Career change and job love stories

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Nature conservation, complimentary therapies, charity management & now freelance web design and virtual assistant

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"There have been many career changes, but the pattern is that I have always liked to learn, grow and stretch myself, but the downside of this is I tend to get ‘bored’ when I feel I have gone as far as I can in a job....I find my knowledge has built up over many years and it is important to have confidence in transferable skills. If you want to jump industry you will usually find there is something you can bring to the table."

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I think Jackie's career was destined to be interesting!  Even her very first career plans took an unexpected last minute turn, resulting in her working within a field she was passionate about but hadn't considered as a career option.  From nature consevation to complimentary therapies, charity management and now freelance web design & virtual assistant (with a combination of  a couple of these possibly on the horizon!) Jackie says "I am not scared of change!  I do not believe a ‘job for life’ is the right path for me." I hear you there Jackie!

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

I’m Jackie Salmon, I’m 45 and married to a Yorkshireman, Richard.

We’ve been married for 15 years and have two little girls aged 9 and 6. We live just north of Newcastle upon Tyne. 

Writing this, I realise what a varied career I have had, it's been amazing really and I realise how resilient I am.

What do you do now?

Since 2018 I have run Jackie’s Virtual Bureau, my own freelance web design and virtual assistant business, helping clients with web design, email marketing and online content. I work with ‘people who help people’, such as coaches, therapists and healers.

I am also the part time manager (and sole employee) of a small civic charity which has worked since 1924 to preserve the landscape, culture and built environment of Newcastle and Northumberland. 

What do you love about it?

I love the variety of my two jobs, and in both I am ‘the boss’, so I get to choose my own working day and the tasks I perform. At the charity I love how we make a real difference to the area and I get to work with some amazing volunteers, and (before covid) attend interesting monthly events, lectures and talks all about the special region of Newcastle and Northumberland.

In my business, I get to choose my clients and the projects that I enjoy doing the most. I really love helping clients with their website and online presence, especially those who are non technical and are pulling their hair out! I love the balance of the technical and the creative.  I consider myself very lucky.

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

I’ve always loved writing and had planned to do Media & Communications at university. However despite getting good A level results, I didn't get the results I needed to secure either of the conditional places I’d been offered. 

During the clearing process, a course popped out at me out of the blue. Countryside Management! I have always loved the countryside and was brought up going over to my grandparents house in Cumbria at weekends and during the holidays. I just loved the sights, sounds, smells and freedom.  I learned so much about trees, flowers and bird song walking up the lane with grandpa and his dog, and it was a big change from the brand new 1970’s housing estate I grew up in.

So I applied and was accepted onto the course, which led to a lovely career in nature conservation, countryside access and eventually project work and managing teams. This was for about 6 years. I had developed lots of skills in website design and management, email marketing and copywriting and ended up managing the website, leaflets, and events for the countryside service of the County Council I worked for.

As I was on relatively crap money and was now indoors all the time, I figured I would rather be earning more money, so rather reluctantly I moved into regional government and became a communications officer, responsible for events management, and managing internal and external comms.

I earned really good money and developed my skills even more, then……. The whole organisation was scrapped when the Tory administration took over from Labour in 2011.

So I was faced with redundancy...whilst pregnant with my first daughter.

I was lucky enough to spend 18 months at home with my baby, and during this period I trained in a number of holistic therapies, to take my hobbies to a deeper level. My long held interests include crystals, massage, aromatherapy, tarot, palmistry, astrology...so I immersed myself, and set up a mobile holistic therapy practice, offering massage, reiki, ear candling and crystal therapy.

Then along came daughter number 2!

With two small children I just couldn't make the mobile therapy work for me. I needed a steady income so I went back to my love of comms and admin and entered the charity sector in Executive Support, followed by my current part time role managing a small civic charity.

Running my therapy practice gave me a real passion for being my own boss, so in early 2018 I began training with Freelance University and by June 2018 I had launched Jackie’s Virtual Bureau and had started to gain clients.

How did you decide what to do instead?

I tend to get to a point when I know I am ready for a change. I just know instinctively that I am ready to move on. I see other people doing a job I like the look of, I begin to wonder how I can get to where they are.

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

I’m Jackie Salmon, I’m 45 and married to a Yorkshireman, Richard.  We’ve been married for 15 years and have two little girls aged 9 and 6. We live just north of Newcastle upon Tyne. 

Writing this, I realise what a varied career I have had, it's been amazing really and I realise how resilient I am.

What do you do now?

Since 2018 I have run Jackie’s Virtual Bureau, my own freelance web design and virtual assistant business, helping clients with web design, email marketing and online content. I work with ‘people who help people’, such as coaches, therapists and healers.

I am also the part time manager (and sole employee) of a small civic charity which has worked since 1924 to preserve the landscape, culture and built environment of Newcastle and Northumberland.

What do you love about it?

I love the variety of my two jobs, and in both I am ‘the boss’, so I get to choose my own working day and the tasks I perform. At the charity I love how we make a real difference to the area and I get to work with some amazing volunteers, and (before covid) attend interesting monthly events, lectures and talks all about the special region of Newcastle and Northumberland. 

In my business, I get to choose my clients and the projects that I enjoy doing the most. I really love helping clients with their website and online presence, especially those who are non technical and are pulling their hair out! I love the balance of the technical and the creative.  I consider myself very lucky.

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

I’ve always loved writing and had planned to do Media & Communications at university. However despite getting good A level results, I didn't get the results I needed to secure either of the conditional places I’d been offered. 

During the clearing process, a course popped out at me out of the blue. Countryside Management! I have always loved the countryside and was brought up going over to my grandparents house in Cumbria at weekends and during the holidays. I just loved the sights, sounds, smells and freedom.  I learned so much about trees, flowers and bird song walking up the lane with grandpa and his dog, and it was a big change from the brand new 1970’s housing estate I grew up in.

So I applied and was accepted onto the course, which led to a lovely career in nature conservation, countryside access and eventually project work and managing teams. This was for about 6 years. I had developed lots of skills in website design and management, email marketing and copywriting and ended up managing the website, leaflets, and events for the countryside service of the County Council I worked for.

As I was on relatively crap money and was now indoors all the time, I figured I would rather be earning more money, so rather reluctantly I moved into regional government and became a communications officer, responsible for events management, and managing internal and external comms.

I earned really good money and developed my skills even more, then……. The whole organisation was scrapped when the Tory administration took over from Labour in 2011.

So I was faced with redundancy...whilst pregnant with my first daughter.

I was lucky enough to spend 18 months at home with my baby, and during this period I trained in a number of holistic therapies, to take my hobbies to a deeper level. My long held interests include crystals, massage, aromatherapy, tarot, palmistry, astrology...so I immersed myself, and set up a mobile holistic therapy practice, offering massage, reiki, ear candling and crystal therapy.

Then along came daughter number 2!

With two small children I just couldn't make the mobile therapy work for me. I needed a steady income so I went back to my love of comms and admin and entered the charity sector in Executive Support, followed by my current part time role managing a small civic charity.

Running my therapy practice gave me a real passion for being my own boss, so in early 2018 I began training with Freelance University and by June 2018 I had launched Jackie’s Virtual Bureau and had started to gain clients.

Why did you decide to change? 

There have been many career changes, but the pattern is that I have always liked to learn, grow and stretch myself, but the downside of this is I tend to get ‘bored’ when I feel I have gone as far as I can in a job.

I am not scared of change!  I do not believe a ‘job for life’ is the right path for me.

How did you decide what to do instead?

I tend to get to a point when I know I am ready for a change. I just know instinctively that I am ready to move on. I see other people doing a job I like the look of, I begin to wonder how I can get to where they are.

My main thing is helping people so all of my career choices have had that value as the basis.

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

Once I am ready to move on, it's like I put it out to the universe. I then start to pay attention and actively start looking for opportunities and find that the right job materialises sooner or later. 

If the application form and job description feel right, I go for it. I have got the vast majority of jobs that I have applied for, proving again that things are happening for a reason.

With the business, my sister in law had been working as a VA 10 years before it became a ‘thing’, and I loved the fact she could work anywhere, choose her clients, working hours and projects. I know that was the next step for me because I had already run my own therapy business so knew a little of what it might be like to start a new business up from scratch.

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

When I started my 2 businesses, I was really excited to start learning again - I think I am addicted to learning.

With the therapy business I went back to college to study Body Massage and anatomy and physiology and also trained with a number of local holistic therapists and spiritual mentors to build a range of skills and certificates.

For my freelance business, I studied for 2 years in my spare time with Freelance University to consolidate and refresh my learning and get a range of up to date certificates in web design, social media, graphic design, marketing and online content.

I find my knowledge has built up over many years and it is important to have confidence in transferable skills. If you want to jump industry you will usually find there is something you can bring to the table.

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

Convincing my husband to allow me to invest our hard earned money on lots of training!

Beating imposter syndrome, and maintaining my confidence.

Putting myself out there on social media has been hard.

Developing my brand and messaging has been a long process.

Also, being your own boss and responsible for literally everything is not easy at all.

Sometimes it can get lonely, I love working alone but it is not good for you unless you take regular breaks and keep up with friends and family.

I’m never sure where my next client will come from.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would say relax, be open to opportunity and go with the flow. You can do it! Trust in you, and don’t worry about the latest ‘advice’ or what other people are doing.

One of the main qualities any entrepreneur needs is GRIT to keep going, you will need this in bucketloads.

You only live once...

How has life changed?

I no longer have to commute, punch a timeclock, sit in boring meetings, put up with office politics. The list is endless really.

I can work hours to suit my children’s school activities, and wear what I like.

I work with some amazing clients, some of who have really helped me in my business.

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

I do sometimes miss my old outdoor life, because you meet so many interesting people and work with the seasons. You see nature all year round. I also miss the free exercise, fresh air and muscles I used to have!

I occasionally miss working with office colleagues - having a laugh, Christmas parties and so on. And picking up a large regular paycheck and having a good company pension, although I’m not materialistic, it was a nice feeling of security.

What hopes do you have for your future?

I would like to build up my business so that I can leave my part time job and focus on my client work.

And I still practice my therapies, on myself, friends and family, and I’m hoping to bring this element into my VA business….somehow! Possibly sell my hand made range of aromatherapy products. 

I am also collaborating with an ex colleague on a tarot site as we both want to see how tarot can be used as a business tool.

I also think we are moving to a new way of working, remotely, online etc and I am in a great place to support people who have never had to do this before.

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

Take a deep breath and go for it! You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain and even if it is a mistake, just keep moving!

Imagine you are on your deathbed looking back over your life. Would you regret not going for it?

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 doing an exercise called IKIGAI - it’s a Japanese word to help you find your niche. There’s also a book about it

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ikigai-Japanese-secret-long-happy/dp/178633089X

Personally, I am not a big fan of business/mindset books and I think people get hung up about what the ‘guru’s are doing.

I read a lot of astrology and spiritual books.

I find podcasts and Youtube videos are a great way to absorb things. This is a good business one.

https://www.freelanceu.com/podcast/

Where can people find / follow you? (if appropriate) 

Website - https://jackiesvirtualbureau.com/

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/jackiesvirtualbureau 

LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/jackiesalmon/

Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/jackiesvirtualbureau/

[email protected] 

 

 

 

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