The Big Switch

You’ve worked hard to get to the top of your game… but what if you’re not happy? We find out what it’s like to make a mid-ca­reer change.

Virgin Australia Voyeur - - NEWS - Words JOSEPHINE SARGENT AND RICHARD SCOTT

What it’s like to make a mid-ca­reer change.

Ev­ery Sun­day night do you get that feel­ing of ab­so­lute dread in the pit of your stom­ach at the prospect of head­ing to work the next day? You’re not alone. It turns out al­most half of all em­ployed Aus­tralians are think­ing about em­bark­ing on a ca­reer change, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey by Seek. Sound daunt­ing? It needn’t be. Eightyeight per cent of those who made the switch said it was a good de­ci­sion.

We spoke with five Aus­tralians who started again, of­ten mak­ing the leap back into study­ing from the very peak of their pro­fes­sions.

Naomi Shep­herd started her uni­ver­sity days in the fast lane, jug­gling an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Stud­ies (from the Uni­ver­sity of South Aus­tralia) with a gru­elling 30 hours of part-time work the whole way through. So, when she made the de­ci­sion to go back for her MBA mid­way through her ca­reer in com­mer­cial ra­dio sales, she wanted to give her­self the “op­por­tu­nity to step back, and ap­proach and learn the things I didn’t get to do the first time.”

She en­rolled in a Se­nior Ex­ec­u­tive MBA at Mel­bourne Busi­ness School, with the goal of tak­ing her ca­reer to the next level as a busi­ness leader. “I saw the MBA as a crit­i­cal step­ping stone to achiev­ing my pro­fes­sional goals and giv­ing my­self the ed­u­ca­tional pedi­gree, learn­ings and con­fi­dence my pro­fes­sional suc­cesses sim­ply could not,” says Shep­herd.

It wasn’t easy. Once again, she found her­self bal­anc­ing the de­mands of work and study, this time with the added stress of a young fam­ily of three. “I be­came very good at out­sourc­ing my per­sonal ad­min, house­hold man­age­ment and even Hal­loween cos­tumes,” laughs Shep­herd. But even­tu­ally, with a strong sup­port net­work, her ef­forts paid off. In the time since then she has pro­gressed to be­com­ing part of a co­hort of re­spected fe­male lead­ers in the tech in­dus­try, in her po­si­tion as group in­dus­try di­rec­tor at Face­book Aus­tralia. “For me,” she says, “no amount of suc­cess in busi­ness could give me the con­fi­dence and per­spec­tive that an MBA did. It may have been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my­self.”

It took Matt Web­ber seven years study­ing part-time, while work­ing as a para­le­gal, to be­come a so­lic­i­tor. But after seven more years of lit­i­ga­tion prac­tice in Mel­bourne, the job proved hor­ri­bly un­der­whelm­ing. “Law was just one big rolling, ex­pen­sive ar­gu­ment and it wore me down,” says Webster. “No one was ever happy.”

“Just jump. If, in your heart, you know that you’re do­ing the wrong thing, there’s no point in wast­ing time.”

WAS: Com­mer­cial ra­dio sales NOW: Group in­dus­try di­rec­tor, Face­book

WAS: So­lic­i­tor NOW: Ra­dio pre­sen­ter

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