Five lessons from a career shifter

Noor Khan, Oct ’14 Associate, is moving from a career in investment banking technology to social enterprise. Nine months into the On Purpose programme, he shares what he’s learned from the transition.

54% of people in the UK are unhappy with their jobs. This time last year, I was one of them.

Noor Khan2

As a business analyst in an investment bank, I enjoyed the analysis and problem solving — but I wanted my work to contribute to society more widely; particularly to those who are most vulnerable. But identifying viable alternatives was a challenge, with no experience or contacts in other sectors. Here’s what I learned along the way.

1. Work at finding your passion

Surprisingly, I find knowing your passion is a bit like knowing your favourite ice cream. Your imagination can be powerful (pistachio gelato?) — but you only truly know your favourite flavour if you’ve tasted it. By trying a variety of things you’ll soon realise what floats your boat. I’m passionate about mental health and young people. But I only discovered this because I really enjoyed volunteering with young people, and discovered meditation in overcoming personal challenges.

2. Ask: what should my next step be? instead of: what should I do for the rest of my life?

Previously my approach to career change was: ‘what is my purpose in life?’. Looking back I can see this isn’t very useful because: (a) what you think will interest you for the rest of your life is likely to change, (b) it can be so daunting that you become inert, © you may face difficulties that steer you in a different direction or you will be compelled by something else.

So, instead, think of the next step that will fulfil you just a little more than now. For example, if you were fascinated by graphic design, a simple next step could be to register for a course.

3. Define your own success

I ended up on a graduate scheme at an investment bank because I bought into the whole idea of a corporate career: the rewards, status and responsibility. Anyone who had a glimmer of the first two will know it will only make you momentarily happy. I found truer, sustained happiness comes from living in your values. One exercise I did prior to quitting banking involved literally sitting down and identifying my values: What drives me? What are the roles/organisations/sectors that fulfill those values?

4. No action, no result

Everything is a dream until you take action. This has been my key lesson. Absolutely nothing will happen if you don’t take any action.

5. Life is non-linear

Our society paints a very neat picture of success; excellent student at school and university, gets a corporate job or starts his/her own business. But life is rarely neat and tidy. I now realise embracing the twists and turns keeps life interesting and us more rounded (and grounded!). Accepting uncertainty, insecurity and failure is the route to happiness.

Image courtesy of wikimedia/flickr