Life Beyond Corporate – The five lessons I learnt changing careers

I thought I lived the dream, But that dream left me exhausted, stressed and riddled with anxiety. So what happens when you have to pick up and start again?

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Photo Credit: Gabriela Fearn

When I first quit my corporate job 3 years ago, I was so utterly exhausted and disillusioned with my life, I thought, all I needed was rest. Once I recover from this autoimmune disease “thing”, I’ll be right. I’d get straight back to it.

But as hard as I tried – going to interviews, pretending that I loved being a cog in the machine – none of it came from a place of authenticity. I knew deep down I didn’t want that life back. As a result, I kept hitting walls.

So what are the lessons I learnt about during this time?

1) Fighting your fears and leaning into your discomfort is hard … but oh so rewarding

“Fear is the foundation of all human limitations.” – Benny Urquidez

That old life of mine was appealing was because it was comfortable and familiar. It was work I could do with my eyes shut and with my hands tied behind my back.

But did I really want to live the rest of my life with my eyes shut, devoid of challenge?

The biggest obstacles was realising that leaving what as – in my mind – a highly prized corporate career, wasn’t a failure on my part. Riddled with insecurity and convinced I had nothing else to offer the world than my finance skills, I felt ashamed I had failed at the only thing I was good at. And I was petrified I would also fail my new chosen path.

My first time I realised I could do anything I set my mind to, was when I forced myself to teach my first group Pilates class. For an introverted person, standing in front of a room of strangers and leading a class was mortifying.

One of my dear teachers kept telling me that to fear failure is to fear your own brilliance.

What this journey has taught me is that fighting fear is the only way to push beyond your limits. But once you force yourself through that initial period of discomfort, teaching – or whatever activity you chose – becomes second nature.

The special connection I have developed with my clients is the result of pushing through fear, and those dear souls – on occasion – generously shower me with gifts for no reason at all. Now that never happened in my corporate life.

2. You are not your job or your job title

I had made my career my whole life and foolishly tied all my self-value to it. It was the only identity and existence I knew, and when I first left my job, I felt lost whenever someone asked, “So what do you do?”

The highly structured world I was a part of exacerbated that belief, where hierarchy and the need to conform and submit were essential to survival. They would use fear to keep you in place – fear of the next restructure; fear you’ll lose your job; and fear you’ll lose your status and livelihood – which makes you grip on even harder.

By relinquishing control of who I was, I slinked into a little corner, pointed my finger at others and blame them for my stress and unhappiness.

But YOU are responsible for how you feel. YOU are responsible for how you react. And you are responsible for taking the action needed to make things better.

And you are more than what you do for a living. Once you explore how you can use your skills, experience and talents, you have far more to offer the world than what you do for work.

3. Success isn’t always what you think it is 

I used to think “success” was all about title, wearing a suit and having a blackberry glued to my hand. I thought it was normal to be highly stressed and under pressure, and I measured my success by the number material objects I acquired.

Changing paths meant I had to let go of what I (and what I thought other people) thought success looked like, so I could pursue what was actually right for me.

Becoming a Career and Life Coach forced me to think about what I valued, and what I wanted to contribute to this world. It meant getting balance back into my life, and doing work which was meaningful.

So not only is coaching a culmination of over a decade of life and work experience, it – more importantly – it allows me to help others on their journey to find fulfilment; unlearn all the things that they believed they couldn’t do; acknowledge and learn from past failures (we call them “learnings”); and fighting the ingrained fear that limits your reach in life.

4. Excuses, Excuses 

I knew I wanted change for a long time, but I always had an excuse not to take action. Always waiting, never ready – once I had (insert qualification/job title/x amount of money in the bank/material object here), then I can start the new chapter in my life.

In truth, there is no other time than now. Right this moment.

And you don’t need to quit your job to do it. Find what lights your fire and plan. Do that course. Put yourself out there. Create your identity outside your full-time work.

It took two long years for me to realise that all my fear came from one place – me. Only me and my beliefs, irrespective of whether those beliefs were true or not, were stopping me from doing what I actually wanted.

So get out there!

5. You really can be passionate about work 

Gallup reported in 2017 that 51 percent of workers have a foot out the door, suggesting relatively low engagement in a huge segment of employees and
Deloitte’s 2013 Shift
found that worker passion was at a lowly 11 percent.

Whilst I loved corporate life, I was ambivalent about what I actually did, only doing as much as I needed to get by.

Once I found what I truly loved doing, all I wanted to do was to learn, grow and be a better person. Old corporate me always said she’d do her Masters, but was just too busy.

The truth is that we use “busyness” as an excuse. If you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way. If I wanted that MBA badly enough, it would’ve been done and dusted. Deep down, I just wasn’t interested enough, which says a lot about how I felt about what I did for a living.

All those walls I hit when trying to return to corporate life were there for a reason. I needed to pause and listen to where the world was taking me.

Do I regret my old life? Not for a second, because it gave me the chance to meet and work with amazing people who remain my friends. It allowed me to travel the world and gave me endless learning experiences.

But now, I take responsibility for I how I feel and I no longer point the figure at the object of my angst. In the words of John Whitmore, “… we can’t change the events that happen to us, but we change the way we react to them.”

Originally published at

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