Why changing careers was the best move I ever made

There’s a long list of famous people who made a career change and never looked back. Brad Pitt drove limos before going into acting, Allen Ginsberg washed dishes before penning his poetry, Walt Disney was a journalist before becoming a filmmaker. And that’s just to name a few.

There’s also, of course, a far longer list of less well-known successful people who did the same thing. Patricia Erhardt-Lewis is one of them.

After suffering a stroke, she decided drastic measures were needed to re-address her work/life balance. Now she works as a life coach and she’s happier – and healthier – than ever before.

“My stroke affected my brain’s ability to balance my body and it took me a year to recover. But although I regained my physical balance, I realised my work/life balance had been lacking for years,” says Patricia.

“I actually consider myself lucky that the stroke happened when it did.

“It forced me to stop in my tracks and re-evaluate what was important in life. It dawned on me that while I had enjoyed a successful and rewarding career, and juggled it alongside being a mum, I’d stopped taking care of myself.”

For Patricia, it was time to change.

She left a lifelong career at a top-tier management consultancy behind and decided to start up on her own as a life and career coach.

And she hasn’t looked back.

“It was important to me to use and build on the professional talents, skills and experience I'd acquired from my career, but to channel it into a new career that enabled me to have a more hands-on role with my kids and take better care of myself,” Patricia says.

Now, in her new role, she spends her time helping others follow in her footsteps and make a successful career change.

“Reasons for a career change are as unique as the individuals making the choice to change,” Patricia added.

“Having said that, it is often a big life event like having a baby that sparks the first thought about changing careers.

“But I always stress that it’s never too late to change careers. Sometimes it's hard to look at the road ahead and see a coherent career path, but looking at the road behind, however long, can help you see how all your life experiences and career choices can help you pave a way forward.”

When it comes to making a career change, diving head on into the void works for some but can be extremely stressful for others, so Patricia recommends formulating a clear plan before making the leap.

She also suggests that before handing in your resignation letter you put the effort in to network within your new chosen field and get ready to tell your story about your experience and background in a compelling way.

And when it is time to resign, Patricia advises resisting the urge to kick up a fuss.

“Leave well. The types of melodramatic resignation letters that go viral are all very entertaining but in the real world it’s not worth burning bridges and leaving in a huff.

“Ask yourself this question: do you want to leave in a downward spiral of poor attitude and performance, or do you want to be building momentum for your new direction?”

But although navigating a career change can be tricky, Patricia is testament to how taking the risk to follow a different path is worth it for the reward of a more balanced, happier life. Who knows, you could even be the next Brad Pitt.

Patricia Erhardt-Lewis is a Life and Career Coach at Well Ahead Coaching. As a mum-of-two with 15 years corporate experience, she partners with career-oriented mothers to re-write the rules of their lives to re-engage with their current role, realign career choices with new priorities, or reinvent themselves. Twitter: @wellaheadcoach

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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