FROM AD AGENCY TO LECTURER, ARTIST AND FREELANCER

“I’m using my brain to think about the stuff I want to think about, rather than feeling anxiety about my career.”

FROM AD AGENCY TO LECTURER, ARTIST AND FREELANCER

Mat knew he didn’t fit in at the advertising agency he worked at, and it was causing him serious stress. The Launch Pad helped him figure out how to turn his creative hobbies into work, and introduced him to others going through the same process. Now he juggles multiple roles – all of which he loves.

What was your work situation before the Launch Pad?

I was working as a creative director in a large networked ad agency.

I worked on a lot of international campaigns for quite big brands, mainly digital campaigns, right across the world.

How were you feeling about your work?

I had a feeling that I was a square peg in a round hole.

I had a lot of anxiety about what I was doing, I used to have a lot of panic attacks.

It didn’t feel like me at all; it didn’t feel like this was what I should be doing.

Why did you decide to join the Launch Pad?

Because I had a real dark night of the soul. 

I did some Googling and found an article on the Guardian site, I believe, which featured Careershifters.

It sounded like the right sort of course.

I realised I’d reached a real breaking point with work, and this seemed to be an ideal strategy to get myself out of my situation.

What had you tried previously to do to make progress on your career change?

I’d kept up a lot of my creative hobbies, just as a side hustle.

It was great that I was still being creative, for myself – the thing about working as a creative director is a lot of your creative energy is expended on doing work for other people, which isn’t always supported or well received.

So it was important to do my own things, for my own sanity. 

But the problem was, I didn’t know how to make that a sustainable career, and how to make a living out of it; I just kept it up for my own wellbeing.

I was also reading a lot of blogs, a lot of books about career change.

But reading about career change is very different to actually doing it.

What were your reservations or scepticism about the Launch Pad?

It was a bit of an investment, both in time and money, and I was concerned that I would get to the end of it and find that the course had proved that I really was as stuck as I thought I was.

I was worried about getting to the end and just finding myself back at square one.

What was the experience like?

The experience was really galvanising. 

It was great to actually be in a cohort of people who were going through the same stuff.

One of the tenets of Careershifters is never do your career shift alone.

What were the highlights?

Seeing other people doing exactly the same thing made me feel like maybe I wasn’t crazy to have the feelings I was having about feeling stuck at work.

That was probably the best thing.

We Skyped a lot with each other, and in some cases even met up face to face, just to chat.

What were the toughest moments?

I think the toughest moments were probably some of the tasks where you have to contact new people out of the blue – that’s a really hard thing for people to do.

But I found that people didn’t mind being contacted: I spoke to a lot of people in careers I really admired, who were actually quite chuffed to be asked for their opinion on what they did.

Some people were really glad to help out and offer advice; they were just very, very generous.

This is something that, again, you don’t know until you’ve actually tried it.

What was the impact on you?

Emotionally, the effect was that – even now, still – I feel a lot calmer.

One of the things about career change is, you get really up in your head. You get into circular thinking.

It got me out of this, and actually doing – as a way of breaking the cycle.

What on the course led to that impact?

There’s this iterative process: you have a hunch about something, you act on it, you try it, you reflect, and then you either persevere with it or you pivot. 

This is a process that we also see in design – the whole design process is iterative, too.

So for me it was quite a natural fit, because that’s how I work creatively – I see everything as an experiment.

If it doesn’t work, it’s fine, because it’s just an experiment. 

I think the idea of giving yourself stakes that are less high, less scary, really helps you move forward.

Where are you now in your career?

I divide my time between a lot of different roles.

I’m working as a university lecturer, and really enjoying the academic life – I lecture at both BA and MA levels. 

I’ve really lucked out; I love working with students, I love the setup. Even though a university is a big institution, it's very different to a big corporate institution. A lot of the aims and objectives are more in line with my way of thinking and doing.

I also do some freelance work.

I do freelance motion design, freelance illustration, and some freelance advertising work – I’ve realised that I much prefer doing that as a freelancer, as my own boss, just because I can work at my own speed, and it cuts out a lot of middle management.

I’ve also gone back to university. I’m studying for a Masters in interaction design, which is an academic but also practice-based course, all about using design to address issues like climate change, social justice and politics.

I’m finding it so interesting. All of these parts inform each other and feed into each other.

It’s a portfolio career.

I’m also carrying on working as an artist (as a printmaker) and exhibiting as well.

How do you feel about your work?

I feel great about my work now, I really love what I do. 

I actually feel like I’m making a bit of a difference in the world, even though that sounds really corny.

It’s great working with students, and seeing the great work that they do, and how you can help them gain the confidence to do fantastic work. I love giving back like that.

And I don’t feel stagnant any more, I don’t feel stuck.

What’s been the impact of your shift on your wider life?

It’s made me feel a lot more relaxed.

I’m using my brain to think about the stuff I want to think about, rather than anxiety about my career. 

Also my approach to time has completely changed: when I worked at a regular job, some of those hours were brutal. I felt like I wasn’t working to my own natural rhythm.

Now, I have a completely different kind of relationship to time: I make it work for me now.

What would you recommend to anyone considering the Launch Pad?

I would say, it’s really, really worth it.

I think a lot of the approaches and strategies they teach are things you can apply to lots of different areas of your life. 

What's also really important is that you’ll realise a career shift isn't a one-off moment in your life. It isn’t a fork in the road.

Actually, you’re continually retuning your path, and figuring out what’s going next.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Now I approach life a lot more as if it’s a big experiment.

I think that’s what Careershifters has helped me gain.

 

Photo © Kenneth Chu

You can find full details about the course on our dedicated Launch Pad page.