In 2015, the Association of Accounting Technicians commissioned a study into working lives which showed that 46% of their sample (around 2000 workers) would quit their jobs and occupations and retrain completely. There is no shortage of reasons a person might do this: more job satisfaction, financial opportunity, the fear of being made redundant to automation, a better work-life-health balance, exciting new sectors being created. In our Career Changers series, we look at individual stories of people who have made that switch.
Meet Scott Pack
Scott has a varied past, starting out working in a record shop and then moving into bookselling when HMV was taken over by Waterstones, eventually finding his way into publishing and editing. Here he tells us about what happened when he was made redundant, and how he found a better way of doing the work he loves.
Name: Scott Pack
Current position: Freelance editor and writer
Previous job: Publisher at a big publishing house
When did you make the change? I think it was 2015 but I can’t quite remember. I am getting old. A few years ago, that much is for sure.
What prompted you to stop what you were doing?
I ran an small experimental imprint of HarperCollins, publishing 20-30 books a year, and also supervised their Authonomy website (sort of a digital slush pile) but when it was decided to close down the imprint, and once it had been established that my small team would be given jobs elsewhere in the business, I happily took redundancy.
Did you know what you wanted to move into?
I assumed that I would be able to get some other work in publishing but I wasn’t sure quite what form it would take. Part of me, quite a big part actually, was sick of a 9-5 office job and the daily commute into London, so I was keen to explore the possibility of freelancing or taking on a role that wouldn’t be full time.
As it happens I have ended up with what I believe they call a portfolio career. I acquire and edit books for a couple of independent publishers, I do freelance editing for private clients, I co-manage a digital imprint that reissues forgotten classics as ebooks, I host workshops and classes on a variety of writing and publishing related subjects, and for the last couple of years I have been one of the question setters for the Channel 4 quiz show, Fifteen to One. None of which, mercifully, required retraining.
Did you face any obstacles along the way?
Not really, no. It took a while, initially, for the revenue streams to build up a head of steam and start delivering the sort of monthly income I needed but once they got there it has been pretty obstacle-free, for which I am grateful. I have been very lucky. I’ll probably be knocked down by a bus tomorrow now I’ve said that.
Do you feel like you made the right decision?
Oh, absolutely. I cannot imagine going back to a traditional publishing role, it would do my head in. I love the fact that I work from home and can manage my week as I see fit. If I want to take next Tuesday off to go into London and watch a couple of movies I can do that. If I want an afternoon nap, I can (and often do). I no longer have to go to pointless meetings that half the attendees are late for and which drag on for way too long. I am far less at the mercy of others when it comes to my day to day tasks. I think working full-time in an office again would be one of the very last things I would ever consider doing now.
Have you changed as a person since you changed career?
I have put on weight because I work just a few feet away from my kitchen, which always has some baked goods available, so I probably need to schedule a decent walk around Windsor every day, which is not exactly a hardship. I have never been overly stressed or lacking in confidence or anything like that but if anything I am even more chilled and content now.
Are you using any of the same abilities for both careers?
The various roles I have now, and outlined earlier, all utilise skills that I learnt or developed earlier in my career – I may implement them slightly differently now but they were all floating around waiting to be used. I have to make a timetable of edits, making sure I do enough each day to hit deadlines, that is pretty much the same, as well as the basics of editing and publishing.
Do you have further career goals?
I have aims and ambitions for the books and authors I publish – I want them to sell lots of copies, get great reviews, win awards and so on – but I can honestly say that I no longer view myself as being on any sort of career path so have no goals in mind for myself. As long as I keep getting enough work to pay the bills I am happy. Basically, I am content to carry on as I am till I can retire and then I’ll just read books and not have to publish or edit them any more.
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Katherine is a qualified careers advisor and a member of the Career Development Institute. She has just begun a PhD programme to research meta-skill development in the workplace, and is a fiction editor and publisher in her spare time. You can find her on Twitter at @katobell.