Change your life: change your job


Are you happy in your job? Do you pick up the recruitment sections of the newspapers on the lookout for an alternative career or simply a job move? It would appear that no matter how well the economy is doing, the person who gets up in the morning and looks forward to going to work is still a rare and lucky entity indeed.

Changing jobs shouldn't necessarily mean switching to one that is going to pay you more, or be more prestigious. If it makes you happier, and more fulfilled, that makes all the difference. So what do you do if, like many others, you don't like your job?

Attending a course that explores the options open to you is one way of going about it. Since the beginning of this year, Mary Curran, at the Centre for Professional and Personal Development in Dublin, has been offering a six-week evening course called "Finding the work you love".

"There's always been a need for a course like this," she says. The majority of those who attend her courses are women: "Out of 14 per course, only about three would be men". There are two distinct groups of people who come to her.

"There are those in comfortzone secure jobs, working 9-5, but who feel very unfulfilled and who have reached a stage where they want to move on. Then there are those who've given up their jobs prior to taking the course, who don't know what direction they now want to go, but who definitely want to change."

Last weekend, about 40 of the people who had taken the course met in a Dublin hotel to tell the stories of how they had got on since, and to review what they had learned. Abba's Super Trouper seemed to be the course's keynote song, playing loudly as people arrived, although those waiting for The Winner Takes It All were disappointed.

There is always a couple of people in every group who go on to find different jobs. Some of them took the microphone to talk about their experiences. One such person was Orla Church (35). She had been working in computer sales for five years. "My job was no longer a challenge," she says. "The comfort factor was too good; I had to make a break. I felt trapped and stressed. I didn't see a future for myself there." Church had already handed in her notice when she signed up for the course, and decided to take some time off before looking for another job.

"The course gets you to focus on your strengths and also on those things you don't like doing, so you can make decisions based on that knowledge. It helped me to move on. I had lost a lot of confidence in myself because I had stayed too long in the other job." She took a couple of months off, while considering what her options were. "I had had five years service in the previous job, so nobody had a problem with the fact I had taken time off; they knew I was making an important decision. And I don't think I would have got the job I'm in now if I had applied for it earlier; I needed to be confident."

Church now works as a recruitment consultant for the Marlborough Group. She will earn about the same money as before, potentially more, since both salaries include commission. "It's never completely down to money, though," she stresses. "The job you're doing can make a big difference to your quality of life. It doesn't have to be a chore. There are always a million reasons not to change your job, but they're all excuses. I went back to see some friends from my old job after I had left, and they all said how much younger I looked."

Renee Kavanagh (28) moved here from Queensland, Australia, when she married an Irishman two years ago. "I had been working as an industrial cleaner on housing estates, and I decided I didn't want to do it any more: I wanted to work for myself. But I didn't have the feeling of self-worth to do it."

For Kavanagh, one of the best things about the course was meeting people who were in similar situations to her own. "I got a lot of energy from that. One of the things that really struck me was being asked if you only had six months left to live, how would you choose to spend the time." Thinking about such issues focused people's minds, and also introduced the idea of making a plan, rather than drifting along indefinitely.

Kavanagh gave up her job while on the course, which she saw as making a holistic decision about her life. "All the jobs I'd had had been undemanding, and I had to look at my own life and self-development, and move on from that. I've always wanted to be self-employed."

She is now well into a diploma course on physiology, anatomy, and reflexology, and intends to work in this area of alternative healing when she completes her diploma. She agrees that her husband's support was essential to making her decision. "There is a drop in income for a time, but I am a much happier person now. It's also helped me come to terms with settling in a new country."

Most of those present at the meeting are women. Are there no men out there who want to change their jobs? Or are they loath to admit all is not as they would like it to be?

`WOMEN are looking for some sort of guidance," Catherine Byrne suggests. She herself dropped out of the National College of Art and Design two years ago, and was working as a nurse's aide when she did the course. "I had had a terrible feeling of failure. The course gave me confidence, and it focused me." Byrne is now working part-time in her nurse's aide job, and spending the rest of the week in Wexford, working in her artist's studio, preparing for an exhibition. "I didn't pick up a pencil or a brush for two years, and now I just love being in my studio," she says. "There is no way I would have thought about going back to use my talent as an artist unless I had done this course." She is also considering returning to college to finish her degree.

Joanne Lee (31) is English, and settled here with her Irish partner at the beginning of the year. She isn't surprised that there are so many women taking the courses. "Women in Ireland have always had much more of a family role here than women in Britain. It seems to be accepted that men have always had careers, but that's not the case with women."

Lee had been travelling and working abroad for 10 years. "I went on this course because I needed to pinpoint what I was good at - I'd done so many things when I was travelling, and I'm confident of myself." She worked as a waitress for a while, and is now supervising a restaurant in central Dublin.

"Doing the course made me realise that I want to work for myself. I'd like to have my own restaurant, or to run a small hotel with my partner. That's the long-term plan. And I'm working towards that now, and getting lots of experience."

She says she probably would have got the job she currently has even if she hadn't been on the course, but that it helped her to decide her career path, and the direction she wants to take. "That takes time to achieve. We had to do a lot of asking ourselves questions about our lives on the course, and it makes you think about what you want or don't want. And you never really do that by yourself."

One question which Mary Curran always puts to her groups is: "If you won a million pounds, would you want to keep doing the job you're doing now?" Usually, the answer is no. But Curran herself says she would keep doing her job, so perhaps she's her own best advert for a course called "Finding the work you love".

More information from the Centre for Professional and Personal Development, 01-6613788.