Before I get into the details, I need to explain the background albeit it is a little tad bit long. Bear with me.
Now in my late thirties, I am experiencing this strong urge for the second time to make a mid-career switch. 10 years back, when I was 28 years old, I tried to make a career switch out of my marketing career. I stumbled upon a course called Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). On paper, the course looks terrific for someone who wants a career switch. Low cost, self-study is possible and no disruption to my existing career. Pull factors were higher pay, sounds more intellectual/professional (compared to marketing) and the chances of mobility might be higher (been on my wish list for a long time). Sounds naïve and shallow reasons to the current older me now.
The first career switch was not successful. The closest I got was an asset management firm that reeked of nothing but Oscar-level politics among less than 20 old and useless colleagues in the country office. Very quickly, I soon learnt this office lost the political tussle with its Hong Kong counterpart, handing over its regional headquarter status to the latter. The old people spent their time gossiping and thinking of ways to milk the company (granted I got a free all-expenses paid trip to Macau/Hong Kong in the name of department retreat).
However, I got in due to my marketing skills and my level of experience (not too senior and thus not that expensive), NOT my pursuit of the Chartered Financial Analyst course. Despite passing Level 1 on my first try, Level 2 was a failure despite three attempts.
However, deep down I was in denial with myself. My mathematical foundation was not strong enough, and frankly I really dislike portfolio management. A question came to my mind while working at the asset management firm: if analysts and portfolio managers are so good with numbers, why do they still fail to foresee the financial crisis? That was during the 2008 Lehman Brothers financial crisis.
I continued my path in marketing and communications on paper so no employers knew I was pursuing the route to finance. Recently, I told my ex-colleague who is in her late forties about my strong wish to get out of my current career. I admit, I was complaining too fast and too much in my current contractual role, partly because it has been embroiled in a big unitholders’ revolt scandal. However, it only invited scant remarks from this ex-colleague that I was too whiny. The ironic thing was she recently only start to experience how I felt in my previous employment, and admitted she finally understood how I felt.
It was painful, because I treated her as my mentor despite working with her for a very short stint. I was devastated, demoralized, depressed. I was fearful when I felt depressed again, because I have this sense of awareness that kicks in automatically when I start to get that feeling. I am terrified to spiral down into depression again. After a weekend of intense anger, I realised two things: first, no one understand until it happened to you; second, I am determined to prove to her that changing field is possible and doable, save my own sanity by leaving this career, yet continuing my marketing and communications on the side line through my blog and other writing pursuits that I enjoy.
Through this episode, I began to see her as a normal ex-colleague. I also began to see her flaws. She procrastinates on her own life. She sees and value consistency when it is no longer valued among employers nowadays. Whenever I told her there are alternative ways or new information, she wants more information without taking the initiative to find out more on her own.
If someone wants it badly, they will do whatever it takes to change it. For me, if something is wrong, and I am aware of it, I want to fix it. I knew it was a mistake for me to be in marketing/communications. I took the initiative to email to potential employers seeking for face-to-face/telephone advice on the possibility of several career options: psychologists, allied health workers, pharmacists (yes, I was prepared to go back to school to get a more professional degree). I applauded myself for having the determination to seek information in a very active manner. I always believe people who take real actions to change and chart their own course in life are the true warriors/champions in life.
I concluded she is not serious about making the change to her life. She recognised how tough public relation is, and how the jobscope keeps on expanding and everyone thinks they can be a PR expert, but she still persists because this is all she ever knows in her career. In fact, I see a little masochism in her. She actually takes pride in the fact that she can take the downside of her role. I knew I wasted my breath talking to her because she is not able to take that step to change.
Procrastination is common. I know many people, including me, procrastinate over some stuff. Family, work, relationships, personal, emotions….who doesn’t? I will be lying if I say I never procrastinate. I pinpointed down the fact that I got really mad at her when she procrastinated and faced the same issue, but judged me by telling me off just like that.
Right now, I have moved on from this episode. I learnt from my first failed career switch. My second career is now based on more realistic considerations: my personality at work, my strengths, the stress level of the new career, the money that I am able to earn for the next 20 years or so, the level of barrier to entry in that field, and the amount of efforts that I need to put in (do I have to study full time etc) to develop my skillsets in that new field.
I also gained the determination to prove to her (of course, to myself as well which is the most important) that I can, and will make the necessary change to my life. I can, and will create a much more successful and fulfilling professional life in my new career path. At the same time, I also want to proudly own a successful business model which I can continue to pursue in my golden years, leveraging on my marketing and communications experience in pursuits where I truly enjoy (unlike now).