Don’t give up your day job. Change it.

August 9th, 2018

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Five stories of the highs and lows of making a career move—without leaving the building.

By: Kate Rand, Director of People at Beyond. 

In my early twenties, I received advice from a senior executive at Wagamamas. He said switching between roles makes you a more rounded and valuable individual—and he had the squiggly career history to back it up. This was a moment of clarity for me, and I’ve gone on to have my own squiggly career, starting in retail, moving to hospitality, into HR, hopping to senior operations before stepping firmly back into HR.

This isn’t unusual. When you’re a child imagining your future career, it’s more likely to be Firefighter than Finance Assistant, Astronaut than Account Manager, Racecar Driver than Resource Manager. Put simply, there are a lot of jobs we don’t realise even exist until they’re right in front of us. That’s why at Beyond, we understand that the job you’re doing might not be the job you want to do forever. Something else might catch your eye. And when that happens, how do you navigate the switch and successfully transition a career?

We’ve had five members of our London team do that recently, and I’m going to hand over to Emily, who transitioned to become a Copywriter, to tell the stories.

From case studies to content

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I joined Beyond three years ago as a Marketing Executive. I had been testing the industries I could put my english degree to work in with a string of internships. After lining one up in an ad agency, I turned my attention to digital. That’s when I found Beyond. With no internships available, I ended up applying for a job.

There were many things that attracted me to Beyond. The work, the people, the opportunities. In my interview, one thing really stood out: I was asked where I saw myself in the future. The response I got really clinched the deal. “If you see a role you’re interested in, we’ll help you get there”.

A year and a half later I found myself in that position. London had a robust tech team, an accomplished design team and producers making it all happen. We were a successful production house, but had no content team—though our other studios did. Early on, I spotted opportunities to support when we had ad-hoc copy needs, but I wanted to move from copywriting on the side to doing it for real.

As I transitioned, Beyond did too. They went from reacting to content needs by hiring freelancers to proactively making it one of our offerings. I now sit on a team of four, alongside a Senior Copywriter, a Content Strategist, and a Videographer.

From building relationships to building products

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Mine is not the only story of Beyond making good on that promise they made in my interview. Jess joined Beyond on the same day as me as an experienced and hyper-effective Account Manager. After two years with us, Jess became frustrated by “always being at a ‘birds eye’ view, not being able to influence the strategy of the product we were building”.

She saw her opportunity. She wanted to be in the thick of it, “driving the end-to-end product discovery and development, working with our clients and team to build products that customers really love”.

With a little help from an external Product Management mentor, and full support and guidance from the Senior Leadership Team, Jess hit the ground running as a Product Manager nine months ago, leading an engagement right away.

A career change doesn’t happen overnight. Jess describes learning to “be comfortable with being uncomfortable”, admitting she is still working on giving herself “permission to experiment and learn” and lessening the pressure on herself to have “all of the answers, and knowledge of all of the methods, frameworks and considerations for product discovery.”

From timesheets to training

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A month after Jess and I joined, Fran arrived. She was our Resource Manager. The gatekeeper. If you wanted anything, you had to go through her (and it wasn’t always easy). So how did she come to wield that power? She started out agency life as an Office Manager, and got her big resource break when she shadowed the RM at her old agency—who was transitioning herself, into a creative role. Within six months, she was a Junior RM. Two and a half years later, she landed at Beyond.

Fran really made her mark as an RM. She describes the role as one that “requires you to really get to know everybody from all different departments and disciplines on a daily basis”. She reached a point where her day-to-day was no longer exciting or challenging. She realised she needed a change. “I could do the job with my eyes closed”.

Two months ago, Fran began her transition to become our Talent Development Lead, a new role at Beyond, helping our team become the best they can be through training, coaching and performance development. Working with Kate, she describes feeling as if “the role was carved through teamwork instead of my being told, ‘This will now be what you do.’” Having a solid plan of the key areas you will cover in a new role is instrumental in the uptake of a new role.

From spreadsheets to schmoozing

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It wasn’t much of a stretch to get from marketing to copywriting. For Georges, our newest Client Partner, the leap was a little bigger. Starting out in our Finance department, Georges crunched the numbers like a pro at Beyond for over three years: “I was good with numbers, and I like money”, he said. “My career goals changed as I grew professionally, and I wanted a new challenge”.

So, in January of this year, he pivoted to join the client team, leaving “mind-numbing data input” in the dust, in favour of unlocking strategic challenges and “meeting new people”. Georges credits Beyond’s patience and belief in him—alongside an investment in training him at General Assembly—with making the transition a reality.

From coding to creative technology

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For one of our longest standing Beyonders, the path wasn’t quite so smooth. Dave joined us five years ago as a freelancer, making his way up to lead our Front End team. But he began to feel frustrated. “I felt that I was becoming a Jack of all trades and a master of none. I would often spend my evenings and weekends learning/coding to stay on top of things and spend my work days mainly scoping, rescoping and writing documentation.”

A year ago, Dave made the decision to leave. Recognising that this would be a huge loss, Beyond suggested a transition that would give Dave what he wanted: “more time to explore and learn new technologies that could help grow the company and share with others.” So, Dave stayed on board, entering a new role: Creative Technologist.

Distancing himself from his old responsibilities was a challenge. At the start of his new role, we asked Dave to be a technical lead on a Google project which lasted six months. It was only after this that he was finally able to begin his time as a Creative Technologist. While he acknowledges it was “a new role being established in a busy agency, so there are always going to be teething problems”, he ultimately decided it was time to move on. We announced his decision to leave this week. Dave’s transition was a complicated one, but we learnt a lot.

Top tips from our transitioners

Leaving an established career behind can be daunting, but rewarding. To anyone looking to do make the leap, Jess advises, “trust your instincts, find a mentor to build up your confidence and seek out different sources to learn as much as you can. ‘How I Built This’ is a great podcast to give you inspiration.” Fran cautions against wasting time. “If it tickles your fancy, don’t wait. Show you’re willing”. If you feel you’re out of your comfort zone, Georges suggests pushing yourself further—while always backing your decision. Dave’s advice is to make sure your new role is clearly defined before you make the move. And me? Trust that the people around you want you to do well. And if you find that the support isn’t there, maybe it’s time for a different kind of move.

The HR hitlist

As an HR practitioner, I believe there’s a duty of care on organisations to alleviate the pressure people feel about having one shot to get “the career”. Millenials more than any other generation are switching paths as they try to find their niche. With an employee demographic at 60% millennials, it’s key for us to support them through this without losing great talent. Here’s how:

Lock down a solid reason – Everyone has bad days. Make sure you’re choosing a new direction or to learn a new skill set for the right reasons

Define the role – Is it a new skill you want to learn or a new path all together? Be clear on the goals you’re working towards. If it is a new role, spend time with people already doing it to understand its intricacies.

Communicate the change – Make sure people know how to interact with you during the transition, what work you’re covering, whether you need time to shadow others. Clarity is key in getting people to support you in the process.

Get internal buy in – Having stakeholders on board and a backing from a senior sponsor will really help your progress.

Design a transition period – An agreed period of three to six months should be in place to transition from one role to the other, with a clear plan of who is shouldering your old responsibilities.