Life after career change: Deep dive Q&A!

A few weeks ago, I was excited to meet the founder of Pivot! (the career change newsletter) – Rachel Murray. I first noticed Rachel’s funny and honest posts about her own career change from law to journalism on LinkedIn a few months ago. A handful of emails later and we decided to meet in person for a coffee, and here I am featuring in her newsletter!

If you’d like to receive fortnightly tips on career change, you can sign up to her brilliant Pivot! newsletter here.

Here’s how our conversation went…

Hi Hannah, tell me how you got into your previous role?

After finishing university I had no idea what I wanted to do. My degree was in international management, and I was interested in the world of business but had no real exposure to it as all of my family are teachers. I sporadically applied for a few graduate programmes in my final year and ended up landing a place on BT’s London graduate programme. I’d never worked in an office before so it was quite overwhelming and took me around six months to find my feet.

I had great support from the programme manager at the time and ended up doing a placement in internal resourcing, in addition to graduate recruitment. I really enjoyed the people aspect of the role, which resulted in me staying in the recruitment team after completing the programme.

What did you love about that job?

The student-facing part. I loved meeting and talking to students; it was exciting following those who were successful in the process. I also really enjoyed running assessment centres and interviewing. It was the best feeling when we got to make job offers.

I stayed with BT for five years, before I felt it was time to try a completely new industry. I then applied for a few jobs and was hired to lead graduate recruitment at the law firm Allen & Overy, where I worked for three years.

Was there anything you struggled with during that time?

Managing a team of people was a new challenge for me. I loved people so thought it would be easy, but it was a big learning curve. I am a bit of a people pleaser and sometimes found it hard balancing the needs of the business with the individual needs in a team. My confidence definitely took a knock when I became a manager, but I’m glad I stuck with it. I learned so much about myself and how I react in different situations and to different pressure points. I also learned a lot about how to have difficult conversations with people. I think without overcoming that bump in the road, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to career change to become a coach.

What was the toughest thing for you about career changing?

Grappling with internal doubt! I found it hard to cope with other people’s less-than-positive responses to my decision, which triggered my own self-doubt and insecurities. I didn’t know many people who had gone down the exact route I wanted to and felt like I had quite ambitious goals for someone who had so much self-doubt. People I didn’t know that well were sceptical when they heard what I wanted to do, which made me question whether this was a path I should take. In retrospect, I’m glad I had those challenges early on. Working through the self-doubt ultimately made me more committed to making the change happen and proving them wrong.

What, if anything, would you change about the process?

Ultimately, the things that didn’t go to plan taught me so much. It’s a bit of a cliché but I strongly believe – now more than ever – that failure is integral to success. But that doesn’t mean it’s not painful to go through at the time!

The only thing I would say is that I wish I’d backed myself more and worried less. I spent quite a lot of time worrying about what could go wrong. Perhaps I could have jumped a bit earlier, as it was something I had wanted to do for a long time before I started even entertaining it as a possibility. But I think I wouldn’t have built up so much useful experience if I had. I learned so much from working in the corporate world that was incredibly useful during the career-changing process.

Do you think there is enough information or support for people considering a move?

There is enough information out there to do most things, but finding the right type of information and accessing it is the hard part. We have access to an unprecedented amount of online resources in the form of YouTube videos, podcasts, books etc. But many people find too much researching can lead to information overload and then feel paralysed by choice.

For me, the single most useful thing was books; lots and lots of books! They weren’t necessarily about career-changing (although some were), but more about taking responsibility for your life and career; learning about how to deal with failure, how to create useful habits that stick and so on. There’s mixed feelings about so-called ‘self-help’ books – some people read and don’t get anything from them. But I believe that if you take the concepts and put them into practice, it can be really transformational.

I was also part of a peer mentoring project. We are still in touch now and meet up to share success stories and challenges. Community is important for me and having honest conversations with people who are going through similar things. It’s about being able to say to each other: “You got this”.

What surprised you about career-changing?

Probably that it was easier than I thought it would be, but maybe that’s because I thought it would be insanely difficult! I’d spent so much time contemplating the change and then procrastinating before taking the jump; I had put being a full-time career coach onto a pedestal of impossibility. Once I started, things fell into place far more easily than I expected.

You’re now a full-time coach. Tell me how you made it work in terms of networking, because many people think it’s a nasty word and hate doing it, as I once did!

Networking is something I’m passionate about precisely because I used to hate it. Dread it even. I believed it was awkward and everyone else knew how to do it except me. Now I do it a lot, but on my own terms. It’s not something I found easy, but it’s something that I thought would be useful and therefore forced myself to do.

The word networking is loaded with negative connotations and very often it conjures up images of people trying to sell themselves, whereas, for me, networking is simply about connecting and building relationships.

One of the most valuable things I gained during the process was speaking to other coaches. I found it a lot easier to reach out and have those one-on-one conversations rather than attending loads of events and trying to grab people’s attention.

When you do reach out, don’t take everything people say as fact; run it through your own filter first and understand that it’s their perspective and experience, not yours. For example, I remember someone telling me that coaching is something people tend to go into much later in their career and it hit me quite hard. My initial response was to ask myself: who do I think I am? Why am I going into it now? But actually, that was her world and her reality,  it doesn’t mean that it has to be the same for everyone.

What extra-curricular activities or non-work related skills or qualities do you think have helped your career trajectory?

I’ve never had a particular hobby that I’ve stuck with – I like doing lots of things. I love reading, but everything else I’ve dabbled in – I did a fencing class once (which I was awful at!) and a creative writing class. I believe it’s more important to try new things, get involved and be open to meeting new people.

That said, knowing what you’re interested in and putting yourself out there is a great quality. For the past two years, I’ve been one of the chairs of the London Coaching Group. Although I was a relatively new coach at the time, I just thought why not. At first, I experienced imposter syndrome – especially around other coaches who were much more experienced – but we’ve all had things to learn from each other and that helped me improve.

What impact have you noticed on non-work related parts of your life after career-changing?

Overall my wellbeing is a lot better now. Although I’m still not good at compartmentalising! When I worry, I tend to drag it around with me and find it quite difficult to switch off. But, I’m a little bit less caught up than I used to be and therefore more in control of my time and decisions. I find writing in my diary to be one of the best ways of processing my concerns.

When I started out as a coach, I was worried about saying no, but I’m a lot clearer about my boundaries now and reject work I don’t want. Plus, I don’t cancel important personal plans to squeeze a client in last-minute. I love my work, but I have to have enough time to see friends and family.

If you could give one tip to someone thinking of changing job or career, what would it be?

For me, the most important things to remember are patience and commitment. Career-changing takes time and that’s okay; be comfortable with the lack of clarity. When you don’t know what role you want or the kind of company you want to work for, it can feel frustrating and uncomfortable, but you’re not going to stumble across the perfect job – keep exploring. View uncertainty as part of the process and take the pressure off yourself so you don’t rush into the first thing that comes along.

Tell me a fun fact about you that no-one knows about you.

I’m obsessed with escape rooms – I’ve done over 40 of them now!

Finally – you know that each fortnight I do Pivot! picks but this time it’s your turn. Do you have any recommended relevant blogs / podcasts / books to share with readers?


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Comments 2

  1. February 21, 2020

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    July 14, 2020

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