Words by Christine Breslin
May 30th, 2018
For many of us, it is uncertainty that thwarts us from embarking on a journey of change. In our developmental years, routine is embedded into our daily life; we chose our school subjects to prepare us for further endeavours, we additionally train/study to secure a job, eventually settling into our chosen career and life goes on in just as you had mapped it out. Or so we are conditioned to believe. But, for the millennial woman, the career ladder is no longer predictable and we are continuously redefining our environment, perspectives and expectations in parallel to our everyday reality.
Paula Coogan, The Quarter Life Coach, believes everyone has a calling/work that they long to do but that they may not have the courage to answer. However, she is currently seeing an upsurge in women pivoting careers as they awaken to the fact that they have so much more to offer rather than squeezing into a previously outlined career. “What you’ll find when you look at the stories of career pivots is that it was the individual’s passion project, it’s something they had thought about for a long time and then realised that the yearning they were feeling wasn’t going to go away.”
In order to successfully pivot, Paula further says, “From the beginning, we need to give ourselves the time, space and permission to get lost in what we enjoy- to explore, to create, to imagine, to re-invent.” Many stories we hear today reveal the final rose-tinted destination but three women, who pivoted into their current careers tell us about how they shifted course through investigation, creation, imagination, invention and most importantly, passion. maven46 speaks to three women who successfully navigated their career pivot and reveals their inspiring mindset.
Three years ago Janet left her full-time PR position to primarily focus on her travel blog, Journalist on the Run. Janet developed her passion for travel, a new-fangled ‘unemployment’ plan and a bucket list of 50 countries before 30 to become Ireland’s most celebrated travel blogger. As Janet commences her new adventure, Your Irish Adventure website, she reveals to us the pivotal experience she underwent.
Was there a reason you chose 2015 to start blogging full time?
It was a pretty scary decision to leave my career. Everything had been going really well at work but my blog was really starting to take off and it was a now-or-never situation where I knew if I didn’t go for it, I probably never would. I had just been published by National Geographic, and offers were starting to pour in for press trips to some of the world’s most far-flung destinations. Offers I could only say yes to if I quit my job and hit the road full time.
I think the main reasons for my career change were quite personal. I was absolutely obsessed with travel and knew I would probably never be happy in a desk job. I’m quite passionate about travel, writing and sharing my wacky stories and knew I had built the perfect platform to share on. Finance didn’t really play a role as I knew I would be broke for the first year, and everyone always says you won’t find many travel bloggers “in it for the money”. That said, travel blogging and content creation has really taken off in recent years, and I still find it hard to believe I earn more now than I did as a PR manager. I was offered some high paid freelance writing work, so I knew I would still have a somewhat stable income once I quit. My career pivot has given me a lot more confidence in myself. I’m still learning all the time and don’t think I’ll ever know it all. I love how I can write whatever I like on my site as it’s my platform and I am my own editor! Some of my post popular articles are my most personal and authentic ones, where I open up about my struggles and share the negative side of blogging, travel and general struggles in life!
What was your plan in changing careers and becoming successfully self-made?
Before I quit my job, I actually sat down and wrote an “unemployment plan”. It was mainly to satisfy my parents that I wasn’t about to ruin my career/life! It detailed how I was going to make money, how I planned to fund my travels and my six and 12-month finance goals. Establishing yourself as a blogger is a very long process that involves hundreds of hours of hard work online that no one will ever see. Growing an engaged following on social media, curating content, editing photographs and videos, learning how to master SEO and writing articles that are both fun to read, shareable and SEO optimised. There are travel blogging conferences and networking events, there are endless emails to reply to, articles to write and edit, and proposals for future partnerships to be compiled. The list is endless and the work never stops!
My career in PR 100% helped my career as a travel blogger. I knew how to promote myself and market myself from the beginning, and did things other bloggers would not dream of such as sending out press releases…about myself! Whenever I won an award or reached a new level as a travel blogger, such as winning Digital Media Travel Journalist Of The Year in 2017, I would be sure to let the media go to try help raise my profile! I’m not afraid to set up meetings with PR people, cold pitch people and network, all very important in the blogging world.
What advice would you give someone looking to completely pivot their career and start their own business?
My advice would be to make a plan for what’s next before you quit your job. I think career pivots are amazing and more of us should do it, but remember that things can be hard at first so make a plan, and then have a backup plan too, in case everything doesn’t go the way you wanted! If you’re not happy in life, you’re the only person who can change that. I did, and I have never looked back.
After two decades in aviation with the learning curve diminishing, Susan Keating travelled back to her familial lands to use the natural resources of Clare’s coastline. This year, Susan translated her executive tactics into a tangible product line and business, NEUÚ Seaweed Skincare. Just like NEUÚ’s hero ingredient, seaweed, Susan has adapted as an entrepreneur and retained suppleness in the challenges of pivoting careers.
What elements were key factors for you when you decided to pivot career?
The key elements were family and also personal development needs. We (Susan is married to long-term partner, Stephen) have three children, all still primary school age. Because of a demanding travel schedule, I was missing out on a lot of simple everyday things with my husband and children, to a point where I felt a bit disconnected from family life at times. I didn’t want to regret not being around enough with the children while they were at an age where they needed that level of involvement, so having better quality family time was a major factor in reaching my decision. The trade-off for better quality family life was less financial security so that was something that took me awhile to get comfortable with. The personal development side also came into play. I was established career-wise as Head of Global Sales and Marketing and worked with a great team but, I remember asking myself if I would feel satisfied at retirement looking back, and the answer was no. So the choice wasn’t just to move industry at that point, it had to be a much bigger challenge for the move to make sense.
Did a particular narrative or experience translate into NEUÚ?
Having spent most of my career in the aviation industry, I had exposed myself to many different cultures, markets and concepts. As mentioned, I reached a point in my career, where I knew I wanted a greater personal challenge. So the question was: where would I focus my energy? I grew up on Loop Head, Co. Clare, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. With my work bringing me to the four corners of the earth, I had grown increasingly aware of how unique and special the pristine environment of Ireland’s Atlantic seaboard is. I believe it was this appreciation of the habitat I’d grown up with that brought me to focus on the power and potential of seaweed. I was inspired by the purity of the environment itself and protecting that environment through sustainable harvesting, and production is a key aspect of our ethos and process.
Has your pivot filled you with a new desire and a clarity of yourself as a person?
Absolutely, I am an upbeat person and commit fully to whatever it is I do. Once I decided to make the change I felt more plugged in and energised than I had for years so it was definitely the right choice in that context. I think removing the safety net of a corporate career and all its bells and whistles reignited the hunter and survivor within- you have to make it work because there isn’t the safety net underneath you. I found that both daunting and liberating.
In 2016, Aimee decided to offroad her career as a marketing brand manager for beer and cider at Richmond Marketing Ltd and set up her own Montessori, Ivy Lane. From marketing alcoholic beverages focused on an older demographic to developing and creating an environment for children to thrive in, Aimee presents the building blocks she used to successfully change career.
What was your motivation and inspiration to pivot career?
During my career in FMCG, I was fortunate enough to work for some of Ireland’s largest multinational organisations on many global brands, alongside some incredible people. However, I always knew I wanted to do something for myself. Fortunately, my sister had a similar mindset. She had trained as a Montessori teacher and worked in some fantastic Montessoris but was ready to take the next leap in her career. Suddenly we both found ourselves in the same place, at the right time.
Although Montessori was not my background, I had attended an excellent Montessori as a young child and always respected and understood the benefits it brings to childhood. It was during this time that I met some of my best friends whom I still have today, making the sentiment of Montessori really close to my heart. For me, work became less about the career ladder and more about pursuing happiness. Work takes up 80% of adulthood after all.
How did you embrace change and turn it into an asset?
I initially had to take the fear out of changing career by systematically working through my own questions such as, where am I currently? What are my goals? How do these align with this new career path? Through this, I was able to see what strengths and skills I could bring to the table which would balance my partner Sally’s style, preferences, interests and values.
Alongside an extremely detailed business plan and tangible projections, we researched the market thoroughly and spent time looking for the perfect property that would see our dream come to life. My background in marketing has been helpful in understanding the importance of the brand you are trying to build, the ethos you are trying to create and the environment you are hoping to achieve while ensuring the business is performing against forecast and staying on plan. Since making the change, I have had to undergo extensive training in the childcare sector which, when starting on the career ladder, I would never have believed.
What is the best advice you have received?
Whatever you decide to do, make sure it makes you happy… I try to apply this to all aspects of my life.
*In partnership with Diet Coke
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