In a society fuelled by a love of material things, a corporate job has many attractive qualities: a sense of security, a good pay cheque, perhaps even a glamorous lifestyle. Yet there are those who still feel unfulfilled, who wish for something more – whether it be a need to do something more meaningful and give back to society or a desire to satisfy creative urges, or even to be one’s own boss. However, hankering for a new career path and actually making it happen are two different things.
Anna Sinclair – From accountant to jewellery importer
At 18, Anna Sinclair started work as a trainee at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Six years later, a qualified chartered accountant, she felt unhappy and uninspired. She left her job, flew to Turkey and opened her own online shop: lostlover.com.au.
“When I was at school my dream was to work in an office in the city, wear the power suit and carry the briefcase, so that’s the direction I took. However, after six years at PwC I was just not passionate about the work. I knew I wanted to do something different but I didn’t really know what.
“What instigated the change for me was a trip overseas to Europe. When I came back with new jewellery and textiles from Turkey, I received many compliments on the things I had bought. That’s what sparked the idea for lostlover.com.au, and I quit my job and booked flights for Turkey. I thought, what’s the worst that can happen: if it doesn’t work out, I can get another job and I would’ve learned from the experience anyway.
“The biggest challenge I’ve had is overcoming fear. It has been a really scary and daunting experience, especially when I was travelling around Turkey, with no experience of dealing with suppliers … But I’m so much happier now.
“It’s just completely different to that city, corporate lifestyle. I work from home and can choose my own hours; I can go for walks and hula-hoop – my latest hobby. I’ve also been upholstering vintage furniture, which is something I would love to include in Lost Lover’s range in the future.
“I’ve learned so much in the past six months. I’ve sought advice from a lot of people, and I’ve read as much as I can. I also follow people online who are doing something similar to see what works.
“I don’t want to have any regrets in life. I believe in following my heart.”
Stephanie Vilner – From the cosmetics industry to party planner
Stephanie Vilner previously enjoyed a dynamic career in the beauty industry, first at L’Oréal then Nutrimetics. She then left to follow her “passion projects”: partyforacause.org – where your party is managed for you, and guests’ donations are pooled for one meaningful gift and one donation to a special cause – and Planet P consultancy.
“I found upon reaching higher corporate ladder rungs, you spend a lot of time in back-to-back meetings, managing the nuts and bolts of the business … I was spending perhaps 10 per cent of my time doing what I loved (researching people, inventing products), and I wanted that to be 100 per cent. When I was at Nutrimetics, I was surrounded by dynamic women passionate about their businesses, and I thought, ‘I have a passion project. I’d love to have that feeling too and actually spend all of my time feeling I make a difference.’
“We need the luxury of time to objectively review our direction; mine came on maternity leave with my daughter. I asked myself, ‘What’s the legacy I’ll be leaving behind for my kids and for the world they will inherit?’ I left the safety net of my corporate job and set out on my own.
“Considering my personal impacts on other people and our planet led to the creation of Planet P, a branding and research consultancy where my professional life is now in perfect alignment with my personal belief systems. Overnight, I went from the cocoon of a global network of colleagues, to feeling quite on my own. LinkedIn has been crucial, allowing me to connect with some amazing people. I’m a big believer in serendipity … Seize on that moment, that is the right time.
“I believe there’s a magical trifecta for a life well lived: freedom, purpose and love. I am loved, I have purpose and, now, I feel free.”
Cian McLoughlin – From IT industry to sales consultancy
A combination of inspiration and frustration motivated Cian McLoughlin to leave a corporate job in the IT software industry and start Trinity Perspectives, a boutique sales consultancy.
“I’d spent most of my career working for large, global firms and I didn’t feel challenged or motivated anymore. I also felt quite stressed and found myself in hospital with stress-related heart issues. The corporate mantra is ‘deliver shareholder value at all costs’. What that really means is keep growing the bottom line, often to the detriment of everything else. I didn’t feel comfortable with that philosophy.
“In my corporate role, I was exposed to people working in smaller businesses, in environments where they could be quite creative and really enjoy what they were doing. I gradually became more attracted to that style of career and eventually decided to make a change. There were all sorts of different challenges early on. Coming from a corporate environment, I had HR, marketing and IT departments … now I had to do it all myself. It was a pretty steep learning curve, but I realised once I’d developed a general understanding of these areas that
it was best to find specialists who could do things quicker and more cost effectively.
“The change has definitely been worth it: I’m happier, I’m healthier and more confident now. People say if you do something you’re passionate about, the clients and the revenues will follow. I firmly ascribe to that philosophy. If you have something you are interested in or care deeply about, it rubs off on other people.
“You are seen as more genuine and credible … As a result there is a sense of people being drawn in and saying, ‘Oh, that’s interesting, tell me more about it …’.”
Chris Allen – From the military to action thriller writer
Chris Allen moved from a career in the military and law enforcement to become a full-time writer. With two novels – Defender and Hunter – already published, a film franchise in development and a third novel on the way, Allen says he’s determined to make the career change work.
“As a young teenager I read a lot of action thrillers, and I always wanted to write, but real life took hold and for various reasons I ended up in a military career. Then after 9/11 I moved into law enforcement. Writing became a hobby, and for about 10 years I worked on various iterations of what became my first novel. I self-published my first novel with the help of my wife, Sarah, and had enough success to attract a book deal with Pan Macmillan’s digital imprint Momentum.
“Having signed that deal, Sarah and I both thought I was at a point in my life where it was the right time to make a commitment to my writing. We knew it was going to be tough, but we knew if we committed to it we would make it work.
“I went from being in public sector leadership roles with hundreds of staff and multi-million dollar budgets, to being a stay-at-home dad and aspiring author, where the biggest challenge is my three-year-old son wanting to know what I’m doing every five minutes. But it’s great; I’m loving it. I’m lucky to have had a lot of the adventurous stuff and the things that I’ve wanted to achieve in my career ticked off. I’ve negotiated a film and television deal with a US producer, so this year I’ve been to London and Hollywood, scouting production partners and pitching to TV networks.
“I think the biggest thing is to be prepared for a long haul … It’s a slow burn success. You have these offers flying around and it feels very exciting and the right way to go, but often it’s not. You have to keep your head down and get the work done.”
Lisa Fox & Duncan Stewart – From the corporate world to online retail
Lisa Fox was a government lawyer and Duncan Stewart worked as a developer in IT when they quit their jobs to start Open Shed in 2011, an online rental service that allows people to share household items (openshed.com.au). It’s been a rollercoaster ride, but one that is incredibly rewarding.
“One day in December 2010, I was filing after a long NSW legislative session,” says Fox. “I hate filing so was catching up on TED talks as well. One of the talks I listened to was Rachel Botsman’s ‘The case for collaborative consumption’. It was the first time I’d heard the term, and the idea of not having to own everything you need made a lot of sense to me. On Boxing Day I pitched the idea of Open Shed to Duncan.
“We madly saved for three months then quit our jobs; to make our money last we started house-sitting. When you do something a bit different, people are concerned about whether it’s going to be okay, but the world would always need government lawyers and developers if it didn’t work out and it’s incredibly exciting to know you’re creating something that does make a difference in people’s lives.”
“Our whole lifestyle has changed,” adds Duncan. “We used to do the nine-to-five thing and live in a nice apartment in Sydney. Now, our stuff is sitting in a storage container in the middle of a paddock. We are constantly trying to downsize our lives so we can move around more easily. Doing a start-up is a rollercoaster; you’ll find you’ll get more great highs and the lows as well, so you’ll experience more of life.
“It’s a constant work in progress; we make mistakes and learn as we go and are comfortable with that. It’s part of the adventure. If you’re passionate about trying something, just start doing it.”
Chris Ball – From real estate to world adventurer
Chris Ball gave up a six-figure salary working in commercial real estate to found AdventureHoney which helps travellers find adventures while at the same time helping to ease extreme poverty around the world.
“I had this voice that compelled me to go create something, and inaction felt riskier than failure. I’d spent a lot of time travelling in my 20s and noticed it was hard to book tours and activities online, though it was easy to book accommodation, etc. Adventurehoney.com was created, to make it easy for people to find and book cool things to do when they travel. I enjoyed my job, but whether or not I’m selling commercial real estate makes no grand difference to the world.
“What I’m doing now, though, is creating something that will change people’s lives, connecting people with experiences they’ll reflect on with their grandchildren and helping travel businesses in developing countries grow online. AdventureHoney also invests 25 per cent of proceeds into the Changemaker Program, which helps entrepreneurs in developing countries set up their businesses, ensuring that when people travel they leave a positive mark on the people and places they touch.
“I think the whole entrepreneur/start-your-own-business thing is trendy at the moment, which is great. However … you’ve got to have substance behind what you’re doing. You must have an appetite for risk. Then comes more hard work than you can possibly imagine at the outset which requires dogged persistence. We’re conditioned from an early age to think that failure’s bad, but failure’s awesome – we learn and grow through failure, as do our businesses.
“I’ve been challenged in ways I couldn’t have imagined at the outset. However, I’m doing what I love and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Maree Thomas – From financial planner to life coach & healer
Maree Thomas had a prosperous career in real estate and financial planning before a tragic event steered her in a new direction. She created website mareethomas.com where she now offers services as a life coach and healer.
“I became so successful because I wanted to prove to myself I was okay after challenges in my earlier years. I worked really hard and life flew by … but then I overheard someone talk about a course on the awakening heart and I went along.
“It was my first personal development course and it inspired many more. I still powered along in my career, but would go on my own inner journey once a year, and I also studied meditation and healing.
“Then, one day, I got a call. A close friend of mine was in a police car and a girlfriend who was with her said, ‘She wants you to help Sophie [Delezio, a toddler who was seriously injured when a car plunged into the childcare centre she attended].’
“I went to the hospital and was taken straight to Soph, who was swollen to twice her normal size and black. You could smell the burns … I was then taken to my friend, Soph’s mum, and I felt myself start to collapse. I heard a voice say, ‘You’re needed’, and from then on I just wanted to be of service. I’d go to the hospital as a fairy godmother and every time Soph saw me in my outfit, she would beam. A few years later I got a call; Soph had had another accident. It didn’t feel real, but when she came out of her coma, I was there in my fairy godmother outfit, smiling.
“Soph taught me so much about courage, determination and compassion, as well as joy. I really just wanted to support other people. I now run meditation courses, rejuvenation retreats, energetic healing and wealth coaching – it’s all about a balance.”