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A see change

Publishing Date : 20 August, 2019

Stuart White
The World in Black-N-White

A long while back there was a British sitcom series entitled ‘The Good Life’, the basis of which revolved around a man called Tom Good.  As the series starts he is a draughtsman in a company producing plastic toys.

His work colleague and next-door neighbour, Jerry Leadbetter, is a marketing executive in the same company and the pair are both on the conventional corporate ladder.  They live in a desirable suburb of London in large, detached houses, work 9 to 5, if not longer, sucking up to the boss in order to protect and advance their careers which are financially promising. 

But Tom, it seems, is not content.  It’s his 40th birthday and he is suffering from a mid-life crisis.  He is disillusioned with the convention, corporate world, he wants a complete change and he has a plan;  Hand in his resignation, turn his large garden into a self-supporting farm, growing vegetables, rearing livestock, keeping chickens and even using animal waste material to go off-grid and produce  his own electricity.  He persuades his wife to support his idea and the basis for the series is thus established.

The Good Life in the title is a play on his surname (Good) and turning the perceived idea  of La Dolce Vita – career success, material wealth and all its accompanying trappings – upside down.  His good life was going to be one of honest toil and living entirely and quite literally off the fruits of his own labour.

The series was a huge success, due, in part, to excellent scripting and acting, but also because it tapped into something many of us have often considered – leaving the rat race behind for a simpler life, eschewing the pursuit of money and the material world and going back to nature.  Deep down, there’s a farmer or sharecropper in all of us and we’d love to abandon the ties that bind us to the world of business in favour of an idyllic existence in a rural paradise, at one with Mother Nature.  Yet for most of us it remains a dream and probably rightly so.  The reality of such a drastic lifestyle change is too massive to truly contemplate – it’s just the germ of an idea somewhere in the back of our minds and there it remains.

But the idea of a radical career change doesn’t have to mean becoming sons and daughters of the soil.  It can rather be a switch from one profession or occupation to another very different one.  We trained to be one thing, we walked down that path, enjoying the view, till one day we realised we wanted to take a different track altogether.  This realisation can build up gradually over time or it can come as a bolt from the blue but either way, your mind is made up.  You want to retrain, re-think and reverse your chosen career path because it no longer represents who you are and how you want to spend your life.   

But giving up your job has huge implications.  You may also have to give up your home;  You may need to invest your entire life savings to effect the change;  You may have to relocate, not just yourself but uproot your entire family;  In most instances it will almost certainly mean a contraction in status, both financial and social.  It is, in effect, a leap in the dark.  But if that sounds like you, here is some practical advice on how to take that next big step:

Don't get bogged down in thinking that you only have one chance to change career: "When people start talking about their "true calling" or "finding their vocation" it adds a lot of pressure to an already difficult decision. You will probably change career direction several times in your life, so try to think in terms of what you would like to try next.

Career planning tools on websites such as Prospects or TargetJobs can be useful to throw up a few ideas, but the key is to think about the kind of skills you enjoy and are good at, the environment you'd like to be in and the kind of people you want to work with. Once you've narrowed it down to two or three areas, you'll be able to do some more targeted research and start looking at specific job roles. Just remember, you can always change your mind." Tracy Johnson, career coach and founder of Brainbox Coaching

A gradual approach to changing your career can work well: "While some people want to radically reinvent their career instantly, it is more realistic to work towards a new career over time. This might mean making changes in your current job, studying a course in the evening, shadowing someone in the role, or learning new skills to make yourself more attractive to potential employers. It might also mean that you gradually move into your new career via a series of jobs rather than one giant leap – and this is important if you want to protect your salary rather than going back to entry level wages." Corinne Mills, author and managing director of Personal Career Management

You need to believe that it really can happen: "One of the hardest things with a change of career is believing that we can do this new task. We tend to think of ourselves as a photographer, an accountant or whatever. That's what seems to define us. Now we have to re-define ourselves and begin to believe it deeply inside us. Once we believe it, others will too. I would suggest you start saying to yourself and to everyone you meet that you work in [your new sector]. When I changed career, I continued to say that I was an actor who also worked as a coach, but once I started saying that I was a coach who used to be an actor, my coaching work really took off." Robin Kermode, leading European speech director and founder of Zone2

The first steps to take when thinking of changing career: "Your starting point is to really think about what's important to you in a career. What sort of working environment do you think you'll be happy in? What energises you most work-wise? And what do you naturally love doing and are good at? All these questions will help you to identify some possible avenues. Spending a bit of time thinking about yourself and what fulfils you will help you to make the right choices." Sally Bibb, founder of Engaging Minds

The Good Life was a work of fiction, but a radical career and lifestyle change can become a reality if you are truly convinced that career satisfaction now lies somewhere else.   Remember the old adage that as you grow old it’s not what you did in life that you regret the most but rather what you didn’t do!



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