“Unless I acted, I'd be doing the same work in a year or two years’ time. I knew with certainty that I didn’t want to be doing that.”

Image of Fiona McGilvray
From Finance to Public Sector

Fiona McGilvray needed to create a better work-life balance for herself, so much so that she left her role without a plan. Here, she shares how bringing on support and staying open to opportunities led her to a fulfilling career mix. 

What work were you doing previously?

I worked in Financial Services, in a financial reporting role.

What are you doing now?

I work part-time as an administrator for the NHS, and on a supply basis as a library assistant. 

Earlier this year, I also completed a City & Guilds qualification at Skill Stage 3 in Patchwork and Quilting.

Why did you change?

Following events in my personal life, I needed and wanted to achieve a better work-life balance.

I wanted to change direction for the remaining years of my working life.  

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

As I approached another financial year end, I realised that unless I acted, I'd be doing the same work in a year or two years’ time.

I knew with certainty that I didn’t want to be doing that.

Are you happy with the change?

Very happy indeed.  

The key elements for me are variety, flexibility and working directly with people, both the public as well as my new colleagues.

What do you miss and what don't you miss?

I miss some of my colleagues, and the salary was better.  

I don’t miss the expections, long hours, and the requirements of month, quarter, and year ends.

How did you go about making the shift?

Around the time I was leaving my role in finance, I discovered Careershifters and decided to enrol on the Career Change Launch Pad to help with my shift. 

Having left my previous role without a plan, I was open to explore and accept opportunities as they arose. 

Both roles I do now stemmed from volunteering with the NHS during the pandemic.  I was offered work with the council to help at a vaccination centre. This experience helped me secure a permanent part-time administrative role with the NHS in their vaccination service. 

Through some of the exercises in the Launch Pad, I identified library work as an area of interest.

I found out about the opportunities coming up with the council in their library service. Despite my lack of experience, I applied (several times) and finally succeeded in securing a role. 

The decision to return to study also resulted from the Launch Pad. During the pandemic, I had the time to return to crafting and helped make face masks for a voluntary group, Edinburgh Mask Makers.

I have always loved textiles and found out about the School of Stitched Textiles from a fellow Launch Pad member. I explored the options and decided an accredited course could lead to other opportunities down the line.

I feel incredibly proud to have successfully completed the course at this stage my life and look forward to pursuing this further.

How did you develop (or transfer) the skills you needed for your new role?

I already had many of the IT and admin skills required for both roles, so was able to transfer to the new roles relatively easily.  

Working in healthcare and libraries is still new to me. Every day I find I’m learning new things, so it’s essential to bring both enthusiasm and energy to work.  

A change really is as good as a rest.

What didn’t go well? What wrong turns did you take?

I didn’t believe initially that I’d be able to move away from finance, as where I live, financial institutions are major employers.

I was offered interviews back in this industry.  

I also tried setting up an Etsy venture, but this has yet to go anywhere, which left me discouraged and undecided about working for myself. 

How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?

Having decided to change direction later in life, I had enough savings to make this move.  

When we went into the pandemic lockdown only a couple of months after I left my old job, I found I was spending far less than I had been. 

I also took on a temporary role before working for the council.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

The uncertainty.

Being risk averse, this was a huge step for me. It took me a while to accept that I was on a new path and often felt anxious about my decision, even after securing new roles.

What help did you get?  

I joined the Launch Pad and was lucky enough to find a wonderful support network in a small group of my fellow course members.  

We’ve continued to take an interest in and support each other on our journeys.

What have you learnt in the process?

Be open to ideas and opportunity.

Give things a go and learn from the experiences you have along the way. You will definitely be surprised with where you can end up.

What do you wish you'd done differently?

I wish I hadn’t waited so long to leave my old role.

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

Work out how to afford some time out. 

Reach out for help, advice and support. 

Don’t be too disheartened by setbacks along the way.  Put it down to experience and move on.

Fiona took part in our Career Change Launch Pad. If you're ready to join a group of bright, motivated career changers on a structured programme to help you find more fulfilling work, you can find out more here.

What lessons could you take from Fiona's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at [email protected]. and you could win a £25 / $35 voucher in our monthly draw.