Meet the career shifters
These amazing women have changed careers – and thrived. Here they reveal how you could, too
Inspiring advice from the women who have rewritten their futures
CEO to careers guru. Lawyer to app founder. The following women have rewritten the template for their careers by shifting from one industry to another. So, if you’re unhappy or unfulfilled at work, why not take their lead and make a shift? It could be small or big, fast or slow. But when it comes to your career, with hard work and determination, anything is possible. “Work with people you like. Teamwork is everything” “IT’S FIRST ABOUT LETTING GO OF WHAT YOU KNOW”
SAMANTHA CAMERON, 46 From Smythson creative director to founder of womenswear label Cefinn What do you wish you had known before you shifted careers?
“There are lots of things I wish I had known before I started my business, for instance, how much more complex it is designing and producing clothing as opposed to leather accessories. Maybe if I had known I would not have made the leap, naivety can be a good thing.”
What is your career mantra?
“Try to only work with people you really like and try to make it fun. Teamwork is everything.”
What does success mean to you?
“Looking forward to going into work each day.” MAUREEN CHIQUET, 54
From Chanel CEO to selfempowerment guru, author and speaker
Chiquet is no ordinary corporate high flyer. When she started a marketing internship at L’oréal in 1985, she had “absolutely no business knowledge. I hadn’t taken an economics class in college – I was a literature major.” But this didn’t hold her back – she went on to join Gap (as an assistant merchandiser), launch Old Navy, become president of Banana Republic and eventually took over as Chanel’s CEO in 2007. Her major career shift occurred early last year when, after leaving her position at Chanel due to “strategic differences”, she decided to pour her energy into writing and speaking. Now, in a new book, Beyond The Label: Women, Leadership, And Success On Our Own Terms, Chiquet is championing a more emotional approach to leadership. As an introvert, “it didn’t fit to be hyperaggressive or overly ambitious. I realised that I could be a better leader when I could tap into some of the things that were more inherent in who I was, by listening, letting yourself be in someone else’s shoes, being curious and asking questions, as opposed to telling people what to do.”
“I’VE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY” “The less you know, the less fear you carry” “THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A FEW SURPRISES” “ASK AND LEARN LIKE CRAZY” “It’s been the most exhilarating time”
MOLLY GUNN, 39 From fashion journalist to entrepreneur and founder of Selfish Mother
If you’ve seen pictures of Gillian Anderson and Jo Wood wearing T-shirts and jumpers emblazoned with ‘MOTHER’, ‘STRONG’ and ‘WINGING IT’, you’ll already be acquainted with the handiwork of Molly Gunn.
Gunn, who started as a fashion journalist, including for Red, launched Selfish Mother in 2013, as a platform for mothers who aren’t defined by their children.
She says, “When I was a journalist I would interview entrepreneurs and wish I was sitting in their seat, but I didn’t think I had what it takes to run a brand, especially financially. I’ve learned along the way.”
Now, she has over 80k Instagram followers and a clothing brand, The FMLY Store, where £10 from sales of each sloganed piece go to charities such as Women
For Women International and Mothers2mothers. Four years in, Gunn employs five staff, and has raised £600,000 for charity.
MILLIE MACKINTOSH, 28 From reality TV star to fashion designer and founder of Millie Mackintosh What do you wish you’d known before you shifted careers?
“If I’d known everything then I may have second-guessed myself, but I would have been on a fast track. To know nothing is being thrown into an intense learning curve, which was overwhelming but exhilarating. Sometimes the less you know, the less fear you carry. I started with a sense of the industry, but with the enthusiasm of a newbie. In some ways, I had the best of both.”
CAROLYN MCCALL, 55 From teaching to advertising to CEO of the Guardian Media Group to CEO of Easyjet
With her history in advertising and media, becoming CEO of Easyjet in 2010 seemed an unlikely career move. But it’s clear Mccall had the leadership skills and prowess to transition into any business. “I’ve learnt that it’s great to have an open mind and a fresh perspective,” she says. “It allows you to question long-held assumptions and so-called ‘sacred cows’.” Her next career move will take her back to media, as she has just been appointed chief executive of ITV.
“That no matter how much due diligence you do, there will always be a few surprises.”
TAMARA RAJAH, 35 From partner at Mckinsey & Co to founder and CEO of Live Better With
In 2015, Rajah left the city career she had been doing for 11 years and launched her online business, Live Better With, which curates products to help the symptoms, side-effects and everyday lives for those living with cancer. “I had a burning wish to make an idea come to life because I wanted it to exist in the world and that motivated me to make the shift,” she says. What qualities does someone need to make a career shift?
“Humility to know you’re starting again and a willingness to ask and learn like crazy.”
WHITNEY BROMBERG HAWKINGS, 42 From senior vice president of communications at Tom Ford to co-founder of Flowerbx
Bromberg Hawkings could have stayed in her job at Tom Ford forever. “I’d worked my way up from the bottom and had been there for 19 years. It wasn’t a case of being unhappy.” But she realised, while shopping on Net-a-porter and Ocado, buying flowers to send on behalf of Ford was inconsistent. She created Flowerbx, allowing customers to order single-stem bunches of flowers online. The company raised £1.5m in investment, and calls brands like Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior clients.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to shift careers?
“Do it! I can’t believe how terrified I was. This has been the most exhilarating time of my entire life.”