Don’t Like Your Career Story? Change It!

The Same-Old Career Story

The year was 2005.

I was a government lawyer who had plateaued in my career after 11 years. The thought of another thirty years of doing what I did was becoming unbearable. Surely I was in the wrong profession.

Why was it so hard to admit to myself I’d made a mistake and just move on? Looking back now, I think I felt hemmed in by the career decision I’d made as a student. It was a decision I’d made in good faith, but with not much self-belief. I was 19, and inclined to trust what other people said was right for me, rather than the inner voice that suggested a different course of study. Afterwards, I couldn’t bring myself to backtrack. How could I, when it would mean admitting that I’d wasted five years studying law for nothing?

Because of the choices I made early in life, I spent 11 years – more than a decade of my life! – doing work in which I was at best mediocre. Thankfully, I was given an opportunity to rewrite my career story.

Exploring Possibilities

While looking for ways to change my life, I attended a career counseling conference at a local uni. There, I heard words that made me tingle all over. Transferable skills. The Flower diagram. The RIASEC code. The Keirsey Temperament Sorter. Career counseling. Here at last was a career that made sense, that made me go “This is what I’m meant to do!”

Going with the flow, I enrolled in the Worklife Asia Career Development and Performance Coaching Certification Program, and received further affirmation that I was indeed on the right path for me.

The more I investigated, the more I found myself drawn to the field of careers and personal development. Career counseling fits so naturally with my desire to live a life of significance and positive impact.

The people I see myself working with fall into two groups:

  • confused and clueless Year 10 to Year 12 students who need help to make wise decisions about career and further education
  • employees who have worked 10-15 years, want more challenge and variety as well as work-life balance, and are keen to explore the possibilities of a midlife career change.

My Tipping Point

When I left the legal profession, I received some interesting reactions. Many people were shocked that I could walk away from something so safe and secure. That is understandable. Fear has a big say over the way we live our lives.

But several people were moved to re-examine their career paths, as I later found out when I shared my career story at a seminar.

What made me Just Do It?

I think it was a strong sense of destiny, a realization that I had reached a place of now-or-never. If not now, then when?

Did I want to wait, to quote Eowyn in Lord Of The Rings, “until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire”?

Change My Career, Change My Life

The purpose of life is to grow, and growth involves change. That’s what my career change has given me. On one level, I wanted to see how far I can take my love of writing and my passion for helping people in their careers.

But more than that, I’ve made a conscious and deliberate choice to get away from the familiar and comfortable things that I habitually hide behind and accept unquestioningly. In doing so, I am giving myself permission to find my own sound and make my unique contribution before it is too late.

The Present

My old career story ended, and a new one began. It has led me here, to the intersection of your career path and mine.

I hope some part of my story has been helpful to you. More importantly, I encourage you to trust yourself enough to heed that still small voice inside you and go where it leads. It will be worth it.


Serena Tan Author of the forthcoming book How To Reinvent Your Life at Any Age

“It’s one thing to dream,
but when the moment is right, you’ve got to be
willing to leave what’s familiar
and go out to find your own sound.”

Howard Schultz and Dori Jones Yang, Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built A company One Cup At A Time

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

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