How to change career in mid-life

Life’s unexpected twists and turns force us out of our comfort zones. Due to the current global health crisis, millions of people are left feeling like life is on hold through lockdown, furlough, and new-found home working. 

If you’ve been spending recent days and weeks pondering what to do with your time and in the months after lockdown, a career change is likely to have crossed your mind. 

A 2019 UK survey found that one in ten managers felt trapped in jobs they hate, with those over the age of 40 feeling especially hopeless. It’s now being widely cited that the current outbreak could be the key to helping those in unfulfilling careers take the leap to do something different. 

What’s holding you back? 

A career change can feel chaotic at the best of times, with so many perceived risks and unknowns. Although it can feel safer to stay in one place, in the long run you’ll be much happier spending your time doing something rewarding, whether that’s pursuing a new course of study, travelling or simply taking time out.  

Now is as good a time as any to reflect and reset the course of your path. Society as we know it is changing forever and the ‘new different’ is still being created, so there is a huge opportunity to design a fulfilling future. 

Imagine your future-self next year, in five years time and further down the line. What does a perfect day look like? If you think about it like this, it becomes easier to visualise making your dream a reality. 

At the Chippendale School, we’ve welcomed students at different life stages from around the world craving a new creative challenge. From school leavers and career changers to those in retirement, our courses are designed to help anyone with a passion for woodworking gain the necessary skills for a successful career in furniture making. 

Follow in the footsteps of our mid-life graduates 

Meet ‘Feemade 

Year after year we welcome many mid-life career changers, including Fiona Gilfillan, now 52, who quit her job in banking to pursue her passion for making furniture. Fiona initially signed up to study on the introductory course but quickly got the bug and went on to study on both the Intermediate and Professional Course. 

She told the Sunday Post: “Right from the very beginning, I absolutely loved it,” she said. “I made a stool, learned about French polishing and dovetail joints. It was amazing.” 

Fiona spent around 18 months thinking about quitting her successful 14-year career in banking before setting up her own furniture making business. She decided to take the plunge when a close friend became ill, realising that “life is too short and I should follow my dreams,” she says.  

The summer after graduating from the course, Fiona set up her own business, Feemade Furniture, and has not looked back.  

From tax advice to making bespoke tables 

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Chippendale School graduate Mike Whittall was drawn to the School by its reputation, its international outlook and the variety of course content.  

He decided to pursue furniture making following a 25-year career in accountancy as a tax adviser. He’d just turned 50 and was questioning whether to carry on in the same vein until retirement or to do something different. 

He says: “I had always enjoyed working with wood, so I decided to build on a skill that I already had to start designing and making furniture. I knew that it would give me an outlet for something that I was really passionate about – you only have one life!” 

Of his experience at the school he says: 

“I can remember the journey to Chippendale School on my first day, questioning whether I was creative enough to study on a course like this. I didn’t have much confidence in my artistry, although I had been doing woodworking projects on and off over the years. When I got to the school, those worries quickly faded away – the school is a melting pot of creativity, and their whole ethos encourages collaboration.” 

To find out more about Mike Whittall’s experience at Chippendale School, see our blog. 

Carpe Diem 

If fear is holding you back from following your passions, you are not alone. More than half of would-be career changers cite fear of failure and the unknown as stopping them from changing careers (Changeshifters research). But as former students Fiona and Mike say above, ‘life is too short’ to not do what you love. 

The Chippendale School’s intensive 9-month course gives you skills in all aspects of furniture design, making and restoration so you can reach a professional level in no time, supported throughout your studies by a dedicated team of teaching experts and professional woodworkers.  

If you want to find out more about our Professional Course, please see here or get in touch with Tom Fraser, School Principal for a chat. 

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