A job for life is becoming increasingly rare — JANET HOWIE finds out why and how some workers decide to sow the seeds for their own career change.
A SELF-described “part of the furniture” has moved on.
After 28 years working at Peards Nursery Albury, Andrew Bowen will start a new career in real estate before the month is out.
“I’m just at a point, I suppose, in my life and career where I need a change,” he says.
Needing a change, following a dream or less positive catalysts such as injuries, redundancies or marriage breakdowns can lead people to significant shifts of direction in their working lives.
Last month The Border Mail celebrated motoring writer Darryl Starr’s 50 years with the company, but such examples are rare as more swap between professions.
One commentator estimates Gen Ys will go through about 10 different careers or jobs in their lifetime. Nor are there as many jobs for life — just ask anyone in manufacturing.
Whether embraced or forced, career changes will always require thought, planning and a realistic approach. Mr Bowen’s association with Peards Nursery began while a school student in the 1980s, doing work experience before being offered an ongoing job.
Before that he had helped his mother in her East Albury corner shop.
“My passion for gardening started there,” he says.
“I started growing all the vegies to sell through the shop.”
He has worked in all areas of the nursery,
becoming manager after seven years, and completed his last day as purchasing officer/manager on Thursday.
From September 29 he will be a sales consultant at Wodonga Real Estate, selling property both sides of the border and planning to make good use of the skills he’s developed at Peards.
“If you look after your customer, everything else sort of falls into place,” he says.
“That’s what I’ve done here over the years and hopefully I can take that experience with me.”
Albury psychologist Richard Brown, of Step Psychology, works with people wanting or needing to move into a new area.
“The most common thing that I see is related to some form of injury or just feeling that they can’t sustain what they’re doing,” he says.
Among his clients has been a burned-out female primary school teacher who became an interstate truck driver while others, such as police officers or tradespeople, have sought less physical work.
“A lot of it is about allaying people’s anxiety a bit,” he says.
“Helping people to get their head around that it is possible to change, is possible to retrain.
“Some people are open to that, other people can be terrified.”
Mr Brown says while personal interests play a role in choosing a new line of work, a realistic view of the local job market is also needed.
Retraining as a DJ because you love mixing music may not be practical if hardly anyone in Albury-Wodonga earns a living that way, he points out.
And relocating out of the region for work may not be an option for everyone.
“Younger people are often open to it, or people whose kids have grown up and left home,” he says.
“The people in the middle, with a couple of kids in school, tend to feel a bit more unable to move.”
Mr Brown says getting some form of professional assistance is a good idea for people thinking about a career change.
“It’s when you don’t consider those other elements of practicality and sustainability as well as interests, that it will be a very hard road,” he says.
Kelly and Tim Glass considered all this and more during seven years of preparation before they swapped a corporate life in the city for one on a farm near Holbrook.
The couple moved to Jayfields, a native plant nursery and farm, in 2011 and keep busy with the business, farming, consulting work and running around after Cooper, 5, William, 3, and Fergus, 11 months.
“We were wanting to raise kids on the land and wanting to be part of a community environment,” Mrs Glass says.
While Mr Glass’ commodities trading background had links with agriculture, Mrs Glass was an elite ballroom dancer as a teenager, then a corporate accountant, so her new job raised some eyebrows.
“On my side people were a little surprised but I love the land, it’s very real, very grounded,” she says.
Mrs Glass says the past three years have been hard work with lots to learn, but the family has no regrets.
“We didn’t once question the decision we’d made,” she says.
“I probably wouldn’t do it again when I was seven-and-a-half months pregnant,” she adds with a laugh.
Mr and Mrs Glass feel their research beforehand — some done during three years working in Switzerland — helped them make the switch.
Mrs Glass says couples sharing common goals is also important if planning a career change.
"We do find that people are coming in at that age where they’re looking for a life change, whatever that age may be.”
“Do your numbers,” she advises.
“Make sure it’s something you both want to do and it’s aligned with both your personalities.”
Meanwhile, Mr Bowen says he and his wife Julie form a good team, which will help in his transition.
His industry choice doesn’t come out of nowhere as he is a longtime investor in homes, buying his first house at 18.
“While my mates were all out buying cars and things, I was putting my money into real estate,” he says.
He renovated and rented out that property while still living at home and three years later bought his second house with his soon-to-be spouse.
“It’s been a bit of a natural progression, I’ve always had a bit of an interest in it,” he says.
Wodonga Real Estate director of sales Alan Hodgson says Mr Bowen’s selling and negotiating skills will be invaluable in his new role.
“It’s something he obviously has a natural flair for, because it’s very hard to teach that and he’s become very, very good at that at Peards Nursery,” he says.
Mr Hodgson says Mr Bowen’s high level of experience is unusual, but real estate can attract those seeking a different path.
“We do find that people are coming in at that age where they’re looking for a life change, whatever that age may be,” he says.
“Some are rather romantic; they think it’s just all about the selling and the glory of showing houses and happy people.
“But behind the scenes there’s a lot of hard work and a lot of grind, which the romantic ones find rather tough when they meet that full-on.”
Peards Albury owner George Benyon, while disappointed to lose Mr Bowen, wishes him well and believes his work ethic will ensure future success.
“Sometimes in life people do need a change,” Mr Benyon says.
“If you’re going to make the move, you want to have the idea that you’ve got to work hard.
“Getting a job now is very challenging and I think most people don’t appreciate how hard you’ve got to work to be successful.”
Recruitment Select’s Will Vale knows all about career changes; having completed them himself he now helps others do the same.
The business development manager for the North East, Mr Vale worked in the veterinary field, then ran a retail business for about 18 years before personal circumstances led him to recruitment two decades ago.
In his role he’s aware of senior executives or other professionals who have chosen to continue their career in the country rather than stay in their city jobs.
“They don’t want to have the pressures, the stresses and strains that come with that,” he says.
“Really they’re quite happy to step down.
“Corporate life can be very, very tough.”
Mr Vale says when advising clients he always asks what they like to do outside of work.
“Within those hobbies they may have skills that a future employer might be delighted to have,” he says.
The old adage about who you know remains valid, but where once you might talk to a mate in the pub, now it’s more the organisations you belong to and different ways of communicating.
“Social media is part of that network whether we like it or not,” he says.
“The internet and social media has revolutionised the way even recruiters work these days.”
Even so, being proactive remains crucial.
“You’ve got to put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to knock on doors,” Mr Vale says.
A chance conversation sent Beechworth’s Barry Pope in another direction five years ago when he became Australia’s oldest apprentice baker, aged 69. Now 75, Mr Pope completed his apprenticeship at Beechworth Bakery and still remains available for shifts if the business has a staff shortage.
The great grandfather clocked up 30 years as a public servant, the last 17 as a prison officer, but his father and brothers had been in the trade.
“It was always in the back of my mind if I had the opportunity,” he says.
Mr Pope says he enjoyed his baking work and his colleagues offered great support as he trained.
“It was a little bit more manual, pretty full-on; once you start the day, you have to keep going,” he says.
“But I’m not afraid of a little bit of hard work.”
Neither, it seems, is Mr Bowen, who is looking forward to starting at Wodonga Real Estate.
“It’s always good to do something new, it gets you out of your comfort zone,” he says.
His news caused some surprise at Peards when he gave notice five weeks ago.
“I think they were a little bit shell shocked, just because I’d been here, sort of part of the furniture over the years,” he says.
Mr Bowen admits to some early feelings of trepidation over his decision.
“But I think now as I’m getting closer to it, the nervousness has subsided and I’m very excited,” he says.