How I made a career change possible


Many people really struggle to see how a career change can be possible. Perhaps they are unhappy in their job but feel they should persevere with it. Perhaps they do not want to risk changing career for fear of failure. Perhaps they have absolutely no idea what they want to do.

I changed career and, although I did struggle at times to believe it could be possible, I am glad I persevered as I did eventually discover what I wanted to do. This is how I did it.

I initially trained in law and qualified as a family law solicitor. I was attracted to this area of law given my interest in problem solving and helping people move forward with their lives. I enjoyed tackling the challenges my caseload provided but, after a few years, my mind started wandering. I started to become more curious about the world of careers and the options available. I felt there was more for me to explore and that I might be better suited to something else, something that was really me.

After a lot of thinking time, I realised that I was not going to be able to leap into my ‘dream’ job from my current role and so I made the bold decision to save some money and take a six-month career break to enable me to experience different roles of interest to me and make a better decision about my career.

I remember one of the hardest things about making this decision was having to justify it to people. Why would I leave the certainty of my job in law? Perhaps many people wouldn’t leave their job but this decision was right for me and I always knew that I would regret not making this step. If it didn’t work out, I would return to law.

During my career break, my initial intention was to do some studying and voluntary work. My focus was on improving the lives of adults and children within the education and charity sectors.

Within a couple of months, I had completed a Foundation Course in Counselling Skills for Working with Children with Place2Be and was offered temporary paid experience working in a primary school. By the end of my six months and upon completion of my work in school, I was fortunate to secure a paid full time position as a Major Gifts Officer at Macmillan Cancer Support.

Working for Macmillan was fantastic and, through witnessing the courage of those suffering from cancer, I became even more determined to find a career I was passionate about.

It was during this time that career coaching started to feature in my mind. Given my experience of moving from the legal to the charity sector, several people approached me for career advice and guidance. I was surprised by the number of people who did not enjoy their jobs and the negative impact this was having on their lives. I started to investigate the world of career coaching and found this to be a career I wanted to do.

I established my business, Tessa Armstrong Associates, and have now been working as a career and performance coach for almost 7 years. I am using my past and present experiences and skills to improve the lives of individuals by enabling them to discover what they want to do and support them in getting there. I am also currently keeping in touch with my other interests (children, education and charity) in a voluntary capacity.

Finding this career path took a lot of research, planning and networking as I thought seriously about what I wanted to achieve. It also took a lot of perseverance to overcome the challenges and uncertainty along the way but it was all worth it. I enjoy what I do and hope my story has given you something to think about.

The biggest thing I learnt was that a career change takes time. There may be a few steps to take and decisions to make before you reach your destination. Be patient, be brave and focus on solutions.

If you do not enjoy your career, are thinking of a career change or struggling with your performance at work, have a look at my free resources here and start thinking about your next step.

Imagine a world where we all felt fulfilled, confident and excited about our career choices!

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