Six lessons I learned from changing my career
Updated: Nov 17
I love change.
The facts speak for itself:
I’ve moved house 15 times and lived in two different countries. So far.
I worked in ten organisations, six different industries, have made major career changes – at 35, 40 and 50 - and worked on (too) many projects.
I’ve worked on permanent contracts, on short term contracts, was made redundant once (almost twice), became a self-employed contractor and am now working as a freelance Career Coach.
And to top it all off I worked as a Business Change Manager for twelve years, supporting people in organisations through disruptive organisational changes. Meaning that I know a thing or two about change and how people are affected by it.
I love change.
But yeah, change can be scary too. And for all of you out there who are contemplating a career change, maybe you find some help in some of the key things I’ve learned.
1. Every job has good bits and bad bits
I don’t know about you, but I can think of better, nicer, more interesting things to do than taxes. Or my expenses. Or drawing the seventeenth ‘plan on a page’.
But you’ve got to do them.
There are good bits and bad bits about every job.
It’s about considering what you have to do yourself, and most importantly: what percentage of your day is filled with stuff you don’t want to do.
If you hate doing taxes, what are you doing being an accountant? If you can’t stand close physical contact, don’t be a dentist. If you don’t want the ups and downs that go with projects, why do you work in change?
Can’t stand being in an open plan office? Mmmm, you might be able to change your environment so you don’t have to do it so much?
2. It’s all about the people
The internet is covered in articles about toxic work environments, toxic bosses and gossipy offices.
And it almost makes you forget that – actually – the vast majority of people and work environments are great. Just people doing the best they can, working hard and being – well – people!
And yes, sometimes organisations, projects, teams are set up wrong. Managers have not been taught to be managers. Processes don’t work how they should. Plans are non-existent. Communications within teams could be better. And as a result people can feel unhappy, under threat or frustrated.
I believe the vast majority of people just want to do a good job and get on with each other.
If we believe that as a starting point and handle our own emotions when times are tough, life at work becomes so much easier!
3. What level of safety you need is very personal
For years and years I believed that having a permanent job was what I wanted, what I needed. To be able to pay my bills. To feel safe and secure.
And then I got made redundant. Almost twice.
At which point I decided to be my own boss instead. But not before I had a thorough conversation with myself about where my need for safety and security came from.
And I found something really interesting.
My need for safety and security … wasn’t mine!
It had been instilled in me from a very young age. To keep me safe and secure. Necessary at the time, but keeping me stuck when I was trying to progress in my career.
Turns out that your sense of safety and security is not set in stone – or might not even be yours! If you examine it you might find that you’re not tied as tightly to a ‘secure’ job as you think.
4. Positive or negative attitude? It’s up to you!
I was always the cynic.
Until I realised that being cynical wasn’t exactly making me any happier.
And at that point I decided to make a change. To raise my levels of happiness. I learnt about positive psychology and emotional intelligence. And found that you can do things yourself to be happier. I started a daily practice of journaling and practising more positive emotions.
Yes, life isn’t perfect. But it’s up to you if you want to adopt a negative or a positive attitude. I chose the latter.
5. There is an ocean full of possibilities out there!
When I moved to the UK I was in my thirties. I changed my career and my life, all in one go. In hindsight, without giving it too much thought (and yes, this was pre-Brexit).
What should have been a major move, wasn’t. Not really.
Ten years later. I was in a job. I was miserable. And I felt stuck. I felt I’d swum into a net and wasn’t able to get out – like a great big tuna, wriggling to get out.
And only when I decided that I wasn’t going to wait for the next redundancy, when I decided to go and work for myself. Only then did I realise that there was no net!
Instead there was a great big ocean full of possibilities, opportunities to do something different, and do it in a different way.
It still fills me with bubbly excitement, energy and zest for life.
6. Change your career so it makes you happy
When you’re younger you make choices about your career based on availability and chances to progress your career. It’s about building your life.
When you’re older your priorities change. It becomes more about what feels meaningful to you. About making a difference. And about using all of your strengths (not just the things you’ve become good at in your job) for something you care about.
You have an opportunity to create a vision for (the rest of) your life.
Life becomes easier when you know where you’re going. Decisions become easier once you’ve decided they fit in with the vision you’ve got for your life.
Ultimately it is about finding direction and happiness in your career and your life.
Six lessons I've learned. How about yours?
Tineke Tammes is an ICF credentialed Career Coach, who supports professional women in making successful transitions to careers of Freedom, Flexibility and Fulfilment! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.
Join her now in Pick 'n Mix - the FREE community for creative, multi-passionate women or sign up to the newsletter.