Amanda Attrell spent years working her way up the career ladder and found herself at the top: as a partner at a law firm. But she felt anxious, stressed and tired. So she quit and had a huge career change…
5am…there was a time when being awake at 5am meant I’d danced my heart out all night on the dance floor. Or that I was on my way to the airport ready to jet off for a cultured city break. But then it became a time when I was super stressed and anxious. My mind racing with panicked thoughts – deadlines, targets, risk management and HR issues, constantly picturing the worst-case scenario.
I wasn’t quite sure when it had all caught up with me. After all, I’d been working in legal practice for well over a decade and the feedback I received was almost always positive.
Was it the promotions and additional responsibility? The fact that the recession had changed the profession so much? Or was it because I now carried my very own desktop computer around with me 24/7 – a constant stream of emails reminding me about the ever mounting list of jobs still waiting on my to do list.
5am…another long, draining, cortisol fuelled day ahead of me and I’d barely slept a wink.
And whilst I knew I was almost certainly not alone in finding the hamster wheel unbearable – that this groundhog day feeling was not specific to just me, my profession, gender or race – somehow it was a horribly lonely and dark place to be.
After all, I was a partner in a law firm. I earned a decent wage and could comfortably afford the luxurious holidays and spa breaks that I constantly craved so I could experience those few delicious days of escapism. I had studied hard and slogged my way up the corporate ladder to achieve this. I had what many aspire to, and yet I was miserable, unfulfilled and ill-equipped to make things better.
In the end, my health (or lack of it) made my decision for me and I embarked on a career break, desperate to find happiness, purpose and a better work/life balance. The looming question however was how did I figure out what I wanted to do, and once I’d had that “AHA” moment, how on earth was I going to achieve it? I had worked in legal all of my adult life and I had no “dream job” vision to work towards. Family and friends constantly asked me what it was that I wanted to do, and my frustrated reply of “I don’t know” was often followed by uncomfortable silences.
Time for a career change…
I decided to attend a career-shifting workshop and met 11 other individuals from various professions (four of us lawyers) also looking for some inspiration and guidance. Off the back of that, I signed up to a six-month career coaching programme where weekly coaching sessions took place via zoom meetings to our group of five (three of us lawyers – can you spot a common theme here?).
All of a sudden, I didn’t feel so alone. I stopped feel ungrateful, irresponsible and foolish for wanting more than to just go to work and pay my bills. All those years of studying and working in a profession that I had grown to hate no longer felt like a waste of time, money and effort. I stopped feeling like a failure and I started to believe that I had value to offer to others.
Guided by my career coach, I watched TED talks, read books and online articles about subjects that I was passionate about. I attended events and joined a local boot camp. I met with others who weren’t enslaved to the daily 9 to 5 (do these hours even exist nowadays?) and who had followed “unconventional” career paths too. We met for coffee and they shared their experiences with me, each new contact a potential doorway to new possibilities.
After a few months of being open to pretty much every opportunity that came my way, I found “it”. An opportunity to start my own business promoting a breakthrough health science product. ASEA (a dietary health supplement) and Renu28 (a topical skin gel) are 100% non toxic products which empower the body and skin to heal itself by improving cellular communication and functions. Selling these products gives me the chance to earn an income whilst helping others to achieve a healthier and happier quality of life, and the enjoyment of collaborating with others who want to do the same.
And given that starting a profitable business won’t happen overnight, I’m fortunate that I can return to the legal profession part-time whilst I’m working on earning an income from my passion, a position I wouldn’t have been confident enough to have negotiated had I not been supported and encouraged by my fellow Careershifters. Life feels a million times happier and more balanced. I feel a sense of freedom and have a clear vision for my career future at last. Nowadays, 5am looks like me being peacefully sound asleep, or occasionally brimming with excitement and ideas for my business!
How to have a career change
Career changes are far from easy. Give your CV to a recruiter or a potential employer and most will try to place you in the exact same pigeonhole you were trying to escape from. So what’s the best advice I could give to anyone else looking to escape that hamster wheel? Two things really stand out for me: get out of your fishbowl and don’t do it alone.
Unless you step outside of your fishbowl and look outside of your normal routine you won’t see the alternative options available and trust me, they are there. You don’t have to take the huge leap that I did either – start small. Take a different route to work, join a new evening class or meetup group, attend that event on a Wednesday evening instead of collapsing on the sofa in front of the TV. Build yourself a new network outside of the one you already have and look to connect with people rather than find “a job”. You never know where you might find exactly what you’ve been looking for.
Are you considering a career change? What are you doing now and what do you think you might like to be doing instead? We’d love to hear all about it in the comment section below…