Have you ever considered a career change? If so, do you know which career you’d pursue?
After working as a contract and relief teacher since having children and with my 40th birthday fast approaching last year, I decided it was the perfect milestone to try something new. The problem was, I didn’t know exactly what to do and was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the possibilities. Study? Small business? A sideways shift in education? Something else entirely?
For a long while, I’d been contemplating the options and waiting for an epiphany that never came. I’d even applied to study occupational therapy at university, but realised I only knew what an OT did by reading the course description. I’d never been to an occupational therapist or talked to one about the ins and outs of their job, yet there I was considering investing a huge amount of time and money into becoming one myself. At the age of 40, it just didn’t seem to make sense to make such a big commitment without being sure.
At this stage in life, I need more certainty.
How do you know what you want to be if you’ve never tried it?
In a moment of clarity, the answer seemed blindingly obvious. I needed to get out and do some work experience. Lots of it. I’d do 40 work experience jobs at the age of 40, and hopefully discover my next career along the way.
It was the craziest idea I’d ever had, and I knew I’d be pushing myself well and truly out of my comfort zone, but I was so excited at the thought. After locking in my first few work experience jobs with friends and setting up a website with my husband, so I could share my experiences and insight with others, it was time to get started.
What an adventure it’s been so far! I can’t quite believe some of the things I’ve done over the last seven months, including:
Walking a baby camel
Creating beautiful bouquets
Helping to style properties
Speaking on the radio
Attending a boudoir photoshoot (note: attending, not participating in!)
Observing physiotherapy appointments
Sitting under a fire in 100°C heat
Pouring pints of beer
Riding a John Deere mower
Skinning and stuffing a bird
Watching the filming of an Australian Story interview
Chair dancing with elderly people
Being interviewed for The Today Show
Helping to perform horse X-rays
Building my own laundry cabinet
Standing in a broadcasting truck to see a basketball game go live to air
Making tortellini at a fine-dining restaurant
Dressing up as a frog
The experiences have been hilarious, eye-opening, moving, surprising, exciting, or at times even exhausting, but each one has been fascinating and taught me more about the job and myself than I’d expected.
What are the benefits of work experience?
Work experience offers such incredible insight into different careers that can’t possibly be gained any other way. Seeing and doing a job, interacting with colleagues and clients, and discovering aspects of a career you mightn’t have considered otherwise is extremely valuable. Not to mention, it’s a unique opportunity to learn about how different-sized businesses and organisations are run. Having this greater understanding gives me much more confidence to move forward in whichever direction I choose.
I’ve seen the way effective teams operate in a range of different work environments, and worked with some amazing and inspirational people who I would never have met outside of this project. Many of my colleagues have been open in sharing their career history, reflections on their careers, and even future aspirations with me. What better way to work out if you’re suited to a job than to see and learn from others who are successfully doing it?
The most amazing thing about work experience?
A highlight of the whole adventure has been meeting so many different people, learning about their jobs and talking about the paths they’ve taken to get there. The jobs where I’ve had the most fun have been firefighting (learning how to use breathing apparatus, spraying the hose, sitting under a fire and doing vertical rescue training), working on the camel farm (who ever knew camels were such amazing animals? I loved them!), and working as a children’s entertainer with 0-5-year-olds.
In terms of which jobs I’d realistically pursue, at this stage I’ve still got a very open mind, but it’d have to be a job where I’m working with people. Perhaps something in health (I really loved the physiotherapy experience), or a sideways step in education. There’s a part of me that is wondering whether I can use this experience as a platform to help other career changers, or even students at high school that are uncertain of which career to pursue. My idea is to take a little bit of time once I’ve wrapped up all 40 jobs to reflect on the experiences and what I’ve learnt about each job and myself, and make a firm decision about which path to take then. It’s pretty exciting, as I’m feeling confident that whichever direction I decide to go in will be the right one.
Be a part of my adventure
With 15 jobs to go, I’m still looking for a wide range of work experience opportunities and would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org if you think you have one I’d be interested in. I’m open to suggestions!