Have a Dream? Changing Career.. what you need to know
Stu is 46 years (and 1 week old) and has just had a complete career change. Not only that, he’s gone from 30 years of full-time, secure, management level 9-5 jobs to the big scary world of self-employment.
“I left school without much of an idea of what I wanted to do. My Dad was lucky enough to find a ‘job for life’ which he loved, and when an engineering apprenticeship became available at his factory I took that, starting off on the shop floor. Redundancy saw a move to another factory where I got the opportunity for management and worked my way up to factory manager. It was ok. It paid the bills, provided me with a daily challenge; it meant my weekends were free to go to the mountains and I could spend annual holidays on international adventures.”
But, you know sometimes when it just takes that one comment or conversation to spark something? Someone that challenges what is your norm and makes you revisit those childhood dreams? He was 39 years old. The conversation was only a brief one but this was the simple but blunt crux of it..
“So if you’ve always wanted to work in the outdoors why aren’t you?”
It would have been easy to come up with a load of reasons, something like – “I’m too old”, “I can’t afford to”, “I don’t know where to start”, “I can’t work weekends”, “It’s easier not to”… perhaps you have a few you can add yourself…
But he knew the person making the comment would see straight through them as the excuses they would have been… and 7 years later we are embarking on a brand new adventure.
That was me, Tracey, wife and business partner. The last 7 years has been an amazing journey for us so we’d both like to share with you the main things we learned along the way and we hope you find them useful if you’re thinking of doing the same. We are sure these will apply to any career change, not just in the outdoors.
1. Have a Dream
You know when we are young and we dream about what we might be when we grow-up? Then life and the reality of having to get a ‘job’ takes over and before we know it our dreams have got smaller and more achievable. Anything outside of your financial affordability stays a dream that we never expect to achieve and we put it to the back of our mind so it doesn’t torment us.
Well, delve into the part of your brain labelled ‘unfulfilled dreams’, dig them out and dust them off!
2. Find Your Team
You will need a support network. It might take some doing getting to those locked away dreams, after all if they been in hibernation for years they may be a bit lost. This is where you need to have people around you who will inspire you to dig them out and be able to support you through the uncertainty of believing that you might really be able to actualise them!
Stu: I was fortunate enough that my family were my main support network. Trace, was the instigator of THAT conversation (and therefore only right that she had to shoulder some of the responsibility!). Well she wasn’t my wife then, I had only known her a month at the time.
Tracey: I was very careful not to allow Stu’s dream get lost again amongst daily life, the changes and excitement of a new relationship, moving house (4 times), getting married, starting a new business… the list goes on..
3. Review Your Priorities
Your priorities have to change and you need people around you who understand that.
Stu: Being able to get to this point took all the spare time and money I had. There were weekends I got the opportunity to do some work or gain some experience (at the beginning unpaid) which took away time I could have spent with my family. Evenings where I came home and either went to bed because I was so knackered, or had work/research to do even after I had been out of the house all day. Holidays went on the back burner because I need a week for training/ assessments and of course the money to pay for it. Wider family and friends need to understand that your time is already under pressure so they may not see you as much as you/they would like.
I was very envious of some of the people I did my ML (mountain leader) training with who were teachers. They were able to get out during the holidays to gain the necessary experience and QMD’s (quality mountain days) to be able to pass their assessment earlier than I did, but you just have to make the best use of the time you have.
Tracey: There has to be a balance. We still spent as much quality time as a family that we could and Stu always put us first. But I could see very early on (even before he could) that this was absolutely his vocation so my own ultimate goal became to do what I could to get him out of the 9-5 and into the outdoors.. this made it all a bit easier to understand.
4. Work F***ing Hard!
Along with the hours you will need to put in your journey will take commitment, dedication and patience!
Stu: It’s taken me 7 years to get to the point where I feel able, ready and confident enough to take on my new role full-time. I have got to this point while working in a full-time management role. For 4 years I was travelling 600 miles a week and out of the house 12 hours Monday to Friday. I went from being on my own with 1 daughter to adding a wife and 3 stepsons into the mix! It was really hard work but I’m fortunate and grateful that my parents instilled in me a great work ethic.
Tracey: Be prepared for the grumpiness and don’t take it personally! Stu is probably the hardest worker I have ever known, he honestly never stops!
5. Do Your Research
Maybe this should have come a bit earlier in the post. After all, without putting in the time to do the research on your chosen career you don’t actually know what you’re letting yourself in for; what the time or financial commitments might be, what the pre-requisites are, what the availability of work might be like or whether the potential income is feasible…
Stu: I was lucky in that Trace did a lot of research alongside me (she had the time with her already having a #freestylelifestyle!) and we found the right organisations, associations and awarding bodies for the sector. In the early days Trace and I did a navigation course and it was a bit of advice from the leader of this course that put me on the right (and thankfully shorter) path to getting qualified.
Once I qualified in 2013 I spent hours every week researching and contacting companies that I might be able to freelance for. It was putting in this time that means along with my work for Breese Adventures I have enough work lined up to be able to take the leap
Tracey: it was quite mind-blowing at first (not all of the organisations were as helpful as others) so make sure you talk to people who have been there and done it! They are the ones who know the best routes (even if they didn’t necessarily take the right ones themselves)
6. Find a Mentor
Mentors are different from your support network. Your support network is there for emotional support. Your mentors are a select few of the people with experience in your chosen sector. They have been there and done it and can provide advice and guidance. They understand! Contacts and introductions that your mentor can give you are invaluable.
Stu: Your mentors don’t have to be ‘official’, just someone you meet who has a mutual respect for what you are trying to achieve and is able and willing to use their knowledge and experience to help. I would really like to thank Kate and Ross Worthington of RAW Adventures for all their invaluable advice and guidance and Ian Morton of Striding Ahead for being a great hill buddy and reminding me it doesn’t have to be ALL serious!
Tracey: A good mentor is worth their weight in gold. They don’t have to be around forever. I would suggest not going out to look for a mentor – surround yourself with the right kind of people who will inspire you and you will find one (or more).
7. Be Yourself!
Don’t change to fit in with what you think your chosen sector is looking for. If you’re changing career in your 40’s then you have a massive contribution to bring to your new role.
8. Keep Learning
Always improve. Learn from others. Explore all of the possibilities!
Never be complacent, there is always something new to know.
9. Don’t Give Up
Stick with your dream, keep your ultimate goal in mind no matter how obscure it seems at times.
Stu: There have been times over the last 7 years when I doubted I would ever get to this place. Be prepared that it’s not going to be easy and not everything is going to go as smoothly – or as quickly! – as you would like.
Tracey: If it all gets too much allow yourself to take a step back. We would just go into the mountains and not even talk about it.
On a personal level my best friend when things all get confused in my head is a big piece of paper or a whiteboard, some coloured pens and a mind map!
10. Be Afraid!
It’s always easier to keep doing what we are doing rather than change it. But what do we get out of that that provides us with a challenge or something to be proud of and a sense of satisfaction of what we have achieved?
Stu: This is scary shit! The last 7 years were the easy part. For me the hard work is just starting. I don’t know if I will be successful, all I know is that I will continue to give it my everything and if I don’t try I will never know. Ask me in again 12 months…
Tracey: My favourite saying – If it’s not a bit scary it’s probably not worth doing!
Good Luck with your own journey. Ours has been incredible!