Making time to write

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A month ago, I got up before 6, made a cup of tea and began writing a book. I’d decided that after thinking about a book on my visits to Vietnam between 2003 and this year, including the 3.5 years we lived there, that the National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo was a good time to start. A workshop with Emma and Audrey from My 15 Minutes – and finally meeting them in person was further encouragement and motivation.

I joined the rebels forum as I would be writing a non-fiction work, I signed up online and started mapping out what I would write.

Despite having only moved into the house 6 days before, I cleared away some boxes and made sure I could write without distraction.

That first morning I knocked over 700 or 800 words before going for a walk with a friend. I came back later in the day and got to 2000 – surpassing the daily goal of 1700. The next day was busy and I thought I’d failed – but after dinner, I forced myself to sit down and write, and got to about 3600 words. I don’t remember what happened then but I know I only wrote a couple more times, and made it past 5000. So much for the 50,000 word goal.

The annoying thing was that once I actually sat down to write, the words flowed. The memories of my first visit in 2003, living there with Simon and the boys and then reliving our last visit in July when I decided I wanted to both record my feelings about Vietnam and my observations about the things that had changed (or stayed the same) over the years.

So what stopped me writing? Too many things.

I certainly underestimated how much work moving into a new home would take. And while we’d had some of the main work done like painting and floors, there was some work we did ourselves like painting the kitchen cupboards and wardrobes for the bedrooms.

The overgrown garden is a never ending battle and while I can’t help but feel that gardening makes me feel very grown-up, my body wonders how older people keep up with it. But now, I’ve decided that apart from the obvious weeds,  we should take the advice many have given to see what is out there before we start pulling too much out.

Add to all that work, a possible new consulting project, and the day to day house and family stuff – and Christmas and it’s easy to see how distractions took over.

Yesterday was my first blog in a long time and came after starting my Australian Writers Centre course on making time to write. This course popped up in my Facebook feed towards the end of our trip to Vietnam in July and it was a sign that I should do something with the ideas floating around in my head (and the diary full of notes from my first visit in 2003).

The key takeaway so far is that many writers (especially starting out) make the most of small amounts of time during the day to write – the idea of a full day of writing sounds nice but most of us have other things to do – and even if we did have the time, chances of being distracted by everything else are high.

So, while I probably should be at the gym, I’m not, so I may as well make the most of some quiet time and get into the habit of writing – because apparently its a habit that might take  254 days of doing it to stick!

Learning to find (make) time to write

Last week I published my first blog post in 9 months. I use the word published because I’d actually written it 2 weeks ago when I’d decided I really did want to write again. But I procrastinated for a fortnight because I didn’t have time to sit and upload photos. So I hit publish and then did nothing else. No social media sharing – despite having set up (and then unpublished a Facebook page for the blog).  I even changed the name, the theme and the profile on my blog. But apart from the 40 odd followers who will probably unsubscribe when they see the notification, having forgotten who I am or that they had even subscribed when they get an email, I didn’t tell anyone – not even my family.

Given this lack of self-promotion(?), even I question the need for a blog. Surely a diary would suffice. But if I’m really honest, two years on from starting my blog, I still do like the idea of building a community and interacting with those people. I have no grand plan to become a BabyMac or Mrs Woog but I’d be lying if I said, I’m writing just for me or my friends and family.

My excuses for not writing are varied but in short, I’ve backed myself into a spot where I  only seem to write at the desktop computer and I had to have photos to upload. The silly thing is, when I first moved here and left my career, my big thing was being free of being tied to a desk. I wanted to work anywhere. That means that when time is short, I don’t just sit and write and yet, mornings in the shower, evenings cleaning my teeth and other times in between,  I find myself dictating blog posts in my head.

When Simon’s tumor was diagnosed in February, part of me wanted to write. But another part of me felt it was his story, not mine to tell. And to be very truthful, I didn’t like the idea of starting a story where there was a chance the ending wouldn’t be great.

I’ve also realised that something else holding me back has been this idea of separating the blogging me from the consultant me. I wanted to write about the challenges of starting a business but what would that say to people who might want to hire me. The word authentic is almost as overused as journey but not writing about how it feels to start a business from scratch and juggle it with a part time job and a family didn’t feel very authentic.

The truth is, I have a wealth of knowledge about trade policy, free trade agreements, negotiations, market access and amazing networking skills. I am great at connecting people, identifying valuable research and opportunities. None of that is erased by me saying that starting a business is hard.

During our trip to Vietnam,  I was struck my this need to write something about our the 3.5 years we spent there, as well as this recent visit and my first visit in 2003 (which I still have a full journal of notes about). While a true writer would have scribbled a first draft, I mulled over ideas and signed up to a writing course which will be launched later this year and will hopefully teach me how to be a better writer and to allocate time for it.

While I don’t often back myself, I have a small arrogant streak that truly believes I could write a book. But in order to do that, I need to cast off some bad habits and just write. So first step, writing this on the iPad in bed, (even if it then took be another week to edit and post) and maybe, just maybe along the way, I can entertain my readers as I improve my craft.

Writing away my writer’s block

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Summer Days in the Barossa – green hills replaced by green vines

I’m suffering a bad case of blogger’s block. I’m in a rut. I can’t even think about what to write about, let alone what to actually write.

I’m not even sure what I want this blog to be about – or who I want to read it. I know I should do one of those “ideal reader” exercises but that would be just another excuse not to write.

I need to write. When I don’t write, my brain gets clogged up with lots of random crap and I feel myself getting frustrated and annoyed. It’s also annoying because I started this blog when I started my career change because after years of being restricted about what I could write about due to my job. Suddenly I was free to write about whatever I wanted to write about. The irony – now that I can finally write about anything, I can’t think of anything to write.

I need to write because while suffering writer’s block with this blog isn’t really a big deal, I should be writing for my business blog and for a women’s networking organisation I’m a part of. At least for those blogs, I have a target audience and some guidelines on topics.

 

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Loving the colours of late Spring and Summer

So, what am I doing while I’m not writing. Well, I have developed an unhealthy addiction to Nashville (damn you Netflix for allowing me to continue straight to Season 2 – and hurry up and get the next two)! I guess my Dad did play a lot of country music in my childhood….

I’m stuck on level 120 of the Inside Out Thought Bubbles game. I originally downloaded this for the boys because we loved the movie so much and now we’re all playing it. Evening conversations go – “so how was your day, what level are you on?” For the first time ever, I’ve consulted the internet for tips – but as the levels get harder, I am getting bored so hopefully I’ll get over it soon.

I’m getting excited and stressed about heading off to Canberra, Wollongong and Sydney in just under 2 weeks. Excited because I can’t wait to see family and friends but a little stressed about what needs to be done before then – teacher gifts, early birthday party for our Christmas Day baby, catch-ups with friends, a house inspection, and lots of cooking. And I’m not even worrying about shopping until we get over there.

 

On that note, where did the year go? I think part of my anxiety about what needs to be done in the next few weeks is the realisation that the year is almost over and that my business is likely to hit a quiet period, just as I’m starting to build up contacts and networks. On the upside, this is good motivation to put some things in place over the next few weeks so I can enjoy a few weeks off.

 

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I took this photo on Tuesday – while this area escaped the fires, seeing how dry it is, it’s no surprise how quickly they spread

Finally, I think the fires close to us last Wednesday have probably unsettled me and many around me. While I monitored the fire throughout the day, I really didn’t expect it would get so close and that I’d be hearing a catastrophic fire warning for our town as I picked the boys up. While we were lucky that we didn’t have to evacuate, we did start getting things together and came to the scary realisation that we were ill-prepared – no battery powered radio, one torch and not enough hoses. I was blown away by how calm the boys were and how much they knew about fires from school and from visits from the local country and metropolitan fire services.

 

As a 20 year old, I had bags packed of letters and keepsakes. On Wednesday, looking round the house at all our beautiful things collected over the years, I felt like everything was irreplaceable but that didn’t mean we could take it all. At the end of the day, the pictures, rugs, ornaments and photos are just things. Packing this time it was about some changes of clothes, the boys’ special toys, negatives, the hard drive and some jewelry. As long as we were together and safe, that was all that mattered.

 

Knowing we have friends who are volunteer fire fighters and who were evacuated has made this disaster all the more real. The outpouring of community assistance has been amazing and in many cases, relief centres are already overwhelmed with donations. I was glad to have a friend who works in one of the affected areas and I could at least send a few bags of groceries up with her on Friday. It doesn’t feel like much but hopefully communities will continue to help out when they can – and for the long road ahead as people rebuild.

 

I had not plan when I started tapping on the keyboard today. I just wanted to write something because once you start writing, it gets easier.

 

So, for the next 24 days, as the boys open their advent calendars counting down to Christmas, I’m going to write. One blog every day for the next 24 days. I’m not promising it will be exciting, or insightful or even funny, but bear with me – who knows what might come out.

And if you like what you’re reading, please leave a comment and share with your friends.

 

 

From public servant to entrepreneur

Taking a redundancy and leaving the public service with no clear direction, and only a sense of how I thought work should look, was a huge leap. I didn’t really know anyone who had made such a drastic career change which is why I am so excited to share this career change Q&A with you today.

I heard about Matt Fenwick through Emma Grey, who I first worked with in 2011, soon after starting work in Hanoi. I read her e-book 7 Types of Busy, then did her home study course before working through her Career Transformation Course. When she launched this, I was convinced she had written it just for me. I’ve since done her My 15 Minutes Program, which she runs with Audrey Thomas from Chick Chat Coaching.

When Emma introduced Matt on her Work Life Bliss page, I was fascinated. Here was a guy writing a book about leaving the public service to start his own business. I quickly signed up to back the book through Kickstarter and then asked Matt if he would answer my Q&A. I was very excited to quickly receive a positive response!

Although I have already moved to a life without a lanyard, as I launch my consulting business, I’m really looking forward to reading Matt’s book when it is released next month.

Matthew Fenwick
Matt Fenwick
  1. What did you do before?

A lot of things! I think one of the prerequisites for being a writer is to have had a whole load of other random careers first. My first ‘proper’ career was as a legal researcher, but before that I was a library assistant, cleaner and briefly, an ill-fated door-to-door salesman. I also spent five years in the Australian Public Service, first as a policy advisor, and then as a corporate communications officer.

  1. What are you doing now?

I run True North Writing. We’re a content solutions provider. What that looks like on the ground is this: I find out what an organisation wants to achieve, I work out how content fits into the picture, and then I help deliver that. The simplest scenario would be ‘we need a website. Can you write the content for us? (Yes). But I also get into the more strategic side. Right now I’m working with:

  • a coach to define their value proposition
  • a professional organiser to improve her confidence in blogging
  • a Sydney manufacturer to rename their product range
  • a research institute to develop a messaging strategy for new software
  • a headstone builder to write their content.

I’ve also just written a book. Life without Lanyards is a how-to guide for every public servant who’s dreaming of starting their own business. It’s the book I wish I had back when I decided to make the shift. Right now, I’m running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication, which is almost finished. After that, I’m breathing a huge sigh of relief!

Life without Lanyards - Matt's soon to be published book
Life without Lanyards – Matt’s soon to be published book

 

  1. What made you decide to take the leap and change?

I didn’t want to die wondering. Being in government, I had very clear ideas about the type of work I wanted to do, and how to go about it. In government, though, you have to get someone else’s permission. I felt that if I stayed in government, I was only ever going to achieve an average level of happiness and career fulfillment.  I wanted to shoot for more than that. Specifically, I wanted a career that would let become a better writer. I felt that if I stayed in government, I was going to get frustrated; banging my head up against processes.

All this crystallised for me when my wife and I decided to go travelling round the world for six months. At that point, I already had my business running on the side. But back then, I thought it would just be a vehicle to broaden my experience and get a better job in government. I didn’t ever imagine working for myself. But I realised that I couldn’t expect my ideal career to land in my lap. If I wanted to get more interesting work, the only person who’d make that happen was me.

We wanted to have a baby in the next year or so following our travels. I knew that having a new baby, running a business, and holding down a steady government job wasn’t going to work. Something had to give.  So I decided to take an extra six months leave after our travels and see if this self-employment thing worked for me.

  1. What has your career change given you?

Autonomy is really, really important for me. Now, if I see an opportunity, I can go for it. That freedom is enormously fulfilling.

I’ve also discovered things about myself that I never would’ve found out otherwise. In my book, I talk a fair bit about networking. The public service hierarchies never quite made sense to me. I always felt that I was trying to learn a foreign language, with the elaborate protocols. In business, I’ve discovered that I’m actually really good at networking; at finding relationships that benefit everybody concerned. I’ve had plenty of other experiences like that; realising that the ideas I had about myself were actually tied up in my public service identity.  In a new situation, I’ve become someone different.

Matt edits his book with his son
Matt edits his book with his son
  1. What have you learned?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about ego. It’s funny.  As I’ve gained confidence, and established a reputation as an expert in my field, I’ve become less and less interested in what I think of my abilities. I’m more objective. If a new, challenging piece of work comes through, I’ll look at my capabilities as resources, and just ask the question: do we have enough to deliver on this work?

Ego is unhelpful at either end of the spectrum. If you think you’re awesome, that leads to over-confidence, which can lead to getting careless. Of taking what you have for granted. If you think you’re terrible, that limits your potential for growth; it’s not a constructive place.

Working that out is an ongoing process, but launching my business has helped me get further along the way than if I’d stayed in a nice, comfortable secure job.

  1. Is there anything you would do differently?

Definitely. There’s always the ‘growth experiences’ where you make a mistake and emerge a stronger or smarter person (when the bruises fade). But one thing I would change is that when I left, I would’ve spent more time doing short contracting jobs, such as writing web content for government departments. At the time, I was feeling all heroic, and wanting to forge a new direction. Looking back, though, I think doing those contracting gigs would’ve helped our cash flow and given me some very useful contacts. 

  1. Inspire us – your favourite quote, mantra or piece of advice for anyone else thinking of a career change.

You are enough.

  1. Where can people learn more about you and the things you are doing?

You can find my writing business at www.truenorthwriting.com.au, and the Kickstarter campaign at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1373553647/life-without-lanyards-from-public-servant-to-entre.

Inspiring career changes: From international development to bringing beautiful hand-crafted products to the Barossa Valley

I’m really excited to be able to share the following inspiring career change with you as it’s my first from someone here in the Barossa.

Lisa first got in touch with me via Facebook after I had made a comment on a post about Vietnamese street food. Lisa had also commented on the post and realised we had probably had some similar overseas experiences. We finally met up for coffee in early March and not only had we both lived in China and Vietnam, but it turned out we even had a mutual friend. The world is small and social media is making it even smaller.

I had been admiring Lisa’s beautiful shop Elemental, with it’s wonderful collection of handcrafted products from Australia and around the world, since it opened last year so it was lovely to meet Lisa and hear her story of how she came to be living in the Barossa and making a career change from international development.

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  1. What did you do before?

I was wonder woman, more commonly referred to as a stay at home mummy, to my now 5 year and 3 year old boys. Prior to that I was working in International Development and I spent nearly 10 years working in China, Vietnam and Laos, during which time I completed my Masters of International Development. I worked for a range of agencies including Australian Volunteers International, CARE Australia, Mines Advisory Group and lead consultancies for UNDP and UNICEF. In Vietnam and Laos I primarily worked in the UXO (Unexploded Ordnance) clearance / community development sector. Laos and Vietnam were so heavily bombed during the Vietnam conflict and the legacy of the UXOs mean a lot of injuries are still occurring when people are going about ploughing a rice field and accidentally trigger an UXO causing it to explode, or people will intentionally collect the scrap of the UXO or try to defuse the bombs with devastating consequences. It was an interesting and challenging sector to work in.

Laos was so heavily bombed during the Vietnam conflict that it is common in the rural villages to see bomb casings used as stilts for houses
Laos was so heavily bombed during the Vietnam conflict that it is common in the rural villages to see bomb casings used as stilts for houses
  1. What are you doing now?

I am the owner of Elemental Barossa in Tanunda, a shop full of gorgeous hand crafted products from around the world. Having worked in community development I have seen first hand how assisting communities to have a market for their crafts can be so beneficial and Fair Trade ensures people have been paid a fair wage for their work. My partner Steffen is German and when we visited Germany I always loved the Christmas houses, full of so many beautiful products. Elemental Barossa also stock the beautiful hand crafted Christmas and Easter products from Germany. It has been wonderful to have so many people come into the store and recognise the beautiful German products from their own families that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Just a sample of the beautiful handmade products from around Australia and the world available at Elemental
Just a sample of the beautiful handmade products from around Australia and the world available at Elemental
  1. What made you decide to take the leap and change?

Steffen and I returned to Australia 5 weeks before I gave birth to our first son. I was originally on maternity leave, but we made the decision to stay in Australia as I was working remotely in southern Laos where the medical facilities were not the best and so we decided not to return with a young baby. So we stayed in Australia and settled in the beautiful Barossa Valley, where we have met wonderful people and love living. Steffen and I had always had the idea in the back of our minds of opening a German Christmas house so I used the time that I was at home with the boys to do a Small Business Management course to plan what would become Elemental Barossa. What made me make the final leap and change career was when I started applying for work in Adelaide in community development and found it difficult to get back into that field of work. I was left wondering if people had trouble relating the work overseas to an Australian context and what my steps forward would be. After some deliberation, I decided to take the leap and open Elemental Barossa.

  1. What has your career change given you?

Family time. Steffen still works away and is away for 6-9 months of the year, so one of the key reasons for starting my own business has also been about being able to spend time with our boys. I can do school drop off in the morning and when I close at 4.30pm I am home straight away to play and hear about their day. I am so blessed to be able to do this, as many families have long commutes to and from work, which means missing out on this precious family time that I am so lucky to have.

It has also kept me connected with my Community Development background that has been such an important part of my life to date. In sourcing products from around the world it is important for me to know where products have come from and know the story behind the group / individual who are making the products so I can then pass on to customers.

  1. What have you learned?

That I will make mistakes, very possibly lots of them! I need to learn from them, not dwell on them and move forward. Coming from an environment where I worked in a team to where I work by myself, I have missed having other people as sounding boards, so I have learned that I need to seek support in the areas that are not my strengths so I have people to use as my sounding boards who have experience in this area to help build the business to where I want it to be.

  1. Is there anything you would do differently?

I would never change taking the step to open Elemental Barossa, however starting my own business has been one of the biggest learning experiences of my life! So with that wonderful thing we call hindsight, there would have been things I did differently and although there are always things to learn from the past, I look forward to the future.

  1. Inspire us – your favourite quote, mantra or piece of advice for anyone else thinking of a career change.

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones that you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover

Mark Twain.

This quote has been my mantra for a long time. For many years I had my sails up, exploring and discovering the world, and now I am in a different phase of my life with young children I try to instil this exploring and discovering mantra with our boys. Be it the backyard with the palaeontologist dig we have permanently set up in South America or at a local park for a fun afternoon of play, there are so many possibilities to explore and discover and create life long memories.

  1. Where can people learn more about you and the things you are doing?

You can learn more about me on my LinkedIn profile, Lisa Ognjanovic

Find out more about Elemental Barossa at:

Web: www.elementalbarossa.com.au

Facebook: ElementalBarossa

Twitter: @EMBarossa

Instagram: elementalbarossa

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Inspiring Career Changes – from Diplomacy to Mining

I’m really excited to be sharing another inspiring career change with you today after the great response to my interview with State of Green’s Jenny Tranter last week.

One of the things I have found in my own search for a new career, is that so many of the career change stories and resources focus on people who want to turn a hobby into a career, and in the case of women making career changes, it is often about finding a job that allows them to spend more time at home.

For me that wasn’t the case. I felt that it was time for a change, I felt stifled in the public service and I also wanted to change the way I worked.

I think a lot of people put off changing their careers because they don’t want to retrain, but that isn’t always necessary. As you’ll see in this interview, so many skills are transferable across industries. Sometimes it can be hard to identify what those transferrable skills are. I was certainly questioning how the things I did in my public service career would transfer into other sectors, but through my coaching sessions with Lisa from Multiples of Two, I was able to identify both my skills and strengths as well as getting really clear on what my passions were and what was important to me about the way I worked.

Today’s interview is with a former colleague and good friend Tamara Somers. Through Facebook, we have been able to keep in touch even though I was in Hanoi and she was in Noumea. I was inspired by Tamara’s career change during my posting. I also credit her with providing me with a push in the right direction, when she suggested after I had shared yet another career change related article on Facebook, that perhaps the fact that I was often posting these sorts of articles was a fairly good indication that I should be making my own career change.

Tamara Somers
Tamara Somers

Tamara’s story is really interesting and I think one of the key things I took from this interview is the importance of finding a role that allows you to exploit both your existing skills and fits with the way you want to work. Career changes don’t have to be about working for yourself or working less, but the key thing is to be doing something that you really enjoy doing.

  1. What did you do before?

I was an Australian diplomat for ten years before I made this change. I served overseas in Ghana and in New Caledonia, and in between worked on a couple of Free Trade Agreements (and had two children). Prior to joining the diplomatic service I was a strategy consultant with Bain & Company, and before that, I taught French at university while completing a PhD. I think I am up to my fourth career now!

  1. What are you doing now?
Tamara and her boss at the plant
Tamara and her boss at the plant

I manage shareholder and external stakeholder reporting for Koniambo Nickel SAS. Koniambo is a USD 7 billion industrial site in the North Province of New Caledonia, integrating a mine, a metallurgical smelter, a power station, a port and a range of other supporting infrastructure. We started producing ferronickel in 2013. We are a joint venture between multinational resources group Glencore and local shareholder the Société Minière du Sud Pacifique (SMSP). Glencore manages the facility but SMSP owns 51% of the shares and is, in turn, owned by the North Province, so we ‘belong’ to the community in which we operate.  My principal role is protecting our licence to operate – both in terms of our shareholders, by ensuring they are well-informed and have confidence in our management team, and our local stakeholders, whose support is key to the success of our business. I also periodically run internal workshops to help people to solve problems – everything from how to get spare parts to the right place at the right time, to what our overarching business plan should be for the coming year. I help people to talk to each other and analyse what I hear, which we then turn into action plans. My role is a combination of storytelling and strategy, and I love it.

  1. What made you decide to take the leap and change?

I found myself increasingly dissatisfied by the constraints of public service. I wanted more ownership of my own work, more opportunity to take risks and assume the consequences (good and bad) and more concrete outcomes. I enjoyed my diplomatic career, but I realised my conversations about work were increasingly taking the form of complaints about the structure within which I worked and I decided I did not want to become bitter and negative about my employer. I decided rather than resenting what I couldn’t change, I should act on what I could change and look for something with a better fit.  I am someone who needs to believe in what the organisation I work for does in order to really invest myself in something. I had stopped believing in what I was doing, so it was time to move on.

A spectacular view of Tamara's workplace
A spectacular view of Tamara’s workplace in Noumea
  1. What has your career change given you?

Above all, it has given me the freedom to be myself, rather than trying to fit into a mould that wasn’t a natural fit. It has also given me confidence that the skills I developed in the public sector are transferable to the private sector. It has opened up a whole new world for me – I knew absolutely nothing about mining or metallurgy or the industrial universe and it is fascinating. It has also showed me that there are lots of interesting career paths from this point onwards, and helped me to understand that above all, I am a communicator. I need to work in a role where I am either communicating or helping others to do so. I feel enthused about what lies ahead – I can easily see another 20 or 30 years of interesting work in this area, which is something I could not see before.

The change has also given me a sense of being valued by my employer, in a way I have never experienced before. I am fortunate to be working in a great team, where we own our failures but success is celebrated and praise is forthcoming. I am also lucky enough to be part of an extraordinarily talented team and to have great role models of leadership around me. Experiences like this are priceless.

  1. What have you learned?

More about electric arc furnaces, refractory bricks and ore processing than I knew it was possible to know! Apart from acquiring a huge amount of technical knowledge, I have learned a great deal about what I like (and don’t like) doing and the kinds of people I like working with. I love the fact that my manager gives me plenty of scope to make decisions, propose options, and devise creative solutions to problems. I need that trust in order to feel motivated. I also love the fact that we actually have a product at the end of the day: after the intangibility of diplomacy, there is something deeply comforting about knowing I am part of delivering something real.  I have realised that I am definitely a large-organisation team player. While I was doing my PhD many years ago I realised I don’t like working on my own, and this experience has confirmed that I am really someone who needs to identify with a team, a brand, or a product to feel motivated. I like being part of a global organisation – the sense of belonging is important to me. Much as I admire it in others, I absolutely cannot imagine starting my own business!

  1. Is there anything you would do differently?

That’s a tough question to answer. Sometimes I wish I had made the move sooner, but I am not sure I would have brought the same skill set to the business environment had I done so. But honestly, I’ve never looked back. Although there are days when I wish I had paid more attention in physics and chemistry at school!

  1. Inspire us – your favourite quote, mantra or piece of advice for anyone else thinking of a career change.

If you don’t like your life the way it is, change it. You are the only one who can decide to make it different.

  1. Where can people learn more about you and the things you are doing?

You can check my Linked In profile (https://www.linkedin.com/in/somerstamara) for information about me, and you can visit Koniambo’s website (in English and French) to find out more about Koniambo : www.koniambonickel.nc

If you have any questions for Tamara, or if you would like to share your career change story, please leave a comment below.

Inspiring Career Changes – Jenny Tranter, State of Green

During the process of deciding to leave the public service and do something different, I was lucky enough to have some good friends to chat with about their career changes. I found it really useful to talk with someone I knew about what they had done and the challenges they had faced.

I’m really excited that some of them have agreed to share their stories on the blog.

First up is my good friend Jenny, who I worked with in China and who was also a public servant. Having known her for many years, and seen what she had done setting up her fantastic eco home wares online store State of Green was really an inspiration. She gave me a lot of confidence to take the leap, so I am excited to share this interview with Jen on the blog.

Jenny Tranter, State of Green

  1. What did you do before?

I was a Commonwealth public servant working in law enforcement for 18 years, during which I spent time working in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, China and The Philippines. It was a job I very much enjoyed which exposed me to a wide and diverse group of people from all walks of life.

  1. What are you doing now?

I run my own business named State of Green. State of Green is an online eco homewares store. I also run a blog under the same name, sharing my eco design finds and news from around the globe.

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  1. What made you decide to take the leap and change careers?

I struggled with the decision to leave the public service for quite a few years!  When I had my first child I started to work part-time 3 days a week. 18 months later I had my second child, and two years after that my third child.  I continued to juggle family with my part-time public service career, however I found it difficult to juggle the two – sick children, school events, work training requirements, occasional interstate travel and limited work opportunities as a part time employee prompted me to look for an alternative.  Whilst on maternity leave (between #2 and #3 child) I launched State of Green. I have always loved nature, the environment and design. State of Green gave me the opportunity to change focus, and provided a creative outlet enabling me to curate my own store, meet with inspiring designers and to work flexibly.

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  1. What has your career change given you?

I had to take one mighty big breath leaving the security of my previous career. The career change has given me a better work / life balance. I am the only one responsible for watching the clock. I work when I please during the day, and during the evening. But also get to catch up with friends, do exercise and attend school events. I feel more in control of all aspects of my life, and less stressed about juggling it all. I also get satisfaction from seeing my business steadily grow. It is not all beer and skittles, but it has certainly removed a weight from my shoulders.

  1. What have you learned?

So much! You do have to work hard when running your own business. There is no one else to blame or rely on but yourself. You also have to be prepared to become a jack of all trades and be prepared to learn, learn, learn! On any given day I am an accountant, secretary, buyer, shopkeeper, writer, interviewer, researcher, marketer, and IT expert (used very loosely!). Of course there are some roles I enjoy more than others (admin grrrr), but you do need to prioritise, plan and just get on with it. I have also learnt there are many other people willing to share their own experiences. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – It can save you A LOT of time down the track.

  1. Is there anything you would do differently?

Mmmm – When I first launched my online store I paid big bucks to get my website designed, but had little control over making changes to it without paying more money. Although I did not possess the skills then, looking back I could have spent far less on designing the site myself through an ecommerce site such as BigCommerce or Shopify. They are perfect for start-ups as they offer pre-designed themes at little cost. Forking out money for beautiful bespoke sites is great, but perhaps I could have saved that for later as the store grew.

  1. Inspire us with your favourite quote, mantra or piece of advice for anyone else thinking of a career change.

I do love a Dr Seuss quote, particularly this one:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

— Dr. Seuss, from The Lorax, 1971

Whilst this quote does refer to our care and concern for protecting the environment, I think it also applies to those thinking of a career change. Don’t be stuck in a career that no longer works for you. We only live once so make it worth your while. Where one door closes, others open. Be open to advice, speak to people, undertake training if needed, network. Opportunities rarely land on your lap – be prepared to actively pursue the future you want and things will start falling into place.

  1. Where can people learn more about you and the things you are doing?

Pop on over to the State of Green store or blog! Join me on social media – Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram (just started to embrace the latter!). Or better still, send me an email or give me a call.

www.stateofgreen.com.au

blog.stateofgreen.com.au