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Career-Changer Series: From Probation Officer to Career Coach

Last month, as part of my ongoing Career-Changer Series, I shared the career change story of the awesome Amalie. These interviews seek to share the inspirational stories of people who have made the decision to change career. I ask them about their career shifts and what advice they have for others considering a career change.

I hope by reading these stories and interviews that people realise that anything is possible with a little time and effort. No one needs to feel stuck in a job they don’t enjoy. There’s always something else you can do. I hope these stories inspire you to make a change and do work that you love.

From Probation Officer to Career Coach

This month, I thought I’d interview...myself! I made a change quite early on in my career. It was a hard decision, having spent two years studying and training for it. However, the experience now helps me empathise with how my clients may be feeling. Here, I share my story and what I learnt along the way. I hope my words inspire you to take action, should you find yourself feeling like I did - stressed and in a career that you see little future in.

1. What work were you doing before?

I studied Psychology & Criminology at University, and went on to train as a Probation Officer after that. This involved a two year training course where I completed a second degree and an NVQ, whilst working with a small caseload of offenders. I worked with offenders in the community and in prison, helping to rehabilitate them by changing their criminal behavioural patterns.

2. How did you know a change was required?

I was quite young when I qualified, with little life experience. I remember one particular Monday morning where I was sat at my desk thinking, “Is this it? Surely there’s got to be more to life than this?” The career path laid out in front of me seemed incredibly stressful, frustrating, and not particularly exciting. I went on holiday around then and the thought of returning to work just filled me with utter fear and dread. I knew something had to change. I came home and handed my notice in on my first day back!

3. What helped you make the decision to finally do something about your situation?

It sounds a bit odd but it was a feeling that took over, more than anything. The career just didn’t feel right anymore. I got to the point where enough was enough, and it just seemed obvious and logical to move on.

I had secured a 12 month temporary contract, through a family friend, doing something completely different (Professional Services Marketing), which meant I had something to go to. I think this helped me bite the bullet and move on, even though I didn’t really know what I wanted to do next.

Having my parents onboard helped too, as they made me realise I could always go back to being a Probation Officer if I changed my mind.

4. How did you go about deciding what you wanted to do next/instead? What helped you make that decision?

At the time, I wanted to experiment with Marketing, so the temporary contract was in this field. During this time, I also had some Career Coaching to help me define my interests and ideas. I already had an interest in being a Coach, as the skill set and training matched my previous experience and training. Working with a Coach helped me see what the role really involved. I also looked at alternative careers too, but I never really got that far with them. It became apparent that I didn’t really have a natural talent for them, nor did they have the one-to-one work I enjoyed in my previous role.

5. What new career path have you chosen and why?

In the end, coaching became the obvious choice due to its positive focus on the future, and the ability to make a real difference in people’s lives. I really liked the idea of being self-employed, and the flexibility and freedom this would bring. I considered transferring my existing skills into counselling or therapy but it felt too heavy for me. For me, coaching had the best balance of impact and positivity.

6. How are you going about or how did you go about changing careers?

It look me a long time to build up a full time coaching practice. I remained in a full time Marketing job, whilst I trained part-time for two years completing my Masters in Coaching & Mentoring. After this, I slowly reduced the days in my job from 5 to 4 to 3 to 2, until I was ready financially and mentally to quit and focus on my business full time.

It’s been bloody hard work but anything worth doing always is. I’m surprised at what lengths I went to in order to get to where I am now, but, with focus and determination, most things are possible.

7. What’s been the hardest, most difficult, or unexpected thing you’ve encountered about changing career?

It’s incredibly hard but I had/have to be willing to say yes to things that feel scary and well out of my comfort zone. This was especially the case at the beginning. I just said yes to everything and saw where it took me. You never know what will come of an introduction or event you attend - maybe it will lead to nothing, and that’s OK, but it could also lead to something great. That can be difficult to accept but it’s often the way.

8. What’s been the best part about changing career?

It’s weird to picture myself being a Probation Officer now. It feels so foreign and just not me. Whereas, being a Career Coach reflects who I am, and what I’m about, much more naturally than my previous job.

I feel very lucky being part of peoples’ career journeys. Seeing them change their careers and spark a new lease of life is just amazing. I love the fact that I helped them do that.

It’s great working for myself too - I’ve never been brilliant at being told what to do, especially if it’s just to make someone else richer!

Having purpose to my work brings a great deal of satisfaction and meaning to the role too, which is essential when you’re working hard and trying to balance it with the other areas of your life.

9. What advice would you give to others considering a career change? What support, help, or resources would you recommend?

If you’ve been considering it for a while, just get on with it. Start small but make sure you start. There’s nothing more exhausting than mulling something over for years and years and not doing anything about it. Work with a Career Coach to gain some clarity, and figure out your next steps and long term action plan.

If your friends and family aren’t onboard then limit what you share with them until your ideas are more fully formed.

Talk to people who do the jobs you’re interested in - what’s their advice? Experiment as a much as possible too - shadowing, work experience, short internships, evening or weekend classes, short courses, talks, events, etc. Get a taste of what it’s really like to do that job to help you decide if it’s a good fit for you.

Remember though that no job is 100% perfect - there’s pros and cons to any career, but it’s about working out what lows you’re willing to put up with in order to experience the highs. If you’re struggling to see many pros in what you’re doing now, maybe it’s time to start making a change...I’d be happy to help!

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Alice is extremely easy to talk to and, using her knowledge and insight, has a unique knack of getting straight to the heart of the problem very quickly. With the help of useful exercises and techniques, the sessions have been extremely worthwhile. I would recommend Alice to anyone thinking of attending a coaching session.

IT Manager
Alice Stapleton

About Alice

Alice coaches those who want to change career but don’t know what they want to do instead. She offers Career Coaching designed to help graduates, early to mid-level career-changers, and parents returning to work gain a clear vision of what career is right for them, and how to achieve it. She is also a qualified Coach Supervisor.