Should you change your career in 2018? And how?

Blog image

More from the blog​

Should you change your career in 2018? And how?

Right now, many people's thoughts may be turning to the year ahead and asking a similar question of their career: am I happy with more of the same or is it time for a change? Or what if I love my job, but really want to explore other things too?

It's a question that Nicola Greenbrook began to wrestle with 18 years into her successful career, happily working as a Senior HR Manager for a leading UK charity. But with a new-born son, a passion for writing, and a burgeoning music and fashion blog to take care of as well, a more flexible career path had to be found.

We'll let Nicola herself tell you the full story below, but one item high on the agenda was more freelance writing, so with that in mind, we're delighted to welcome her on board as our regular guest blogger!

With extensive experience in both charities and commercial environments, Nicola has a wealth of sector knowledge and HR expertise, so she's ideally placed to bring us regular insights into all kinds of charity, HR and careers-related matters.

Not least: what happens if you decide to risk the security of a full-time job for a future in freelancing, following your dreams and raising a family?

Over to you, Nicola!

change of career

As the end of 2017 approaches rapidly you may, in a fleeting moment during the festive hullabaloo, be reflecting on what the year has meant for you work-wise and considering your career plans for 2018.

Even for those who eschew New Year's resolutions in the formal sense, the start of a new year can provide ample opportunity to review, rearrange or even reinvent your current working situation - whether that's your role, company, sector or even profession.

I set my resolutions quite a few months early this year, July to be exact. I veered off my intended career path, resigning from a permanent senior HR role without the security of another position to go to.

Why change?

The catalyst for my change was two-fold. Firstly, our son was born in 2016 and just like working parents everywhere, I had been shuffling work, commuting and parenthood since my return from maternity leave earlier in the year. I was keen to find a working arrangement that gave me a little control over the disorder, if such a thing existed.

Secondly, and a major stimulus for the change, the creative writing I did outside of work as a hobby had slowly but surely evolved into a career opportunity and I couldn't find time to pursue the openings coming my way. Juggling writing with a busy HR role and a toddler, and working on the move, late at night or when Evan (sometimes) napped was taking its toll on my health and relationships - and something needed to change.

Numerous discussions with my husband, friends and family took place. Late night planning, vision board-ing and scribbling down numbers replaced Netflix viewing. The outcome was a rough plan - I envisaged my ideal working week would comprise three days HR, one day writing and one day with my son.

Risks and opportunities

It was in no way an easy decision to make. With over 18 years' experience across a wide variety of sectors and a secure role as Senior HR Manager for a leading UK breast cancer charity, I was able to use my generalist HR skills in a singular, rewarding position that worked around my childcare commitments. How would we cope financially? Did a suitable part-time HR role exist in the competitive labour market? Could I secure paid writing clients? Would semi self-employment suit me? Was this just a fanciful hope? Was I any good at anything anyway?!

I considered the working world around me. According to the CIPD's People Management magazine, self-employment has doubled over the last four decades, reaching 16% of the UK Labour market and rising. Earlier this year, the CIPD also reported that within twelve years, half the workforce will be freelance and saw this shift from full-time employment as HR's biggest opportunity.

Furthermore, Work.Life observes the 'rise of the freelancer' which allows individuals to pursue any personal, commercial or academic interests or even lead an independent career. It is evident the future of work is changing, with trends driving the shift including the overlap of work and leisure hours, the significant demand for better work-life balance and technological advancements that are dissolving time and place boundaries.

Making the move

So, in September, I took the plunge and became part of the contingent workforce. So far, it has had its downs, but also some noticeable ups. I have secured some fantastic writing clients and cover music, fashion and lifestyle matters as well as HR-related topics and charitable causes. I am hooking up with likeminded creative people and expanding my networks, and have the flexibility to attend meetings and develop my website around childcare.

However, balancing multiple interests is a challenge, as I had expected. Job hunting can be a protracted and often demoralising business with unanswered applications and job searches that spurt out brilliant HR-related matches such as 'HGV Driver, Barking' and 'Part-time Dental Nurse'. While I have been lucky to secure second round interviews and pursue some consultancy work, the right HR role has not presented itself just yet.

Key advice

So, as the year draws to a close and if you are considering embarking on a change yourself, here are some things I have learnt on my journey so far.

  • Money - Carefully consider the financial impact of making a career change and plan in advance. Review your outgoings, make the relevant alterations and be prepared for a potential dip in earnings that could last for months, even a year. If you are fortunate to have a support network around you, utilise it graciously but commit to repaying back any loans and keep clear records.

  • Plan - Jot down all the ideas swimming around in your head, whether practical actions or ideas and aspirations, and create your own vision board or visual plan to keep your head clear. Review regularly and chip away, bit by bit.

  • People - Utilise your networks wisely and be open to advice and encouragement. Ensure your CV is up to date and your LinkedIn profile appealing, and be active and curious; take an interest in the area you wish to develop your skills in by reading and attending any workshops, seminars or groups.

  • Courage - Don't let fear of failure or that people around you won't approve be a barrier. Know your skills and don't undersell yourself at interviews. Be confident in your decision to make a change and don't apologise.

  • Focus - Avoid browsing social media unless it is for networking or research purposes. Inevitably if you are having a wobbly, uncertain day someone else has landed the job of their dreams/won an award (or worse, the lottery) and is generally winning at life in a hot climate. Be self-disciplined and focused and stick with your own plan and goals.

  • Patience - Let's face it, this change will not happen overnight. Rejection, slow days and not hearing back about an application you spent hours on, especially when it is simultaneous, can be frustrating and disheartening. Don't forget, tomorrow is another day.

At the time of writing, and in dramatic The Apprentice narrator style, while the freelance writing has progressed my search for the right three-day senior HR role... continues. Yet, this is a career change I am embracing and one I am determined to make a success of.

With 2018 waiting in the wings, I am staying positive that my goal of achieving a better work-life balance, maintaining my valuable HR career and pursuing an exciting new one alongside it will be realised with some hard work, determination and maybe even just a bit of luck.

Nicola Greenbrook, Freelance Writer and HR Professional

Contact Nicola

Many thanks to Nicola, and if you're one of the many people who's also contemplating a new challenge, or a change in your charity career, do get in touch with one of our specialist consultants who'll be happy to offer relevant help and advice.

In the meantime, best wishes for the New Year from all of us at Harris Hill!

Advice, news, events and specialist insight from the Harris Hill Blog