Career change and job love stories

If you would like to share your career story on my blog page, I'd love to hear from you.  Please head over to my contact page.

 

 

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  1. "I feel more in control of my life.  I get an enormous amount of job satisfaction and feel like I’m really making a difference."

    Julie L

    From HR to Counselling, Julie's story shows both pragmatism and bravery!  In her successful HR career, she says there was "never a dull moment!"  But personal circumstances gave way to a new perspective when Julie sadly experienced more than one loss in her life - "I know it’s a cliché but it made me reprioritise my life."  It was through her own personal experience of counselling (much to her own surprise!) that  lead her to where she is now; a fully qualified Counsellor with her own private practice.  You never know where life is going to take you, look at the situation we have found ourselves in now with Covid.  Anything can happen, so be open and take a flexible approach to your career change journey - as you'll see Julie has done.  Enjoy!  

    Tell us a little about yourself – who are you besides the job you do?

    I am mum to Robert(21), Matthew(17) & Kinder our chocolate Labrador.  I have worked in HR since leaving school at 18. I have experience of the insurance & media sectors and was HR Director for a City Law firm for 8 years.  I have volunteered for the Scouting movement for 30 years, both as a Cub Scout Leader as well as managing the training for volunteer leaders.

    What do you do now?

     I trained as a counsellor, qualifying in 2018, and I set up my own private practice last year.

    What do you love about it?

    I love being able to help people to help themselves.  It’s a privilege to offer people a safe, non-judgemental space to explore their feelings.

    What did you do before and how did you end up there?

    I went into HR straight from school and worked in a number of different organisations.  I’ve always enjoyed dealing with people and problem solving.  It can be very challenging and there’s always a lot going on – never a dull moment!  I worked my way up and found myself as HR Director of a City law firm at 35 – and not quite too sure how I got there!

    Why did you decide to change?

    My role changed significantly following a merger and then my husband died of cancer.  I know it’s a cliché but it made me reprioritise my life.  I’d received counselling after Paul died – I didn’t think it would help me (I’m a coper!) but actually it made a tremendous difference.  I moved jobs to a small insurance company but decided that I’d also do a course in counselling skills – three years later I qualified as a counsellor.

    How did you decide what to do instead?

    I’d taken some time out of work after my husband died thinking I’d get a bolt of inspiration about what I could do with the rest of my life – but it didn’t come.  I wasn’t ready for it at that time.  So I took another HR job and started the course and the more I studied the more I felt it was something I wanted to do.  Then we had another loss in our wider family – a baby – and I was reminded again that life is too short.

    Where did you start when it came to actually making the change?

    I qualified with a Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling – as part of that I did a voluntary placement at the hospice where Paul died.  I then went on to volunteer in a primary school with Place2Be where I counselled children.  I wanted to set up in private practice counselling adults but was finding the prospect of doing that with a busy job too difficult to manage.  So I decided to make the leap and give up my job.

    How did you actually make the change? (training, finances, learning etc)

    I qualified over three years, studying part time.  The first year I did the course in the evenings, the second/third years (the Diploma) I went down to four days a week at work.  I needed to be qualified in order to make the change. I was lucky that I was able to afford the course fees (about £8,000 over 3 years) and had savings so that when I left my job I knew I would be able to live off of them for a while.  When Covid struck the practice was in its infancy and work dried up so I’ve taken an HR job part time for a year – this has helped financially and also given me breathing space while the business continues to grow.

    What were /are the biggest challenges? (internal and external!)

    There were loads of challenges and still are!  Finding the time and energy to study while working and being mum to two teenagers.  They were brilliant though – really supportive about what I wanted to do.  I find marketing myself a challenge – I get brilliant feedback from clients but don’t like “selling myself”.  My partner has been really helpful in getting me to focus on that.  Time management can be an issue – I need to be flexible to work around client availability and have to set boundaries.  Covid has been a massive challenge – I started working hard on the practice in January this year and then Covid struck – so I’ve learnt new skills and now offer counselling online as well as face to face.  Actually I really like the online work and enjoy both as much as each other.

    What advice would you give your younger self?

    Have more faith in yourself.  Take a risk.  JFDI!

    How has life changed?

    I feel more in control of my life.  I get an enormous amount of job satisfaction and feel like I’m really making a difference.  Although I still work in HR and have a responsible job, I’m not in charge of the function and I’ve found that really liberating.

    What do you miss about your previous line of work? 

    Before I took my current HR role I missed the day to day interaction with people.  

    What hopes do you have for your future?

    To continue to grow my counselling practice and to develop my skills.  I love learning and want to build on my Diploma, possibly with a degree.

    What advice would you give to anyone looking to find and pursue a career/job they love?

    Think about what makes you excited and eager to get on with it.  But also be practical – do your sums, think about how much time it will take up and how you might have to balance that with other priorities.  Then go for it!  Life it too short to waste time.

    What does success mean to you?

    Success to me is doing what I want to do and having the time to spend with my partner and my family. 

    I love sharing resources!  Are there any resources such as books, blogs, podcasts, courses etc that you'd recommend for people figuring out what they want to do for work and/or getting started?

    I love Brene Brown and her book Daring Greatly on vulnerability is really good.  You have to be vulnerable and put yourself out there, be prepared to fail.  I also like the book Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig – it’s about his battle with depression and it’s a really life-affirming book.

    Where can people find / follow you? 

    www.julieleepercounselling.com

    https://www.facebook.com/Julie-Leeper-Counselling-101091351390962

    Instagram – coming soon!

     

     

     

  2. Ok, you're in for a treat here!  Lucy is my sister-in-law, she's incredibly creative and very funny, which I think you get a little glimpse of here in this blog!  I asked her to share her story because she absolutely LOVES her job!  I love hearing her talk about her work because she's so passionate about it and so so grateful to have found a position she loves for the right employer.  Initially a qualified florist, Lucy spent 7 years at home raising 2 children -"it really is the hardest job in the world….." - and now works in a local Garden Centre.  Lucy's story is uplifting and the perfect reminder that work can be far more than a means to an end!

    Lucy cropped

     

    "The fact that my job also incorporates my hobby and love of plants and gardening is a massive bonus and I feel like the luckiest person in the world that I am able to have all that and still pick the kids up."

     

    Tell us a little about yourself – who are you besides the job you do?

    Hi!  So first and foremost I am Mum to two fantastic kids Sophie 8 and Tom 5, Wife to Stuart, cook, cleaner, PA to everybody and the finder of things.

    I like all things nature, country music, gardening and whooping the bad guys on playstation with the kids.

    I doubt myself all the time, feel guilt on a daily basis even though I can't try any harder at life and have a never ending list on ways I could improve myself.

    I do enjoy my job though :)

    What do you do now?

    I've been working part time in a local garden center for the last 18 months, which I absoloutely love.  It's mostly outside in the plant area but can be on the tills or even filling up bags of birdseed, its very varied which makes it interesting.

    What do you love about it?

    I love that I can work around the kids, my awesome manager lets me do school hours in the week which also means there's time to power walk there and back - work and workout four days a week, it’s a double whammy. The days are hectic and I'm forever in a rush but I function best under a litle pressure!

    What did you do before and how did you end up there?

    My first job was a florist which never left me, I then worked in a couple of retail shops (homewares and then clothing) for the next eightish years until I met Mr. Right and became a stay at home mum when the babies were born. I stayed at home for seven and a half years in total, fitting my daily routine around cbeebies, potty training, and making sure the house was spick and span for when my overworked husband came home.

    Why did you decide to change?

    I loved the fact I had been lucky enough to stay at home and raise the kids and not miss out on a single sneeze of theirs, while my husband worked seven days a week to ensure we were comfortable. They were happy and secure, really bright and well mannered, the perfect little humans (in their own way!) but at the same time I felt completely frazzled and had forgotten what I even used to like. I then felt guilty for feeling that I wanted more when I know some mums would kill to be able to be a stay at home mum. But it really is the hardest job in the world and our work/life balance was at opposite ends of the spectrum for me and my husband.  But it worked.

    How did you decide what to do instead?

    I had done work experience all those years ago at the garden center and really enjoyed it, I had very fond memories of the place and had always used it as an example of when I got back to work “I just want a nice job at the garden center that I can fit around the kids” as I didn’t want to disrupt our balance after not having to worry about those sorts of things for so long. It didn’t matter if the kids had been ill as I was always home anyway. Got a parcel being delivered? No problem I’ll be home!

    Where did you start when it came to actually making the change?

    I had been toying with the idea and desperately wanting to go back to work for a long time so when I couldn’t ignore it anymore I began curiously browsing on job sites to see if there was anything that I could possibly fit around the kids. Just when I had convinced myself there was nothing suitable for me and I would just have to wait another couple of years until Tom started school I saw the ad for a part time assistant at the garden center. I couldn’t believe it and rang their head office directly because me being me didn’t want to waste anybodys time by filling out a form and having an interview if I couldn’t do the hours they required.

    I was told that I might actually be just the kind of person they were looking for and to definitely apply and the rest is history!

    How did you actually make the change? (training, finances, learning etc)

    It was really very scary, but completely exhilerating at the same time. Once I got over actually being offered the job after my interview (the first one I'd had in 13 years) I did worry about all sorts of things but I felt such a sense of achievement there was no way I wasn’t going to make it work. Being the new girl there was plenty of mistakes to make and lots of learning curves shall we say, Im lucky to have two very understanding managers and theres always some training or opportunities to be had at work. If it hadn't been down to Coronavirus scuppering everybodys plans I would have been going to the Chelsea Flower Show to help behind the scenes on the Hillier stand; I'd only ever been there as a paying member of the the public before!

    What were /are the biggest challenges? (internal and external!)

    I would say the biggest challenges have been the complete upheaval of what we used to have and getting used to it. I work every other weekend as well as some days in the week so it was hard at first and there were times when I would cry on the way down to work just because I felt such overwhelming guilt and selfishness that I wanted to get back out into the world of work when I could be at home with the kids doing weekend stuff. I also felt guilty that my husband had been working all week too and now he was lumbered with the task of keeping two kids happy, making it to dance class on time (and remembering to pick her up) and getting my dinner ready... Oh how the tables have turned!

    What advice would you give your younger self?

    I would probably tell myself to drink less, trust myself more and to lower my expectations a bit, but other than that I am who I am and I don’t think it could have been any other way for me. I never regret anything I've done because everything I did got me here today and that’s where I want to be.

    How has life changed?

    Since going back to work life has changed quite a lot, I only get a lay in once every two weeks! I would say I have much more self worth now, the fact that I am earning my own wage and contributing again means the world to me. Stuart always said I was contributing in the most important ways but the fact I was completely reliant on him financially made me feel weak and frustrated. The fact that my job also incorporates my hobby and love of plants and gardening is a massive bonus and I feel like the luckiest person in the world that I am able to have all that and still pick the kids up. Lets not forget the social side either, being a stay at home mum is not all soft play and coffee shops with your new mum friends, it was the most isolating and lonely time in so many ways and now I have friends and colleagues and a work whatsapp group and all that funny banter that I missed for so long.  I am part of something again which I never realised how much I missed. I also get to call myself a working mum now which just feels so badass! 

    What do you miss anything about your previous line of work?

    Nope! 

    What hopes do you have for your future?

    I hope that things don’t change too much for me actually as I am really very happy and grateful for all that I have right now. I'm looking forward to expanding my general horticulture knowledge but that will come with experience and I feel I'm working for a really good company. I get paid to be outside in the fresh air, talking to people, caring for plants, it's within walking distance and fits in with the school run. SERIOUSLY!

    What advice would you give to anyone looking to find and pursue a career/job they love?

    I was very patient and I did hold out for this job to come up, a position had been advertised the previous year but it was definitely not the right time so I reluctantly let that one go. So that’s it, patience, if you know that’s the job for you and you will be happy in it then surely that’s worth holding out for?

    I love sharing resources!  Are there any resources such as books, blogs, podcasts, courses etc that you'd recommend for people figuring out what they want to do for work and/or getting started?

    No but just realise that to be happy in a job it doesn’t have to be glamorous, or high flying, or high paid even, if it gives you fire in your belly then its not going to feel like work and you should embrace it. 

    Where can people find / follow you? 

    You can find me at Hilliers Garden Center, Banbury. Come and buy some plants, it'll cheer you up and you might realise what it is that you want to do!