When I was young, I dreamt of being a writer. One of those pipe dreams I thought would never happen. Especially as it was one of many pipe dreams I had. Being a musician was one. If I could work out how to do it without being famous.
Snowboarding another. But as handy as I was when I was 16, I had more chance of winning the lottery. And I never bought a ticket.
Before long the dream was dead and buried.
I studied Business at Uni to broaden my horizons. And finding a Graduate role mid-recession meant taking the path many did.
Namely… pick a job. Any job.
Regular readers of my ramblings will know this particular path was recruitment. I spent nigh-on seven years recruiting. I loved it. I was good at it. I made money. I didn’t think I’d do anything else.
But then came the famous seven year itch. This particular itch was one I couldn’t scratch. Not with commission or a snazzy wireless headset.
My desire for a change was huge. But I had no idea what ‘a change’ looked like. How d’you get a job in something you’ve never done? How do you persuade someone to take a gamble on you? Why couldn’t I see jobs for a Travelling Music/Snowboard Writer?
Exasperated by dwindling inspiration and zero replies from job ads in ‘something different’ I applied for a Canadian Visa and set my sights on a season snowboarding whilst I mulled wtf to do next.
Then, I got drunk at a house party…
Like all great stories, this one begins with a drunken conversation in a kitchen at 4am. James was lamenting his difficulty in hiring someone to work on content at Hunted.
“Ask Wish, he’s a good writer” slurred Harriet, topping up our gins, as if she was in on the ruse.
“Well, he’s kinda funny on WhatsApp” garbled James, cancelling his Uber.
“Sure I’ll do it mate” I confidently winked “Maybe for three months before I head off boarding?” We prepared a call for the following week and went on into the morning.
The next week my desk phone rang. It was James asking me whether I’d “thought about it any more.”
Clearly, I had no idea what he was on about. Gin’s not mates with your memory.
But it is in cahoots with your confidence. Because I’d over promised on my abilities and done a damn good job of getting myself an interview – all those years in recruitment meetings paying off. James was delighted his search was over.
I was terrified.
Given the fact I’d not written a thing of note since I edited my ex-girlfriend’s dissertation, I was panicking.
Quickly ham fisting away at my laptop like a broken robot, I half-arsed an article highlighting all the reasons I was sacking off my job and moving to Canada.
It was terrible.
I didn’t have a voice.
My tone was angry, bordering on accusatory.
It was long, winding and never really got to the point.
Amazingly, James was happy to give me a go. Worst case, I’d stick to my plan and head to Whistler, they’d hire someone serious and I’d fill the void with an article or two until then.
After the stark realisation I’d forgotten how to write, once I’d accepted the challenge, writing was all I thought about. Honestly, the biggest worry I had was getting found out.
As a member of the ‘I don’t post on social media’ brigade, I couldn’t face the idea of putting things into the ether with my name attached. And it was likely, with my current skill set, to be atrocious.
So I started reading. I read absolutely everything I could find on being a writer.
Turned out, there was a lot. And most of it was free. I read books on writing. Articles on tone of voice. Guides on editing. Listened to podcasts on Marketing. Watched TED Talks on Content. I ingested every piece of information I could possibly get.
Alongside this, I wrote.
Slowly, I started to get better. My editing was quicker. My writing sharper. My images were snazzier.
It wasn’t chance. The first few weeks prior to, and after joining Hunted, I was working until 2am on the regs. Thing is, it didn’t really feel like work. I fell in love with words again. In fact, I became a total nerd on everything written.
One of my favourite books to this day is Letters of Note. It’s just a book of letters. Before this job, I wouldn’t have picked it up.
The probation officer cometh
In my years as a recruiter, the only tools I used were LinkedIn; Databases, of varying clunk and convolution; And of course a trusty phone.
In the three months afterwards, I was using a variety of tools I’d previously never heard of. My Photoshop skills were crap, but I was using Photoshop?! My title images weren’t perfect, but I was producing my own content?! My writing was still clunky, but I was writing for a living?! My HTML needed work, but holy sh*t I was using HTML?!
I’d done it. Somehow, I’d done it. And now I was going to leave it all behind for a season snowboarding.
Hunted wanted me to stay. And so naturally, I never made it to Whistler.
I don’t regret that for a moment. But when I look back at the transition I made from Recruiter to Writer, there are certain things I can share that might help, if you’re keen on changing career…
Some home truths
1) You don’t have to be radical
I’m doing a job completely different to my last one. But to change your career, you needn’t start from scratch.
You can change sector, country, niche, company, practice, style or angle and still have a completely different life.
You think recruiting in Auckland is the same as recruiting in London? Wrong. And you’re also wrong if you think someone’s going to just hand you an opportunity to do it. You need to prove your ability and remain dedicated, as I was, to not being shit.
2) Expect a drop in earnings
The difference in my salary from recruitment to that first year was dramatic. In fact I really struggled. That’s not because I was out living the life of riley, but because you live to your means. And I’d been living to mine for a long time.
Now, my means had been halved. And no one had told my brain. Look at your budget and take out anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. If you’re truly committed, you can sack off the gym for 12 months. You don’t need dinner out. Coffee from work’s free and made of the same stuff. Recalibrate how you think of expenditure.
Because saving is like earning more.
3) Work your arse off
Truth be told, I had a lot of luck in becoming a writer. The initial opportunity for me was huge. But it was only a 3 month contract. After that, we’d both move on. I had plans and Hunted needed someone permanent.
It was only after trying it out I realised I loved it. I may not have done, but I’d take that risk again.
The next ‘luck’ I had was exercising my work ethic. I put everything into this. I still do. I want to be the best writer I can be. The best editor. The best version of me.
I know that sounds like a terrible cliché, but having a disproportionate amount of self belief will take you a long way!
The best advice I can give you is this: don’t wait for someone to tell you to start.
Want to write? Start writing.
Want to get into marketing? Start reading.
Whatever you want to do, start talking to people. Network. I guarantee you’ll find people willing to help.
4) You’re already ahead of the game
You might look at friends or LinkedIn connections with envy and see the potential barriers. They’ve got more experience, more skin in the game, more contacts, they’ve been luckier.
Well, here’s a secret… you’ve got experience in some really difficult skills to master. Even if you want to be a Zoo Keeper, there’ll be crossovers from whatever job you’ve got now – you’ve spoken to enough monkeys in your quest for organ grinders.
All of the skills you have now are useful. And you’ll still use them. So, look for parallels. And read this article too.
5) Work out your ‘change’
For me, the change to writing came organically. If I’d not chosen this path, it would have been something similar. But for you, maybe just changing sector will dramatically alter your life?
Recruitment’s not the same everywhere. You could be a freelancer? Work with startups? Be a one-person band? Work internally? Move continent? Start on your own? There are thousands of options.
All you need to work out is… what would make you happy?
And if you don’t know that, work out what makes you sad. Then find a job doing less of that.
6) Get help, make friends
Taking a jump into the unknown is scary. Trust me, you’ll doubt yourself.
One of my favourite outlooks on life is this: Everything ever created, has been done so by someone who doubted their ability to do it.
I’m talking Cathedrals. Symphonies. Cities. Careers. Technological breakthroughs.
No one in the world has never not doubted themselves. But knowing that, you can fill your void in expertise by asking others. Go and find the movers and shakers in your desired new career. Approach them. Buy them a beer. Attend the same conferences.
Ask them for help. You’ll be amazed how often it’s forthcoming.
7) Recruit yourself
If, like most Hunted readers, you’re a recruiter, you have an amazing skill.
You can get people jobs. Only for this job, you’re the candidate. So, take this as an exercise in BD. And guess what? It’ll be more enjoyable than your job.
With every second of your spare time, throw yourself head first into networking and learning. The more you learn, the more people you’ll know. And vice versa.
If you can get someone to give you a chance in your ‘something different’, I promise you the rest is just hard work. And it’ll be more rewarding than anything you’ve done before.
I could very easily have not jumped at this chance.
It would’ve been a lot easier to stay a recruiter and carry on with my life. I wasn’t unhappy. It was great being a recruiter and I could well be tempted back one day.
But the best thing in my armoury was this outlook: If it doesn’t work out, I’ve lost nothing.
What have you got to lose? Do you really want to change your career? Do you want to do something unexpected?
Because you’ll never know whether you can, unless you try. And giving up isn’t what you’re about. You’re nothing but a trier, right?!
No one can do this for you. But I guarantee, even if the first move doesn’t work out, you won’t regret it. You’ll be one step closer to changing to a career you love.