The career shifter

Let’s go back 18 months. Think sunshine, the Sierra Nevadas and a self-help book. There I am, completely absorbed in learning how to make the leap from the corporate treadmill to something else. Anything else, actually.

A year and a half, 30+ hikes and seven job interviews later, I’ve got myself a new spot on the career jungle gym. So did I leap into the right choice? Actually, there’s no such thing as a right or wrong decision; just life experiences on a sliding scale of enjoyableness (which isn't a word, but you get what I mean).

Still, I'm going to cheat and try find out the answer through the aptly named Careershifters blog (my latest self-help read). It outlines four ‘curveball side effects of shifting careers’. With the benefit of hindsight I’m going to share my take on it, with some hope it will offer some insight into the enjoyableness of my career choice.

Curveball #1: You might need to get new friends. Your old ones can’t handle the curveball of you giving up the corporate dream they are still busy pursuing and so become “well-meaning naysayers”.

Luckily, none of my friends seem to have got the memo about playing the naysayer. ‘Supportive’ smiles soaked in poorly hidden uncertainty came only from those who didn’t truly know me, like the HR manager who conducted my exit interview. Poor lady.

Maybe my luck came through my attitude. I went out boldly, confidently and with enthusiasm. Whatever the reason, I caught this curveball head on.

Curveball #2. You will likely have to try on a new identity. Your work takes up the majority of your waking hours, so it’s inevitable that a change to your job equates to a change to your sense of self.

This is an interesting one. My outward identity has definitely changed over the past 18 months. The moment I truly appreciated this was when Do Good Jobs interviewed me for an upcoming blog post. Reading the draft, I discovered I’m no longer “corporate Anna” but “adventurous Anna”. Edgy-cool, right?

But the change in my sense of self goes beyond the labels. I used to have this weird split personality about my work; I would get a bit embarrassed every time I had to divulge that I was a corporate lawyer, but once I became was a hiking guide I wanted to assure my walkers that I have done more than just wander the mountains since high school.

So it has taken me a while to own it. Sometimes I still slip into a panicked what-have-I-done moment (usually after receiving my latest student loan statement). But I definitely don’t get embarrassed about explaining what I do anymore; in fact I will probably chew your ear off about it. Identity-wise, I take that as a good sign.

Curveball #3. Your new career might become a stalker. A side effect of doing work that fits with you is that you will start to see it everywhere, with new skills and insights hitting you from every which angle.

Woah. Sounds intense.

I really enjoy my job, but I don’t fancy being stalked by it. In fact, I often have to slip into work mode in the weekend, and it tires me out. My work also has a big social media presence, so I guess you could say my personal life gets stalked online. I tried to shake this by creating two Facebook accounts; one personal and one for work. Massive fail (shout-out to all my friends who have been adding my work account as a Facebook friend lately).

As for new skills hitting me in the face every other second... Hmmm. Still waiting.

Curveball #4. You might have to exchange comfort of a predictable job for the intensity of a job you love. Once you’re personally invested in your work, life becomes a rollercoaster.

I definitely agree that I care way more about work; I genuinely count work-related wins as general life wins. And when I face a challenge at work it doesn’t stay on my desk until the morning; it creeps into my evenings and dampens my mood until I figure out a solution.

But the corporate life wasn’t exactly smooth sailing either. Midnight home-times and the horror at seeing a work call come through on a Sunday offered my life more than a touch of insanity, sorry, I mean intensity.

Maybe the ‘comfort’ factor comes from knowing what is next. As a lawyer, I knew exactly what was next; the office, the office with a view, the London office, and finally the corner office. As a something elser, I know approximately nothing about what is next. Eek. Curveball #4 has got me there.

So. Overall enjoyableness?

High. Definitely high.