“Often people tell me it spoils the whole of their Sunday knowing they have to go into work on the Monday,” says Hughes. “If you’re feeling like that then you’re definitely in the wrong job. I get a lot of referrals from counsellors and therapists where the stress has actually led people to breaking point. Look for signs of stress like comfort-eating, drinking and smoking more, and trouble sleeping.”
“The first steps are to think about and analyse yourself, identifying your main strengths, traits and qualities,” says Hughes. She recommends books such as What Colour is your Parachute by Dick Bolles for a systematic approach, but also suggests taking a psychometric test with a careers consultant. “They’ll have the full breadth of knowledge about career options available and where your skills and strengths would be transferable and valued.” Find one atThe National Careers Service.
You probably have contacts without realising
“Finding work experience shouldn’t be any different for women changing careers than for young people starting out,” she says. “You might that find you or your friends already have contacts in the field you want to go into. Ask that first contact for several more people who might be able to give you advice. Next, you can start to build a network of people who can either give you some tips or might think about you in the future.”
Always have a reason to contact somebody
“If your skills match a company and you feel you can do something for them, be direct,” she advises. “It’s best for speculative letters to have a reason. For example, ‘I see that your company is expanding in this way, I have particular experience in that area.’” Then ask if you can make an appointment to see them.
If you’re less confident that this is the new direction you want to take or want more information about what the work involves, you could also try setting up an “informational” or speculative interview. “You might have ideas about a new career – say in banking – but if you don’t know what the realities of banking are, talking to someone who can tell you about that particular environment is best.”
Be practical with your personal finances
“I’ve had quite a lot of people who are so serious about their new career that they’ve taken the equity out of their properties either to provide a cushion for when they’re not earning as much or to fund retraining,” says Hughes. “This can be a good idea, as long as you’re retraining for something that will give you a secure future. But you just have to be practical and may need to make financial compromises.”
Want to set up your own business? Start small
“People told me to start from my spare room and then grow, but I didn’t listen,” says Hughes of her own experience starting a small business. “The expenses were just too much for me to survive and I had to retreat back, nursing my wounds. Starting small and in your spare time means you can manage the risks as far as possible.”
Ask for help
You may be a genius on the creative side of your business, but there’s no shame in asking for help with managing your finances. “So many small businesses fail in the first year because of cash flow problems. While you don’t need to go to a fully qualified accountant, there are lots of bookkeepers and accounting technicians who can keep an eye on your finances for you.” The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers is a great place to find one, or try ACCA to find an accountant.