My Career Change Story
Or, How I left my job after 17 years to become The Dream Job Coach
My career change story or “how I left my job after 17 years to become The Dream Job Coach,” starts on 22nd May 2013 and this is a date I will always remember. I was up at 5am because I had made the decision to resign after 17 years with DFS Furniture, the amazing company that had given me my dream job in my mid twenties.
I’m the kind of person who once I’ve decided upon a course of action, I need to get on with it, get it done and then move on. So, I wrote the letter, sealed it in an envelope and set off to find my Area Manager with a desire to get it over and done with.
Driving from my home in Gloucester to work in Bristol, I realised I had an itchy arm and saw that I must have been bitten by some insect. Surely not a mosquito – in England – in May? Had I missed squirting the dog with Frontline? Perhaps we had bed-bugs? Yuck! By the time, I was handing the letter over, my arms and legs were covered in these darned “bites” and yet, as far as I could see, I wasn’t being followed by some biblical plague! I was just leaving my job.
Resigning from my job was the hardest and best thing…
Handing over my resignation letter was simply the hardest and the best thing I’ve ever done. Often accused of being married to the job, it felt like I was filing for divorce not simply initiating my career change! For seventeen years, I had lived and breathed sofas. Getting this job when I was 26, changed my life. It enabled me to build a career, to buy my first house, to travel, to meet wonderful people (including my husband because I was only living in Gloucester due to my role as Manager in Cheltenham), to pay for our wedding, to buy our marital home, to take amazing holidays and to enjoy our precious time together.
It also meant me working every Saturday, every Sunday and every bank holiday for 17 years. I loved my work so I’d go in early and come home late. The only time that my husband and I spent 24 hours together was when we were on holiday because he worked a “normal” Monday-Friday routine.
Maybe you’re starting to understand why I left my job but what was the catalyst for my career change? It had been my dream job but now it didn’t feel like that any more and then…
Did I want A Domestic Life?
Four years before my career change, having been together for nine years, Steve and I both suffered the pain of bereavement. Within a month of one another, we lost my Nanna and Steve’s Mum. A nudge, if you will, that life is short and time is precious. I was privileged to be able to help my Mum, my aunts and uncle to care for Nanna during the four weeks or so that preceded her passing.
This was the first time that I had lived a domestic life, ever, and I enjoyed being able to spend time with these strong women, who are my family. That was in April 2009 and I vowed that I would work more sensibly in the future. After all, I didn’t want to become a full-time housewife really!
Was it because I was Overlooked for Promotion?
Three years later, in February 2012, I was overlooked for promotion at work and I was shocked to the core! I had always worked so hard. Everyone joked that I was like a stick of rock with dfs written all the way through the middle. I had assumed that I would be the obvious candidate to take over from our Area Manager, when the time came. So, it hit me like a ton of bricks when they hired a guy from the other side of the country to take over. I still remember my indignant rage!
However, my bosses made their choice – and, actually, they were right. (I can say this now, with the benefit of hindsight. After all maybe I would never have made my career change if they had given me that promotion. – Now there’s a scary thought!)
Was it to do with my Physical Pain?
In April that same year, I was looking at some sales figures at about 4 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. Suddenly a pain in my right hand side, like a severe, back-to-front stitch, made me stand up and walk. Every time I tried to sit, the pain was so fierce that it brought tears to my eyes. So I walked round and round the showroom until 6pm when for one of the few times ever, I left on the dot, explaining to my team that they would need to close up without me.
At this point, I had no idea how serious my injury was. I thought I’d get some rest and be back in the following day. Although I tried, I wasn’t able to go back to work for 13 long weeks.
“Poise and Appropriate Tone”
Diagnosed with a bulging disc, I tried various remedies and fortunately came across The Alexander Technique, a holistic therapy that teaches you to heal yourself. It worked although it’s an ongoing practice. Another nudge that I ought to slow down a bit?
I vowed to manage my workaholic tendencies with my new mantra of “Poise and Appropriate Tone.” My teacher, Rachel Stevens, had suggested this to me to remind me to only use the muscles that were necessary for each task rather than tensing every single one, just in case! It was not lost on me that I could use this mantra regarding my tone of voice as well as my muscle tone – I had noticed that I was becoming less tolerant in certain situations and I didn’t like it.
I started to feel that I needed to make a change and I recognised that I was fed up of driving the same stretch of the motorway, to the same building, to say the same things to the same team (much as I loved them!) every day…. Rachel commented that it was interesting how I had literally had to “walk away from my work” as the pain struck… She planted the seed for my career change; I could have left my job then but I didn’t.
A Tree Fell on my Head!
In May 2013, we took my Dad and Step-Mum to Prague for his 70th birthday present. His birthday was actually back on 30th December and, unable to get leave during that time, I had planned ahead. Prague was wonderful and we spotted a gorgeous riverside restaurant at which to have lunch on our final day. I booked the corner table on the terrace, with the best views up and down the river. Our last day was sunny and warm.
When we arrived, unfortunately, some other customers were already sitting at my chosen table but I felt so happy and relaxed that I didn’t mind and we took a table under the canopy instead. Our lunch was delicious and we had just ordered our second bottle of wine when we heard fireworks.
Fireworks in the middle of the afternoon? Really? – No.
Within seconds, there was a massive crashing sound and the canopy collapsed on top of us, giving both my Dad and me a good bang on the head. As we opened our eyes, a bit dazed and scared, we could see the devastation around us. Broken glass and overturned furniture. A woman sitting behind us was bleeding. As we crept out from under the canopy, I began to shake and sob.
Luckily, the people who had been at our chosen table had already gone by the time the accident happened and just as well. The big wooden table umbrella was split into so many shards, it would surely have speared anyone who had been sitting there. That is if they hadn’t been killed by the huge branch that had fallen on to the terrace from a tree in a neighbouring property. (See pics)
The sound of fireworks was actually the sound of the wood splitting away from the main trunk of the tree before the branch fell.
The branch had split away from the tree on a neighbouring property, crashing down on our terrace, right where we were sitting.
The wooden umbrella split into sharp, spear-like shards.
The emergency services arrived; we were given tea and we didn’t have to pay the bill. Fortunately, nobody was too seriously hurt but customers and staff were in shock. There was a waiters’ station by that table and the waiter said he spends most of his day standing in the very spot where the branch landed. It was only because he was catching an ice-hockey match on the TV inside the bar that day that he felt he had been saved.
We were so lucky that we had moved under that canopy; it broke the fall of the branch and protected us.
So, this time it was more than a nudge, right? This was a whacking great, hard-hitting, knock on the head, SIGN! If it had been in neon, flashing lights in Times Square, it couldn’t have been clearer:
“LOUISE JENNER – CHANGE YOUR LIFE!”
So, I did. That’s when I decided to create my career change.
I left my job as soon as I got home.
Career Change Stress
When I handed in my notice my body reacted with some kind of weird stress-reaction, causing me to come out in hives, which lasted for five days and then disappeared without a trace. By the way, Aloe Vera gel succeeded where steroids failed! I left my job because a tree fell on my head AND because I realised that if I had died that day, I would have been remembered as the woman who sold sofas and who didn’t have much time or energy for anyone else. Not much of a legacy huh?
A year to the day later, subconsciously, I ended up working a long, crazy day that took me back to Bristol for the first time in months to meet a lovely new client after 5pm. Was it a timely reminder to me, The Dream Job Coach, that although I love what I’m doing now, I should be careful that I don’t fall back into my old workaholic ways? Maybe. No hives this time though; but I do keep checking for dodgy trees!
Update (8th July 2019) – Six years since I left my job…
“It’s now six years since I left my job. Since then, I’ve built my career coaching business and worked with many amazing people who are also serious about changing their lives for the better. My husband turned sixty and we spent a year doing all the kinds of things we love, such as eating in fancy restaurants and visiting European cities.
This year we moved to our dream home in a tiny hamlet in South Devon. I’ve come home! I’m near my family and my oldest friends. I’m reconnecting with school-friends and meeting lots of great folks who have moved here to embrace a more peaceful life.
My career and business coaching continues here in Devon. The wifi is remarkably good and I can work from home a lot, coaching clients all over the UK via an online video tool called zoom.us.
I’ve never felt healthier than I do now. It could be because we walk along the River Teign every morning with our dog, Reuben. It may be because an old school chum has introduced me to the joys of Zumba! Or perhaps it’s because my husband has a renewed sense of adventure and loves cooking fresh, seasonal produce. We’re looking forward to growing our own food too! Of course, it’s a combination of all these factors and the reduction in stress that has led to me feeling this way.
I’m just so glad that I stopped ignoring the signs and actually took the steps I needed to take. I created a career change and it changed my life. I’m grateful that I found the strength to do so.”
Have you left your job or are you still ignoring the signs that
you should make a career change too ?
If you are reading this and realising that you’ve been ignoring the emotional, mental and/or physical signs for a while that it’s time to make a change in your life, take heart. Even the hardest decisions can be made. The discomfort doesn’t last long and the positive change of being in control of your life is an amazing reward.
I hope my career change story has inspired you. If I can do it, so can you and if you’d like my help, you only have to ask. I’d love to help you through it and to help you avoid getting hit by a tree! Of course, your story will be different to mine but I bet we share some similar emotions and through experience, I’m able to offer practical and down-to-earth suggestions about all aspects of your career change.
Create your career change
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