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I Quit My Toxic Career To Go Back At School – And I’ve Never Been Happier
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I Quit My Toxic Career To Go Back At School – And I’ve Never Been Happier
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Who: 33, former head of fashion marketing

Where: Sussex and London

What: the right advice gave one woman the confidence to swap the fashion world for psychology and studying 

The fashion industry is hardly known for its compassion, but for years I was so unhappy working in press and marketing, I would get palpitations in the magazine aisle of a supermarket.

I was in an awful job at one particular agency where we were expected to manage 15 demanding clients to a team of two. It was completely unrealistic, but each client – and our management – would have huge expectations of what we could deliver, often on incredibly small budgets. I was on call around the clock, and would regularly work until 3am then be expected to be in bright and early the next morning. I did lots of extra work to stay on top of the latest trends, too, as well as out-of-hours top-up courses in marketing.

What made matters worse was my boss was a real bully. He’d shout at me over the smallest things, tell me I’m a disaster to my face and threaten my job repeatedly. If I tried to speak up for myself or my colleague, I’d be called aggressive.

I left that place and got another marketing job in the industry thinking it was a one-off. But it wasn’t – it was like history repeating itself over and over, with bad bosses and ridiculous workloads. I was constantly scared of losing my income, and I felt completely powerless. The behaviour of a lot of management towards my team and me was erratic and angry. At several points I was left scared for my physical safety, as well as my mental health. My life was a misery, yet the people making it that way were those I relied on to pay me and give me references. 

Then one weekend I got chatting to a friend at a hen do. I told her how unhappy I was, and got quite emotional. As it turned out, her mum was a career advisor. I ended up seeing her mum for advice six or seven times, and quite honestly, it changed my life. She helped me realise that the workplaces I had experienced had not been normal – they were toxic. I learnt that it is important to have a job in line with your values, and understood why being happy at work was so crucial. I also identified what I have to offer and what I actually enjoy doing.

“My life was a misery, yet the people making it that way were those I relied on to pay me and give me references”

When I applied for my Master’s in psychology, I didn’t think I’d get in. But I did, and I ended up realising that the skills I’d learnt were completely transferable. I quit my job and went back into education full-time, using a bit of money I’d inherited, as well as a student loan, to fund it. I’d always been interested in exploring why people behave the way they do, and what messaging they respond to. I live a lot more modestly, but I’m so much happier than I was. It took me a while to get the confidence to ask questions in seminars or make a point, as I was so worried I was going to get laughed at or told I was an idiot. But I got there.

I’ve since applied for a PhD in psychology. My goal at the beginning was to come out with a new perspective on how people think, operate and use information, and now I’m seeing that through to the highest level. 

Despite the pain, I feel stronger having learnt that a bad workplace doesn’t have to trap you. There are people out there that will value your skills and your time. So find a way to leave. Find something you love.

How To Switch Up Your Career

Look Within

Take a step back and really think about your motivations for changing your career. Try to make a decision based on your values and what you enjoy, rather than a fear-based decision based on one bad experience. 

Consider A Coach

A career advisor will be able to help you identify your strengths and skills, and help you formulate an actionable, realistic plan to achieve your goals. 

Do Your Research

Browse job profiles and read up on what your chosen career will entail, what it takes to get there and what the entry requirements are for any new qualifications you might need.

Visit Prospects.ac.uk for more tips on making the switch

How You Can Future-Proof Your Career

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