, and making new friends wouldn’t necessarily mean I had loads of time to focus on my career. But apart from being time poor, I have also realised that I really needed to get to know the local community, and spend some time understanding where my skills and experience could contribute. That said, at some point, I am going to need start applying for jobs or set up a business. This doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to learn and network, but it becomes more about career development than just exploring options.
- There are pros and cons to combining a career change and moving to a new place
While for us, my career change is about supporting our lifestyle change, it means there has been less time to focus purely on my career. But so far, the positives have outweighed the negatives. Moving to a new place has opened up opportunities and networks and has really provided an opportunity to re-invent myself because no one here really knows what I did before. At the same time, being somewhere new gives you a new perspective on things. Taking some time out to focus on my family and study has really reinforced the sort of lifestyle I want this career change to provide. I don’t think I would have been able to make this jump from a public service career while living in Canberra. There would have been temptations to accept job opportunities just because they were safe or paid well.
- Invest in some outside help
When I first started thinking about a career change, I did a great online course called the Work Life Bliss Career Transformation program and I had read a lot and listened to great podcasts. But now that I suddenly have all this time to explore my interests and consider my next steps, I am really benefiting from working with a coach, Lisa from Multiples of Two. There is so much information out there that is easy to get overwhelmed and having someone work with you to clarify what it is you are trying to achieve is really helpful. It can also be a fairly lonely experience, especially after years of working with people in an office. And for me, it has been really useful to get some outside perspective as I try and work out what really interests me and what I am good at. After so many years working for the same government department, I sometimes struggle to see what skills I have and I how can take them to build a new career.
These are just a few of things that I’ve learned from my career change so far. I would love to hear from you if there are other things you have learned or tips you would like to share.