Don's Career Change Story

This is Don, Escape School alum, ex-head of UK comms for a global finance firm, freelance PR consultant, standup comedian, and writer. Here he shares his escape story

What are you escaping from and why?

I had been working in communications for an investment bank for four years. I learned a great deal there, but towards the end of the experience I felt that I had learned most of what I could learn in that role. My boss, who was a real mentor of mine, resigned and that inevitably made me think about my own future. I made the decision to leave and, at the beginning of December, I did.

What are you escaping into?

I am lucky in that I have always been a saver and this has given me some time to decide what to do next. In the short term, I am working with startups, helping them with PR and sharpening my digital marketing skills. I believe that startups have lots to teach large organisations in the way they are very lean and nimble, make quick decisions and are able to pivot towards opportunities. Their “all hands on deck” approach means that they allow me to broaden my skills beyond communications into sales, marketing and business development. At the same time, I am using the time to write a blog and pursue my interests in writing fiction and standup comedy. Longer term, I may continue freelancing or seek a full-time role in communications.

What’s it like being a part of the Career Change Accelerator?

Not at all as I expected. I have been on many courses organised by my employers in the past and thought it would be along similar lines. As I expected, there were lots of exercises, but there was much more content in general than I had anticipated. I was also struck by the commitment of the course leaders. This showed itself in the way they related the content to their own experience, checked in with people individually, posted lots of extra resources out of hours on social media and took part in extra-curricular drinks.

Another thing I had not expected was the strong team spirit of the group, which was pretty diverse in terms of age and backgrounds. I have made some strong friendships by doing the course and have had better conversations during the three months of it than during the rest of the year. The leaders helped to create a very supportive and enthusiastic atmosphere and in both my personal and professional lives people commented that I seemed more relaxed and happy since the course began. Personally, I feel more positive generally and more confident about exploring new opportunities than I did.

An important part of the course is the projects, which the participants set themselves. People are encouraged to go out of their comfort zone and explore their interests and are held accountable by special accountability groups. Throughout the course there is an emphasis on taking action.

What was the best advice / most helpful thing you’ve done on the course?

The best advice was the following:

– Start before you feel ready
– Follow your interests/curiosities rather than thinking there is one ideal job or field out there
– Create value, shine in public and build authentic relationships

The most helpful thing was to write a regular blog. This helped to build my confidence in writing about my own interests and make me feel more at home with this form of posting on social media.

What key advice would you want to share with someone feeling stuck and wanting to start their own thing and / or make a career change?

– Come up with a plan before leaving your current job
– There is never a perfect time
– There are more ways than you might think to get exposure to your area of interest while working full-time
– Your mindset is very important and it is helpful to surround yourself with people who have similar goals

How have you found the career change process?

It has been and will continue to be a journey. I may be in a different position from many in that my previous job was pretty closely related to my love of writing and I may return to a similar role in due course. The programme has been very helpful in clarifying which aspects of my job I enjoyed or did not enjoy were related to that specific role and which were more related to the type of role in general.

What are some key insights you’ve gained through the process?

It was useful for me to confirm that I wanted to continue to have work that involved a lot of writing and interacting with other people, and that many aspects of the previous role that I did not enjoy related to that specific role.

What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve learnt?

I previously had a self-limiting belief that I could not be an entrepreneur. This now feels much more possible and I realise that all sorts of people become entrepreneurs.

Don completed Escape’s Career Change Accelerator course in December 2017. If you’re feeling stuck in your career and need some structure, guidance, and likeminded people to help you get clearer on what you want and how to get it, learn more here.

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