Goodbye Corporate, Hello Creativity
By Sarah Stewart
It was a year ago in May 2021 that I left my Senior Director role within the pharmaceutical industry to pursue a more creative career.
I have always been creative, as a child I would spend hours at our kitchen table, kneeling on our wooden bench…drawing, painting, pressing flowers, writing to pen pals, rubber stamping or making Fimo models. I also loved creating with Lego. But it was kinda drilled into me that science and maths were ‘good’ subjects at school, and that art and drama were not. And so I conformed.
Painting had been a new-ish hobby. Following a break-up, with my boyfriend of two years, I had joined a local acrylic painting night class. Every Tuesday night, which used to be date night… became my solo date night. The two hours flew in as I immersed myself in color mixing and putting brush to canvas. I loved it. However, life got busy, and my creativity waned.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, I found myself at home with a lot more free time. All my work travel had ceased (I used to be frequently found in the US), and I was forced to stay at home as I was in the shielding category due to medication that I take for Crohn’s Disease. I got my paintbrushes back out and set up a make-shift studio at my dining table. I reveled in the slower pace.
I also chose to invest in my personal development, and in July 2020 I joined a group coaching program led by two inspirational coaches.
Life coaching isn’t something that was new to me. The first life coach that I had was when I was 20 years old, shortly after my mum had passed away. I turned to coaching again a decade later, when my marriage failed and I found myself navigating a difficult divorce.
How creating a vision for my life helped to set my intention for freedom
My new coaches worked with me to unpick my values and they helped me realize my true purpose. They challenged my thinking and encouraged me to dream big. Part of this exercise was to create a vision board.
On my vision board I drew an artist’s studio, with paintings on the wall featuring red ‘sold’ stickers… I drew a picture of my campervan (she’s called Verity), with the Scottish hills in the background… There was a picture of an airplane, and the words ‘part-time program management consultant’… and I even had a pair of boxing gloves, as my favorite fitness class is boxing (although it had been about six months since I’d been to a class!).
At that time, I was happy in my employment; I loved my corporate job – but I was craving a better work/life balance.
I didn’t have a plan, and it felt unachievable, but I put my big dream onto my vision board nonetheless. I then tucked it away in a cupboard and didn’t look at it again. That’s not to say that I didn’t think about it, I allowed myself to daydream about the time freedom I craved and how I would spend my days. I would also journal about the future, and write about my wishes as if it had happened.
How I brought my vision to life
A year later, I took the board out of the cupboard. I had been talking about it with a coach, and I wanted to show him as we had been exploring my employment as part of the coaching journey.
• I had converted my unused garage into an art studio and space to work from home.
• I had sold a number of original pieces of art.
• I spent most weekends, Covid permitting, traveling Scotland in my campervan.
• I left my job, and started working as a part-time program management consultant.
• I even won a competition on Instagram, and the prize was a pair of boxing gloves and a pass for 5 boxing classes.
I didn’t anticipate training as a life coach myself (you’ll perhaps have noticed that coaching didn’t feature on my vision board!) but I am delighted to be able to share the power of coaching with others having now qualified as a transformational life coach.
The steps I took to make it happen
There is never going to be the perfect or right time to make a change; realising this is key. After determining what your plan is, and creating your vision for the future… you’re going to need to take action towards it. If you wait until you deem yourself to be ready, that day may never come. Instead, break down your vision into steps… and if that first step feels daunting, what’s the first baby step that you can take?
For my art, I needed a place I could paint (my dining table!) and a way to share my creations with the world. I began with Instagram, where I already had a following, and was able to quickly set-up an Etsy shop allowing me to sell my canvases. It’s then been over time that I established my website, started attending craft fairs (online and in person), approached shops with my art products and so on.
With my coaching, the first step, for me, was to join a training programme and get myself certified. Through the certification process I coached others, allowing me to gather testimonials and social proof – which in turn has allowed me to then sell my services.
I have weaved my wealth of project management skills and experience into my coaching practice where I work with busy mums building online businesses, helping them get from chaos to calm.
It’s been important to carve out time to allow me to work on my creative businesses, particularly when I was still in a corporate ‘9-5’ job. I firmly believe that getting organised in your home environment can facilitate this.
Lastly, the process of telling people what you do is powerful; when people ask I am confident in sharing that I’m a coach and an artist. Step into the persona of your future self, before you’re fully there!
My advice to anyone looking to leave their corporate career
When I reflect on my journey, if I were giving advice to anyone looking to leave their corporate career I’d suggest they talk it through with a trusted advisor; this might be a close friend or family member, or perhaps a coach.
I think the process of saying out loud your plan can really help you determine if it’s something that lights you up. Over the last year, whenever I talk about creativity and coaching the people I’m with notice my energy change. Having someone that can help you become more aware of these slight shifts in your behaviour can be really powerful.
If you’d like to grab my free ‘Get Organised’ templates, you’ll find them at sarahstewart.co.uk and if you’d like to have a call with me to chat through your time management, you can drop me an email [email protected]