Career change and job love stories

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HR to Private Counselling Practice

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"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!

 

 

 

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