| JANUARY 2021 |


How do I choose a career path? - Empowered Decision

I want to be a Vet… or do I?


The question ‘what are you going to do when you are older?’ is a pretty normal one. I was sure I was going to be a vet. I loved animals, was pretty happy handling them…what could go wrong? Well, my Dad told me ‘you realise you have to put animals down if you are a vet’ 😢 and my realisation that I wasn’t interested in biology or any of the prerequisites for being a vet made me rethink that plan!


Career advice was not readily available when I was at school. I remember doing a career questionnaire that generated a load of really random suggestions (so let’s say they have improved since then!). I basically chose the subjects for A level (similar to ATAR) that interested me without any thought to what that could lead to. I was originally going to study Sports Management at Uni, but I got pretty sick in the last year and was advised to take it easy on sport, so I picked Psychology. I have to say I wasn’t entirely sure what psychology involved but the basic concept appealed to me. There was no parental involvement about what I was going to study – I just let them know and they were fine with it.

After university I was really stuck. Corporate life in the big city didn’t appeal and apart from studying further to either become a registered Psychologist or a Teacher I wasn’t sure what to do. I applied to be a pilot and was unsuccessful – to be fair I think I was more interested in the free flights! I ended up taking a qualification to teach English as a foreign language and went to Thailand to teach English. I really enjoyed it but it’s a lonely life living in a regional area where your language skills are limited, and I realised that continuing down this path would involve moving to different countries which was appealing short-term but not the best long-term plan for me.

So, I emigrated to Australia, did some frontline sales and then heard about recruitment. It appeared to combine sales and psychology, so I researched it a bit more. I interviewed at a recruitment-to-recruitment company where the person interviewing me said ‘I don’t think you will make it in recruitment’ – not the most reassuring message. However, it was fun when I ended up as a Manager at a recruitment agency and she ended up coming in to see me. I may have reminded her of that comment 😄.

I worked my way up the career ladder in a couple of recruitment agencies. The work was very challenging at first. I started off in a brand-new agency with no clients, no candidates, and no brand so there was a lot to learn. After a couple of years, I started mentoring and training new Consultants and from there built a team. I moved into a Recruitment Management role, managing a branch, and ventured into looking after major accounts and HR consulting.

I progressed into a Regional Manager role. Whilst holding down that role I had two babies – nothing like taking a call while feeding a small child and the other one wants to get involved in the call! There were some big challenges with market conditions such as GFC and the downturn in mining, but I really enjoyed the environment and the team.

“Confidence comes from getting yourself into situations that slightly push the boundaries”

However, after 14 years with the same company I was having doubts. I felt like the work was repetitive and I didn’t see what my next career step would be.  I was comfortable in the role, loved the people I worked with and enjoyed the actual day to day work but couldn’t help thinking there was more. I was very unclear about what I wanted to do next. I could identify elements I wanted and didn’t want but not how that came together.

After an extended notice period I left with no clear path ahead. I considered a few different paths, had lots of conversations with family, friends and ex-colleagues about what I could do and looked at a lot of job adverts, few of which appealed. I realised I lacked a methodology for how to go about making career decisions.

I started a business which was intended to be focused on consulting to recruitment agencies. However, I saw opportunities to do work on a contracting basis which appealed. I started to become clearer about what I enjoyed, what I didn’t enjoy and the type of environment I wanted to be in. As a self-diagnosed ‘people pleaser’ I tend to think about what I can do rather than what I want to do and so this period of working this out came with challenges.

I wanted to do challenging work, but I didn’t want to be in a full-time role at a recruitment agency. There were offers to do jobs which I felt I had done fifteen years ago. I wanted to be able to pick my children up from school and take them to activities but there seemed little flexibility available. Some companies said ‘well your team will need to see you working hard in the office’ despite the fact that I had achieved great results working some of the time at the office and some of the time from home for years.

Eventually things started to come together. A one-off assignment turned into ongoing consulting work. I got involved in a tech start-up which I really enjoyed – there was lots to learn but I felt I could also bring a new perspective to the table. I did some consulting to Recruiters which was rewarding. Eventually I realised I was building a portfolio career. However, the one element I missed was working in a team on a regular basis, working towards the same goal with someone who was a true partner. In discussing this with an ex-colleague we realised we both felt the same way and Michelle and I came together to launch Empowered Decision.

There have been a lot of lessons along the way. The main one being that comfort is not a great thing and that confidence comes from getting yourself into situations that slightly push the boundaries; l found that looking after your own skill set gives more control over the content of your work. Another is not to rush the decision making; working out a short term and medium goal with someone who is interested but objective ensures that decisions are not made in the heat of the moment. I also realised its ok to become more selective as you get more experience and that ultimately it is you who has to be happy with the decisions you made, no one else.