career

'I tried 40 different jobs over the space of a year. These were the best and worst.'

Have you ever considered a career change but haven’t been sure which new direction to take? That’s exactly the position I’d found myself in early last year, after working as a contract and supply teacher in the years since my children were born. With my 40th birthday fast approaching I decided it was the perfect time to TAKE ACTION and try something new.

But what do I want to do?

Returning to university to gain a new qualification felt like the most obvious route for me at first. But when I really thought about committing a few years and a lot of money to a course I wasn’t 100 per cent sure of, especially at my stage in life, I started to consider what my other options could be.

Maybe I could run a successful small business? I’d read about other women who’d created a new product or started a side-hustle that had grown into something big, and I thought ‘why not me?’ Maybe all I needed was a good idea to start heading down that path.

Or should I stick to my profession as a teacher and make a sideways shift in education?

Perhaps the perfect job for me was one I hadn’t even thought of yet but was waiting to be discovered?

I found the whole ‘picking a new career’ decision quite overwhelming, but my thinking hat was well and truly on.

As I was driving home from the daily school run after dropping my son off one day, my light bulb moment came (at the age of 39 and 51 weeks). It occurred to me that in order to confidently choose my next career, I should go out and do some work experience. I loved the idea of testing out and gaining insight into a wide range of different jobs.

So that’s what I did!

 

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40 work experience jobs at the age of 40.

I was so excited I sprang into action straight away.

After speaking with a few friends and family members about my idea, I was able to line up my first five work experience jobs. I’d figure out how to find the other 35 jobs I’d need to meet my goal along the way (which proved to be challenging at times but I got there in the end. Phew!).

I set up my 40 40 Experience website with the help of my husband, so I could share my journey and insight into each job with others.

Before I knew it, it was time to get started.

Jobs I LOVED and the ones I didn’t:

Over the course of a full year I had 40 first days and was a part of 40 new teams. I spent an average of three days in each role, depending on what best suited the business or people I was working with. What an adventure! It was the opportunity of a lifetime, filled with some truly incredible experiences.

One of the best things about trying such a wide range of roles, and getting a glimpse into a variety of companies, was the opportunity I had to really consider the environment I like to work in, the way I like to work, and whether the role suited my strengths.

Favourites:

I loved the jobs that required me to be active.

The thrill of dressing as a firefighter and using breathing apparatus in fire and smoke-filled rooms.

Working as a camel farmer in a beautiful natural landscape.

Getting ‘on the tools’ as a cabinet maker to construct a cabinet for my laundry.

Styling homes for sale (I had no idea this would be such a physical job so was pleasantly surprised!), and even mowing lawns and trimming hedges as an acreage property maintenance specialist.

These were some of my favourite days.

But were they jobs I could see myself continuing to be able to do full-time for the next 20 years? Maybe if full-body massages were to become a part of my weekly routine?

 

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Then there were the jobs that were exciting to shadow in as they were so fast-paced and time-driven, such as working as a radio producer, television producer or in live sports broadcasting. I found it fascinating to watch the experts at work in these roles, but the thought of operating such technical equipment myself practically gave me heart palpitations! It was like a disco with all of the brightly lit buttons and dials in the control rooms, and I have no doubt I’d be the person that would accidentally press ‘delete’ rather than ‘play’ under pressure.

The other jobs that jumped out at me the most were those that involved working with patients, clients, students or animals. I was lucky enough to sit in on more than a dozen physiotherapy appointments, and spent a few days on the road attending appointments with an occupational therapist in the homes of her injured clients. I could definitely see myself working within the health industry. Like teaching, health-related jobs are ultimately about helping people, which is something I genuinely love to do.

Least favourite?

I honestly didn’t have a ‘worst job’ along the way, as I gained something from every job I worked in and from every person I worked with. What I can confirm however, is that jobs requiring a lot of alone time don’t really suit my personality. Dentistry springs to mind as an example, as the patients can’t talk back! (I suppose the same can be said for taxidermy.)

I’m looking for a career in which I work as part of a team, or where I’m able to interact with people regularly.

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What did I learn?

I learned as much about the ins and outs of each job as I could over the course of a few days by observing the pros at work, by getting my hands dirty where possible (literally at times), and also by talking to my bosses and workmates along the way. Who better to learn from?

They shared with me what they believed to be the most rewarding and challenging parts of their jobs, the path they took to get into the position, and their tips if I were to consider a career in the same field.

Some of my work experience placements were extremely valuable in terms of learning about how a small business can operate.

For example, when working as a weaver I learnt about what’s needed to set up and grow a small home business. Or while using woodworking machinery and tools in a workshop to make a chopping board, I also learnt about the various income streams a small business can have.

It was a similar story when working as a florist, which was part of a larger business offering workshops, homewares and a café. I was amazed at how generous people were by sharing such helpful information with me.

I also learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of, particularly because I had to push myself outside of my comfort zone many times on this adventure in order to make the most of it.

Starting a blog and putting myself ‘out there’ for the first time, asking friends and strangers for help, being interviewed on live radio, speaking about my 40 40 project at a fundraising event and being filmed for a television segment all gave me some angst! But pushing myself to do things I’d never thought I could has given me greater confidence to try other new things. That was one of the greatest discoveries I could make at the age of 40, and leaves me feeling excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.

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The big question… What’s next?

When I first decided to try 40 different work experience jobs I thought I’d get to the end, pick my favourite job and pursue it. But something unexpected happened along the way. I discovered that there are so many people in the same boat as me who could relate to what I was doing. Students unsure of which direction to take after high school or university, or career changers like me uncertain of what, where, or how to start something new. There really are so many options out there!

For my next role, I’m hoping to combine my teaching experience and love of helping people with my newfound passion for trying new things. Perhaps by sharing what I’ve learned throughout my 40 40 adventure, I can inspire other people to start exploring too.

It’s time to start working on it. Watch this space!

Follow as I continue my journey on Instagram  and Facebook.

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