Moving to a family friendly role after long agency hours, retraining and returning

Rachael moved from a high-pressured role in design and advertising into a totally new, and family-friendly, role as a sports therapist. Here’s what she told us…

Can you tell us about your current role?

I’m now senior brand manager at Phoenix Group. I was brought in back in 2021, just on a six-month contract to rebrand the company. Six months later, I applied for the permanent Brand Manager role and got it.

Where did your career path begin?

My experience of career change is bit different. I’ve gone full circle and wouldn’t be averse to going full circle again.

I started my career in graphic design, my degree was in Graphic Design and Advertising I went straight into the agency side of work straight after university before moving client side.

It suddenly dawned on me that if I wanted to have a family there was no way that working super-long agency hours was going to work. When I had my family, I took what was really a seven-year break.

What made you decide to move in a different direction?

Work at the design agency was really busy with super long hours for all the agency pitches that we were doing.

It suddenly dawned on me when I was about 27 that if I wanted to have a family there was no way this was going to work. That was when I decided to move client side and started thinking more about my future. When I had my family, I took what was really a seven-year break. I still did some work, but I was able to flex it around my family life.

How did you go about it?

While I was working at the agency, I enrolled in a local college course, just as something to do to get me out of the office. I happened to do a course in hand massage, and I really enjoyed it. So, I decided to look into that a bit more.

I found a college in London – the London School of Sports Massage, which offered the highest qualification in the UK at the time. So, I put myself onto that course and trained at weekends on a year-long course.

At the same time, I decided that agency life was not going to be working for me anymore, so I moved to the client side which was a big move in itself. I was still doing the same kind of job but in-house.

How hard did you find to move into such a different role?

After completing various written and anatomy and physiology exams, I did my 100 hours practice time and a practical exam and qualified as a Sports Therapist. At this point I kept my day job in design but also worked in a clinic doing sports therapy during evenings and weekends.

I was also working at events like the London marathon, charity runs, even backstage at music festivals for the artists who were performing. I juggled both jobs at the same time but that was fine.

My husband works overseas a lot and I needed to be around for the kids, so we decided that I’d stop working on the design side of things and just pick up doing more of the sports massage.

I did that for a few years which was brilliant, really flexible in that I could choose the hours I wanted to work around the kids and then I got called to do some freelance part-time branding work. I did both jobs simultaneously while the kids were at school, 3 days branding, 2 days doing sports therapy. Then Covid hit. My husband couldn’t work anymore, he’s a photographer and his job involves flying a lot.

It ended up with me just doing the sports therapy because the branding work had stopped. The government allowed sports therapists to keep working because it took the pressure off the GPs. All those people who had taken up sports during lockdown had endless amounts of injuries.

What led to you getting your current role?

I was working full-time doing sports therapy when I got called by my old director about the Phoenix rebrand.

I found that I had two particular transferable skills: relationship building and problem solving.

What transferable skills did you find that you had?

In my design or branding roles there’s always been a lot of relationship building with clients and I found relationship building was a key skill for sports therapy too. Although it was a different type of relationship, you really felt that you were part of that person’s team, they need you to get them back on their feet again.

The other transferable skill is problem solving – I do a lot of this in design to get comms to work in the right way. With massage it’s like three-dimensional problem solving. You try to tease through the muscles, find out the issues, break down the scar tissues etc to get things working again.

Were you nervous about making your career changes?

For me, it’s like people always see it as a massive gamble to take the plunge and do something different. But, at the time, I was just doing something I really enjoyed doing. I was already in employment, so I wasn’t out of work at the time at the time I did my training. It wasn’t until I got to the end of my training that I thought, well, there’s no reason why I can’t do this as a career.

It wasn’t until I got to the end of my sports therapy training that I thought, well, there’s no reason why I can’t do this as a career

Did you get any support or advice?

When I went into the sports therapy, the final module of the course was about turning the skills into a business. It’s giving you the confidence that your qualification is absolutely valid, and you should be using it.

We had moved house to a new area and there was a local women-based community network of people in my kind of position getting back into work. That was really helpful. I got a lot of contacts through that and that’s where my clients started coming from.

I couldn’t work at Phoenix if they didn’t offer real work flexibility. I choose to work a five-day week, but I work most of it from home. It’s flexible in terms of time, so I can pick my kids up from school, which they love, and drop them off. I didn’t want to miss out on those moments.

What would you say to other people who are thinking of making a change?

For me, it was a lot about not burning bridges. Just because you did a particular job in your past, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to be your future again.

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