It took a massive leap of faith to make the transition from working in a role providing financial planning and share trading advice within an investment bank to working for a not-for-profit organisation in the community services sector.
I had been working in the financial services sector for seven years after completing post graduate qualifications in Financial Planning and Stockbroking. I moved to Sydney from Western Australia in 2008 to follow my career goals (and I’ll be honest – the big bucks). Being alone in a new city, I took any opportunity I could to meet people at social and professional networking events in an effort to make some connections outside of the office.
I met a really inspiring and passionate woman at one event who put me in touch with an emergency homeless shelter close to the CBD. I jumped at the chance to see what she was involved with after hearing her speak about it with such genuine excitement and care.
My first visit to the shelter was meant to be a quick half-hour introduction to see if I thought I might want to be put on the roster, but one of the overnight volunteers didn’t show up – which meant that the shelter would be closed for the night. I impulsively offered to fill the sleepover shift and within a couple of months I was volunteering overnight almost twice a week and had taken on the role of shift manager. Once I started to get involved regularly, I found I was connecting with not only the volunteers as I expected but also the people staying at the shelter too. It was a space that was really so foreign to me and I soaked up the opportunity to really get to know people from such a wide range of backgrounds and situations.
The shelter was classified as ‘high risk’ and provided free overnight accommodation to mentally ill or drug-addicted men, women and couples who quite simply had nowhere to go. The ‘emergency’ nature of it meant that even though we were volunteers, many of the homeless people staying there would rely on us for support in some really difficult situations. It was hard work at times and could be heartbreaking but I loved doing it. I started leading this really bizarre double life – signing clients up for million dollar trading accounts by day, and sharing a pot of soup with someone who had slept under a bridge more than once by night.
It was when I finally came to realise two years later that I was looking forward to my next shift at the shelter more than I enjoyed my full time job that it occurred to me it was time to consider a career change.
I fell into my role with Lifestyle Solutions sort of by accident; I wasn’t specifically seeking to work for an organisation that focused on supporting people with a disability. I didn’t have any experience or any real understanding of the challenges that people with a disability face, I just had this really clear knowledge that I wanted to work in an industry that cared about people, so when I saw the opportunity come up with Lifestyle Solutions, I did some research about the really diverse work they do and knew straight away that it was what I wanted and applied.
Although I knew (and still know) with 100% conviction that I made the right decision in terms of leaving my old job to work in the community sector, it was a really daunting process to make the official transition from the corporate world to a not-for-profit organisation. I feel sometimes like I am starting all over again because a lot of the financial stuff I used to do isn’t really helpful in this role.
My current role is mostly administrative so I don’t get that really hands-on challenge I had originally wanted, but as a new face in the office, from time to time I’ll get a visit at my desk from one of the and their carers or support workers to pop in for a morning tea event or to chat with the office staff – it keeps us all connected which I think is really important.
From a learning perspective I feel lucky to be in a position where I really get to see how things work in the industry and see how decisions are made from the top – it is so helpful in making an informed decision about the next step in my career.
I said I fell into the industry by accident – luckily for me that ‘accident’ just happens to be the first step in what I think will be an exciting new career.
Personal Assistant to the Managing Director
- TRUE STORIES: Joseph Majambere – Supporting people from all backgrounds to become who they wish to be.