career

'At 30, I was unemployed, unskilled, and starting from scratch. Then my dream career began.'

The most dreaded thing anyone can ask me is: What do you do?

It gives me so much anxiety and I end up with verbal diarrhoea explaining, in detail, how much I love being paid superannuation and filling up the biscuit jar.

The person who has asked me, probably out of courtesy, just ends up being very confused and all the while I’ve failed miserably at answering the one question that now consumes me.

Since I was nine, I have been a ballroom dancer. Not the ‘take a Broadway Jazz class on a Saturday afternoon’ kind of dancer, but a professional dancer. I lived out of a suitcase for 12 years, travelling the world and learning about the bogo pogo (and other oddly named dance moves).

I’ve worked in television (yes, I was Chris Hemsworth’s partner on Dancing with the Stars) and on stage and not once did I consider it a job.

It was what I did.

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Two years ago, aged 30, I retired from ballroom dancing and have since been trying to figure out what it is I now do.

For me the whole process of blowing up my life to pursue a new career has been more confronting and, at times, overwhelming than I could have imagined. Even filling out an airport landing card is a struggle.

What do I write for occupation? Can I still put ‘dancer’ without being interrogated by a grumpy looking customs officer?

I never expected that applying for a television series would lead to me finding my ‘Dream Job’. When I was a dancer I honestly didn’t think about anything else, and the idea of a new career hadn’t even crossed my mind.

But now I found myself unskilled and over 30 and that meant either staying in a career I no longer loved, or pursuing a new one. My newfound anxiety was telling me that something needed to change, and now was as good a time as any.

Being a part of ‘Dream Job’ allowed me to step into life as a writer, for a moment, just to see if this was potentially what I wanted to do. My experience of pursuing a writing career was equal parts scary and exciting.

I discovered that often the things I was worried about were the least of my problems and I also learnt some really important stuff about myself along the way.

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List of really important stuff I learnt about myself:

Deal with the loss.

Closing the door on one dream can be harder than opening the door to a new one.

By taking the time to acknowledge that I had already achieved a lot and the same level of success will look a lot different in a new career, was a huge part of letting go of being a dancer for me.

Embrace your naivety.

I really enjoyed that I knew nothing or very little about writing.

When shiny new graduates rock up to their first job they have an enviable confidence about them. Naivety is exactly what you need to be successful in a new space. Because you can’t be afraid of what you don’t know.

LISTEN: Some women don’t have another option, but does working from home put you at a disadvantage? The Mamamia Out Loud team discuss (post continues after audio…)

If you need help – ask for it!

I went to a psychologist and discovered there was so much more behind my want to change careers.

It really helped me to talk through my feelings and the process of asking for help forced me to realistically life plan. I also discovered I wanted to try other new life activities such as camping and team based sports.

Since my ‘Dream Job’ experience I have enrolled in a university writing course, taken up a website content side hustle and joined a netball team. I’m not sure if I’ll feel comfortable claiming my occupation as ‘writer’ next  time I have to fill out a landing card at the airport.

But, I’m bloody glad I’m closer to figuring out what it is I now do.

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