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.
John spent a lot of his early adulthood in low-skilled labour roles, after dropping out of university. He applied to his current hotel chain contact centre without much particular interest, and has now been succeeding there for several years, working his way up to manager level. His is a story which shows that even though you might feel like you’re not going anywhere much, if you take the opportunities that are presented to you, you might find something you’re very good at – as well as the time, space and money to enjoy your outside interests.
Current position: Sales Supervisor / Manager
Previous job: Various unskilled labour work
When did you make the change? 2012–present, gradually.
What prompted you to stop what you were doing?
I changed mostly out of necessity. I had always flitted between unskilled labour jobs over the years, but during and following the 2008 recession, the sort of work I had usually done was very difficult to come by. Following a period of around two years of being unemployed with the odd bit of charity work here and there, I applied at my current company after being referred by a recruitment agency. After spending about two years working as a sales advisor, I applied for a supervisor role and have been building my skillset to make further advancement easier since.
Did you know what you wanted to move into?
I never actually intended to go into any kind of office or call centre work, let alone into management. It was originally my intention to take the job until something a little more familiar came up, a little bit closer to home (it was a two hour commute each way). Instead, I’ve moved my home closer to work twice now. Other than basic sales training when I first started, there wasn’t any major training involved. I have since taken courses in First Aid and Fire Marshall Training, which, while pretty standard in office work, aren’t something I would have had access to in my previous jobs.
Did you face any obstacles along the way?
The main obstacle I came across was probably my own reluctance to move outside of my comfort zone and actually look into work other than unskilled labour in the first place. You hear horror stories about working in call centres and suchlike, but it turned out to (mostly!) be quite enjoyable.
Do you feel like you made the right decision?
While the job can be extremely frustrating at times, changing over to sales and management work offered a degree of stability in my life that I hadn’t really experienced before, and while it’s hardly the dream job I wanted when I was younger (I started a degree in physics, but never finished it), being part of the management team offers new challenges constantly. I do like to complain about it, but all in all I think I made a good move.
Have you changed as a person since you changed career?
Yes and no. I’m absolutely the same idiot manchild I’ve always been, but it’s nice to be in a position in my life where I have a solid enough career and make enough money that I don’t feel guilty for spending it and enjoying myself. Back when I wasn’t sure how long whatever job I had was going to last, that sort of thing was actually a real worry. If anything, I suppose I’ve let my life settle a bit, finally.
Are you using any of the same abilities for both careers?
There’s practically zero crossover between the work I used to do and the work I do now, so not really. Occasionally I’ll take the bins out. The old manual handling course is still useful, I suppose!
Do you have further career goals?
At the moment, I’m comfortable in my current role. Late last year a senior management position was available, and I was actually relieved that one of my colleagues got it instead of me, which was a pretty big indicator that I didn’t think I was ready for it. I’ve got no intention of letting myself stagnate, but for the time being I think I’d like to work on myself a little more rather than rush into something and make a mess of it. Outside of my actual job, I’ve flirted with the idea of having a go at videogames journalism, but that industry always looks too unstable to make anything more than a hobby out of it, rather than a career.
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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.