It’s never too late to learn on the job: Here’s how one brave woman mas­tered new skills for a suc­cess­ful mid-career switch

Singapore Women's Weekly (Singapore) - - STYLE SETTER -

Boost your career prospects with a timely skills up­grade

Mas­ter­ing new skills is not op­tional in to­day’s cut­throat busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment. In a fast-mov­ing, com­pet­i­tive world, be­ing able to learn a new com­pe­tency is one of the keys to suc­cess. Con­tin­ual self-im­prove­ment is of­ten nec­es­sary for get­ting and stay­ing ahead at work. But how do you start to up­skill when you have a full-time job to con­tend with? Or what if you ac­tu­ally hap­pen to love your cur­rent job?

Quest for Self-im­prove­ment

Imag­ine this: You’re a high-fly­ing cor­po­rate afi­cionado with a cov­etable job at a For­tune 500 com­pany. But after a few good years mak­ing good money, you sub­se­quently de­cide to leave the com­forts of your sta­ble ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tion to be­come, of all things, a yoga in­struc­tor.

This was the sce­nario Au­drey Ling Seah, 28, found her­self in. With a role in Pub­lic Re­la­tions and Mar­ket­ing for Bri­tish lux­ury fash­ion house, Burberry, Au­drey had a job that elicited praise and envy. But one yoga class, a few years into her flour­ish­ing career, set her on a path less trav­elled. She ac­quired a new set of skills that would see her say good­bye to power suits and pointed-toe pumps, and hello to form-fit­ting tank tops and com­pres­sion leg­gings.

Tak­ing A Leap of Faith

The de­ci­sion to go rogue wasn’t easy for Au­drey. “It was pretty scary,” she con­fesses. “For the first time in my life, I didn’t know which di­rec­tion to head to­wards, but I knew I didn’t want to do the safe thing.” As a child she was taught about the im­por­tance of a good ed­u­ca­tion and a sta­ble career, but she also be­lieved the per­fect storm of pas­sion and prac­tice could lead to ul­ti­mate suc­cess. And that was what she found in yoga.

“It wasn’t a case of ‘Oh I’m un­happy with my job, I’ve got to fig­ure out what I want to get out of the next phase of my career’. I didn’t leave be­cause I didn’t like it ; I’ve al­ways been into move­ment and danc­ing since I was young, and I ac­tu­ally trained in con­tem­po­rary dance. An in­jury stopped me from pur­su­ing that pro­fes­sion­ally, but then I found yoga.”

A love for the phys­i­cal­ity and spir­i­tu­al­ity of the dis­ci­pline led her to em­bark on a jour­ney to New York, to un­dergo spe­cific train­ing to teach yoga to the masses. “I ac­tu­ally took my teacher’s train­ing when I was still at Burberry,” she ex­plains. “I used up most of my an­nual leave to train un­der (US yoga guru) Tara Stiles at her Strala stu­dio, and got my cer­ti­fi­ca­tion after over 200 hours of in­ten­sive study.”

Upon re­turn­ing to Singapore, Au­drey taught part-time classes at a num­ber of yoga stu­dios while still hold­ing on to her full-time job, be­fore leav­ing to open The Mov­ing Prac­tice, which fo­cuses on pri­vate yoga in­struc­tion.

A Plan for Life­long Learn­ing

“Of course it takes time and prac­tice to get re­ally good at any­thing – much more than a few weeks or months of train­ing,” Au­drey says of her pur­suit of new skills. “And these cour­ses of­ten don’t come cheap, but think of them as an in­vest­ment in your­self. To reach your own po­ten­tial, you have to take a few risks that you hope will pay off in the end. It’s al­most like a process where you have to break your­self, in or­der to make your­self.”

With Au­drey ’s mid-career rein­ven­tion, she def­i­nitely felt a change in the way peo­ple re­sponded to her new job. “Even if it was un­in­ten­tional, I had friends who came up to me and said ‘What are you do­ing with your life?’ and ‘Are you do­ing the right thing?’” she re­veals.

Still, Au­drey has no re­grets about tak­ing the leap and mov­ing out of her com­fort zone. “I’m a big pro­po­nent of adapt­ing and grow­ing through life. I just want to keep learn­ing be­cause as much as I’m a teacher, I’m also a stu­dent,” she says. “There’s a lot of joy in learn­ing and you can never reach a point where you can say ‘I’m done with learn­ing’.”


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