Second time lucky often a winner

If you find yourself at a career crossroads, it's not the end of the world, writes Karla Dondio.

If you find yourself at a career crossroads, it's not the end of the world, writes Karla Dondio.

While "settling" in your career sounds about as enticing as settling on a life partner, does the reality reflect the sentiment? Katie Roberts, director of Katie Roberts Career Consulting, has been working as a career consultant for 10 years.

Roberts understands that it can be disappointing for professionals to have to reconsider their first career option due to limited roles and financial insecurity. But she insists that a fallback career can be equally satisfying and even superior to a professional's ideal choice.

"Competitive fields often have unsocial work hours and can be very stressful," Roberts says. "A back-up career can not only provide a stable income but, if it's less competitive, they might also experience less stress and, therefore, be happier and find more satisfaction."

When clients who have suffered a career setback visit Roberts, she encourages them to reflect on their experience to glean insights that will better inform their future decisions. She then suggests they reassess their career options to focus on a new path that they'll genuinely enjoy and which offers good job prospects.

"They may well find they love it and that the stability is really great for them rather than relying on unstable employment in the other field," she says.

"People can have a really satisfying career even though it wasn't their first choice."

Katie Symes pursued a career in the arts but when her circumstances changed, so did her priorities. This led her to explore other career pathways. Symes says her fallback choice in health and the higher-education sector has proved to be highly rewarding.

In 2000, with a community arts background, Symes completed a bachelor of dramatic art specialising in sound design and production management. Following graduation, Symes says she was fortunate to land some great freelance opportunities for a number of theatre, film and dance companies.

When she started a family, however, she discovered that irregular work - which involved long hours when it was available - and unreliable pay were no longer acceptable to her.

"Freelance work was unsustainable for me and tricky to manage with a new family," Symes says.

"I was wanting to work in a professional environment and as part of a team." Symes was offered an executive administration role at the University of Melbourne's school of population health.

With colleagues who supported Symes' career growth and the opportunity to attend short courses, Symes was able to transfer around the university and apply her technical, project management and creative skills to a number of health-related roles.

This has culminated in Symes starting a master of public health at the university and a role project-managing the engagement and communications aspects of new strategic projects for the faculty of medicine, dentistry and health sciences. Symes believes her latter career trajectory has introduced her to a network of people and opportunities that she wouldn't have otherwise made.

"Early work and life challenges have actually led me far beyond my initial pathway and in a direction I never expected. It's really important to stay flexible and nimble; you never know what's around the corner."

Interestingly, Symes is now doing some part-time freelance work whereby she is able to draw on all her skills developed in both careers along the way.

So has Symes' fallback career worked out better than she expected?

"Absolutely. What has always motivated me in my career are the things I care about: connection to community, family, health and well-being and making a positive contribution to the world around me in some way.

"It's what I was attracted to in the arts and it's what motivates me in health and higher education."

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