General Practice, Solicitor , Aberdeen
|Starting a business|
Career Change Story
I have started my own surf school, and I am a surfing instructor. I work alongside the Scottish Surfing Federation, to get more women and youth into surfing. I also visit schools to tell my story of how to pursue your passion, set goals, and live a healthy lifestyle. I also play drums and sing in my band, Evera.
My heart was never really in law. At school, I’d always wanted to be a PE teacher. I had good grades in PE, but everyone encouraged me to do law as a stable, interesting profession.
During the traineeship I wasn’t happy at all. I thought I’d be helping people, but in fact it was about making money and being a commercial enterprise. I’m also quite a sensitive person, and often I had to do a lot of matrimonial work which was hard to not got emotionally involved in. It was stressful and you probably need to be a bit harder to deal with it.
After I qualified as a lawyer, I quickly started to dread going into work, with its long hours and office politics. I spent my days wishing I could be out surfing, or being a rock star. I hated being chained to a desk in an office. I missed interacting with people in a more sociable way.
There was no big light bulb moment. My heart was never in law, so when my passion for surfing started taking over, it felt like the right thing to do.
You’re not treated well in a law firm. The more established lawyers had to pay their dues to get where they are, and there’s an expectation. The pay is terrible for the first few years until you make a jump to associate or partner. You work all day every day until midnight, you have no life, and aren’t being compensated well for that, in comparison with my friends who worked in other sectors such as banking.
I took a step back and looked at what I wanted to do. I knew that I loved surfing, and that I’d wanted to be a PE teacher, and so what I do now is a combination of the two. I know it’s so difficult as many of my friends say they don’t know what they really want to do. If there’s any way you can make a passion outside of work a means of income, and make your passions more a part of your daily life, then you have to go for it.
Around the same time as qualifying as a lawyer, I also became the Scottish Ladies Surfing Champion. I was picked up by O’Neill for sponsorship. Because my legal training contract had ended, I didn’t have a job. So I decided to do a surf instruction course, and was lucky to land a job at Granite Reef surf school four weeks after completing the course. After teaching there, I spent a season as a surf instructor in France, then when I came back to the UK decided to start up my own surfing school.
I didn’t have a plan, I just made a go of it. I also wanted to pursue music, so wanted to find a way to make both the surfing and music work. I had to tighten my budget and structure my time better.
Because I got the job at Granite Reef after the surf instructing course I was only really out of work for a month. I had savings set aside just in case.
The financial aspect was difficult. I ploughed my savings into the business without knowing if it will work. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my partner and family. I worked as a nanny for three months whilst getting everything going, to get money, and I liked working with kids. It didn’t bother me. You have to do what you have to do.
It was difficult changing from the stability of a monthly salary, to the uncertainty of not having that or knowing where money would be coming from.
My family and my partner and his family were hugely supportive. I know I couldn’t have done it without him. He does the website, helped with exhibitions, and is always hugely supportive. My sister too, who is in the band with me. It always helps to have a lot of support. Close friends were really supportive. Nobody was against me. Once everyone got over the initial shock they were okay about it.
Regarding the business start-up, I used the Business Gateway website and spoke with them on the phone a couple of times. My partner and other family members had their own businesses so having that helped, I could ask them for help if needed.
Career Change Reflections
I am so happy with the change I have made. During the traineeship, I would get that Sunday evening sickness, I couldn’t sleep because I didn’t want to go to work that week. I dreaded it. And I wondered if that feeling was normal, if after all the studying and training that this is what I was supposed to feel like about work?
Career change has made such an impact on my life. My partner went through my unhappiness with me. When you’re unhappy at work, it put strains on your relationships. If you’re not happy at work then you’re negative in your life. Once I made the change, I look at things completely differently. I have a more upbeat outlook and am more fun to be around.
I don’t miss much about being a lawyer, only maybe a few moments made me happy. I was sent flowers a couple of times from a client who was happy with my work. Things like that were really nice - knowing you had made a difference in someone’s life. I enjoyed meeting clients, and feeling like I could be of assistance. But I don’t miss wearing a suit, the stuffy work environment, or being in a regimented workplace.
My close family were concerned about the lack of stability. They were also concerned that I’d done seven years of training as a lawyer, and was throwing it away. But I feel like I can fall back on my law training if I absolutely need to. I was happy of what I’d achieved in law.
I think it could be a generational thing. Some older people, like my granny, didn‘t really understand. Also some people make their career their life, trying to climb the work ladder, but I wanted to do something different, that gave me total fulfilment.
I learnt that even the best laid plans don’t always turn out they way you expect them to. You have to be flexible. I’m quite a perfectionist and set myself super high targets when I got started. I have to manage my time which you didn’t have to do in an office. In the first week of business I was up until 1am answering emails, because I wanted to give a good service and get back to everyone within an hour of their email! I needed to learn how to manage time better and be less of a perfectionist.
I would say to others, believe in yourself that you can do it. Follow your dreams. You only get one chance at life so what’s the point in living with regrets.
The world we live in is very much ‘you need to have a big house, car etc’ but it’s all the material things, that for me don’t matter. I’d rather have a smaller house and car I can afford to run, and be doing what I love and making a living from it.
You can do what you want to do. You will have to make sacrifices. Yet it’s so rewarding when you do it.