Escaping the 9 to 5 with Steph Clarke

from accountant to facilitator Steph Clarke

This month’s interview is with Steph Clarke. I admire Steph for the intentionality that she has brought to each of her career moves. Most of us end up on a much more ‘accidental’ career path and it’s only on looking back, as Steve Jobs said, that we can ‘connect the dots’.

In 2017, Steph decided that in 2019 she would leave her corporate role within two years and she set about spending the next 18 months getting ‘2019 ready’, choosing her market and experimenting with offerings to set herself up for a successful transition. This is the work that my clients do in my One Step Outside the 9 to 5 group coaching programme, so of course I’m a fan!

You can watch the interview below and find the full interview transcript underneath.

From accountant to facilitator

steph-clarkeSteph is a ‘recovering accountant’ who has evolved her career from auditing to training to coaching to facilitating, now helping teams be better teams (while travelling the world in the process). She has always been intentional about her career moves, shifts and pivots and she now does the work she loves with clients she loves, solving some of theircurliest’ problems and collaborating with fantastic partners.

You can connect with Steph on LinkedIn and find her podcast, Steph’s Business Bookshelf, on her website.

1) At what moment did you decide it was time for a change?

Steph:              I suppose it depends how far back into before you want to go, but I always introduce myself as a recovering accountant. Sorry to all my accountant brethren out there who are still doing the good work of accounting. So I am a recovering accountant. I then moved into learning and development, and in the last 12 to 18 months, have moved into running my own business, helping teams be better teams.

Anna:               Amazing. That’s very succinct, very nice.

Steph:              Thanks.

Anna:               And you’re from the UK, but you’re based in Australia at the moment?

Steph:              Not just at the moment, hopefully, for a long period of time, but yes, I am now based in Australia.

Anna:               Okay, lovely. Okay, so let’s go back to I guess the original transition when you were still an accountant, what was it that made you leave and what did you have to recover from?

Steph:              What did I have to recover from, a lot of spreadsheets, but I suppose the pivot point or the sort of first initial pivot point to me was probably pretty quick and early on in my accounting career. So I was an auditor in one of the Big Four and within probably 12 to 18 months, and I actually joined straight from school, so I joined when I was 18, so I’d been probably doing that work for 12, 18 months and I realised even quite early on this isn’t really what I want to be doing and probably isn’t what I see myself doing longterm. But the training and the learning experience was so fantastic that I stuck with it for the next probably three to five years and then, moved into learning and development.

Steph:              But I’m kind of rewinding slightly back, so even when I realised 12, 18 months in that this wasn’t what I was going to want to be doing longer term, what I did see was a path out, which was into the learning and development or the training team who were helping the accountants or the auditors be better auditors.

Steph:              So what I did was I started running little training courses and things. So as new people came in, so our kind of interns and people, new graduates, et cetera, joining the firm, I started to kind of run little training sessions for them because I was all right, I won’t need to get approved in a couple of years’ time when I’m a qualified accountant and I’m allowed to go and train and be in the training team, I want to show that I’ve already got the experience and got over that first hurdle of training and standing in front of a group and distilling information. So I started doing that so that I could be ready.

Steph:              And then, I kind of then just forced my way into the learning and development team and never left and just hoped no one would notice.

Anna:               I think that’s such a clever sort of a cunning way of doing it, isn’t? I’ve got a client at the moment who’s looking to do something similar and it’s such a good idea to transition within the company even as you say without anyone almost noticing. You’re just sort of voluntarily running projects and looking at the transferable skills that you can develop without even taking any kind of risk in terms of leaving the company, not even leaving your job, so that’s fantastic. And it sounds-

Steph:              Yeah, yeah, so I did two jobs for a couple of years and kind of overlapped them and did accounting and then training, and then eventually decided that probably one job would be much more sensible because it’s quite full on doing two jobs and decided to then make that full move into the training.

Anna:               And did you right away know that learning and development was the field you wanted to go and did that sort of felt like a strong pull for you?

Steph:              Yeah, absolutely. And I really saw that it was not just that, again, training accountants was what I always wanted to do. I really enjoyed doing that and it was really good fun. I mean I just had some of the best times and laughs with people, particularly as in the UK, we do all of our courses as residential courses. We go off for five days to these hotels and just have a lot of fun and do some accounting training as well, which meant that … But what I could see was that there was a lot of variety within that field more broadly, but … Well, even at that stage, I didn’t even know the half of what I do now in terms of what you can do with training and learning and development. But I could see that it was more the pathway rather than necessarily that particular role was what I wanted to do forever.

Anna:               And in terms of then setting up your own business, what was the shift there that happened?

Steph:              So that’s fast forward quite a few years from when I initially moved into learning and development. So I mean I moved into L&D permanently in 2012, although I started [inaudible 00:04:20] work in 2009. So then fast forward, moved to Australia, did all those things, kind of transitioned more from technical accounting training into more leadership development soft skills. I hate that term, but that’s what everyone knows them as, soft skills, new manager training, that kind of stuff.

Steph:              And then, probably mid 2017, so we moved here 2014, mid 2017, I thought, what else am I going to do? Because I was looking around at … similar to, I’d done 10 or so years before, was looking around and thinking actually, the next role was here in the organisation. Are they really the roles that I want to go into in the next one, two, three, four, five years? And really, the answer was no and I really missed being client facing.

Steph:              So when I was an accountant, obviously, I was client facing and whilst I had obviously internal clients and it is similar, it is different at the same time and I really missed that, just that dynamic and that relationship of helping people solve problems and them asking you to solve problems rather than you kind of just appearing, which I think from an internal perspective, you do sometimes. So 2017, decided that 2018 was about getting 2019 ready and early 2019 was going to be the year that I left fully.

2) What was the biggest challenge you faced in making the change?

Anna:               So it all sounds very thought out, very organic over a long period of time. What were the challenges you came up against I guess initially maybe making the transition within the organisation and into a different kind of field, but then also setting up on your own?

Steph:              Yeah, it’s an interesting question and I probably haven’t thought about it in terms of the challenges. I think initially when I was especially thinking about what I wanted to do on my own, the biggest challenge was actually deciding what I wanted to do because there were so many different things and especially when you realise you’re going to leave. And I had this moment probably back end of last year as I was on the cusp of actually leaving rather than just winding down or getting ready to leave that I was like, “Oh, God, I could actually do anything. I don’t actually have to do what I’ve done for the last 10 or so years of my career,” and that was a massive kind of existential crisis as I realised the world was suddenly my oyster and I could go and be a chef if I wanted and I didn’t have to do … But anyway, so that was probably one of the challenges was just random existential crises. But the other challenge was probably deciding what I didn’t want to do. And then obviously, then working that into what I do want to do.

Anna:               That is the hardest thing. And as you say, it’s an existential crisis because you’re questioning the entire identity you’ve had potentially even, you’ve studied for something, you’ve got into something and that is the path you’re following and suddenly, you could become anything, an astronaut, a ballerina, whatever it is. And that’s exciting, it’s also scary and overwhelming. You could go anywhere in the world.

Steph:              Yeah, oh, less of the ballerina, but yeah, yeah.

Anna:               Those are my sort of childhood desires, but yes, now are no longer possible, but in theory, there are … I think those are the two things you actually can’t be, but most things in the world you could theoretically consider, even retraining to be a doctor or a lawyer.

Steph:              Absolutely.

Anna:               Right, there are things. So that is quite overwhelming. And what helps you then to work out and to narrow down the field and to not become a chef for example?

Steph:              I don’t know, that might still be on the cards in the future so let’s not rule that one out completely, but it was coming back to what do I know and what do I like, and even what do I love in the work I do and the impact I can have. And when I narrowed that down, so initially, when I was thinking about leaving or in 2017 when I was making the plan to in the next 18 months to leave, I was thinking, right, okay, well, I could be a coach because everyone could be a coach apparently. And I have done coach training and accreditations and things, so I’m not completely just throwing things around, but when I did a bit of that and so I picked up a few coaching clients and started doing that, and I just realised actually, this really isn’t the work I want to do. I could not imagine spending my days just doing one on one stuff. That is just not my happy place.

Steph:              I love group work, I love working with teams and groups rather than just individuals. I do a bit of coaching and I do like the coaching I do because I do it in moderation, but … So that for me was the first thing. And then just going, “Oh, hang on. That was what I thought was going to go and do,” and I was going to have this whole laptop lifestyle of being able to coach wherever I was in the world and all of those good things that we see and read on the internet and think, “Oh, clearly that’s what everyone’s going to do.”

Steph:              So then it was getting back to, well, what am I good at? What do I like doing and how can I best apply those skills to a problem that I think is a problem big enough and fun enough and interesting enough to want to solve and to continue to solve? Because one of my challenges is definitely finding something that I can see as being interesting for more than about six months.

Anna:               Well, that’s interesting in terms of, as you say, we’ve heard of the sort of superficial social media posts on the laptop lifestyle and then coach, everyone’s a coach, and what does that mean? But then actually, is it something I enjoy? And to be honest, coaching, I always say, is just a set of skills. As you’re finally growing, you can now combine that with training, presenting. Obviously, I do group programmes – you don’t have to just do one on one working from home… But I think like we were joking about sort of astronaut, ballerina, chef and so on, but those are very black and white jobs. As we had in our school career services, you can be a librarian or a veterinarian, whatever, the reality is now you can, as you finally can create your dream career as they say, but you really can create that portfolio career and maybe you can also explore the chef piece alongside.

Anna:               I’d love to probe a bit deeper to that. I’m just interested because I find that often, we sort of land an escape plan, which is great and it’s better and we love it, but it’s still sort of transition. It’s not quite maybe that crazy dream that we have. So I’d love to hear more about that if you don’t mind sharing.

Steph:              Oh, I don’t know what the crazy dream is sometimes and sometimes I have different, every day has a different crazy dream as to what I could be or what I could do. And I think because I see career as such a long-term thing, for me, the really exciting thing is yeah, I might do something or one of the things I’m doing for the next five, 10 years, but I don’t know, maybe when I’m 40, I’ll go and do something completely different and have a whole other career. So I think that’s really exciting and seeing career is not something that ends at 60.

Steph:              For me, certainly my intent is to stay fit and well and healthy enough and have that real longevity and health span, not just lifespan and job span. So something that spans into my 80s if I can and to continue working and continue building a portfolio career and a really interesting one because to me, work is such a big part of our lives and I do really enjoy work and working. So I want that part of my life, which is a significant part, to be fun and interesting and varied, and that to me is really exciting.

Anna:               It is really exciting and it takes some of the pressure off as well, doesn’t it? So you don’t have to find that one career that you’re going to do the rest of your life and this solves all your problems. Like actually right now, I’m following my curiosity, I’m enjoying this, and then who knows in future.

Steph:              Yeah. And who knows when we all have universal basic income, we can go and do whatever work we want because it won’t matter, right.

Anna:               Yes. Well, I mean to be honest, the career path is evolving, right? And what you described as maybe unusual as it sounds compared to historical career paths, that is what more and more of us are getting to do. We can’t retire at 60 and we both want to and need to find a way to create longer and different careers so …

Steph:              Absolutely, yeah.

Anna:               Okay. And in terms of I guess specifically setting up on your own as well, what support did you get? Did you right away know exactly how to run your own business and how to market yourself and so on, or where did you get help to do that?

3) Where did you get the support you needed to make it happen?

Steph:              Good question. I did a couple of different things. So I followed a few people on Facebook and Instagram and all of those things who share good advice in that way. I read a lot so I picked up a lot from the books I read and I have a podcast about books. So that obviously helped me then build the reading list for starting your own business. And obviously, spoke to people I knew. And really, a big part of getting ready to leave was rebuilding or building a network because I realised when I thought about leaving, 18 months out, 12 months out or whatever, that my network was very old employer-focused, which was fine and actually, that has absolutely worked in my favour, but I probably wasn’t really building or using or leveraging that network as much as I could and connecting with people in a meaningful way.

Steph:              So what I’ve been able to do is do that and that obviously, helped me learn because some of those had gone to do their own thing or had previously done their own thing. Someone I used to work with who I was really close to and I’m still really close to, she had run her own business previously, so she was a great wealth of advice, which was excellent.


Steph:              And then just doing case studies and reading case studies and reading things about what works, what doesn’t work, but also finding my own way of doing it because I did a couple of kind of I’d say courses that are pretty light, but kind of courses and coaching programmes and I just thought that’s actually not my idea of how to run a business, and just found that it was such a cookie cutter, you must do these things, then you must advertise here and then, you must build a Facebook group or whatever. And I said well, actually that doesn’t fit with the work I want to do and the problems I want to solve. So let’s take the best bits of here and the best bits of there rather than taking one method and doing that.

Anna:               I love that. As I don’t know how much you know about my philosophy, but the whole idea of redefining success and creating your own ideal career and your own version of that is so powerful and I think … In fact, I was listening to a podcast yesterday where they were talking about a lot of these, as you say, cookie-cutter programmes, whether they’ve got hundreds and thousands of people in their programme, by the time you’ve taught that strategy to those hundreds of thousands of people, that strategy is no longer going to work anyway because if everyone’s doing that, then of course, you’re no longer unique. So I love that that you’re of course doing the market research and understanding what people are working on, but then you’re taking the bits that actually don’t fit with the way I want to run my business or who I am.

Steph:              Yeah, also where my clients are.

Anna:               Yeah.

Steph:              Yeah, also who my clients are or where they are. Because well, I could go and start some Facebook thing, but actually, that’s not really going to work for who I’m actually targeting.

Anna:               Well, that’s also not targeted to, yeah, corporate clients. So that’s not a great course if they’re telling you all to do that regardless of your business and …

Steph:              No.

Anna:               But that’s also great that you had the confidence and the awareness not to sort of get caught up in the excitement of, “Oh my gosh, this guru is telling me these things and I have to follow that.” It does, again, it makes it sort of harder I suppose because it’d be easier if somebody just gave you the magical steps to success, but of course, unfortunately, that’s never the case really.

Steph:              Yeah. Yeah, and you see that a lot. And I think that’s the thing that’s really easy to get sucked into is that there are these gurus out there and they’re making huge amounts of money and the numbers in their courses are phenomenal, and people are getting results from those courses. So it’s not to say that they don’t know anything of what they’re talking about, but the danger is that some of them and the one end of the spectrum of them will do the “Oh, if you don’t stick to this,” or “For people who this doesn’t work for, they’re just not tough enough or they can’t stick it out or they just don’t do everything we say so that’s why they fail,” rather than actually that actually maybe this method just isn’t right for those people and the business they want to do.

Steph:              And there’s a bit of element of truth in all of those things, but I think it’s very easy it’d be, and I find it slightly concerning sometimes to read that stuff because I just think who is that? Because the people that’s targeting to and gets in, I wonder if they have that confidence or that awareness to know that actually maybe this just isn’t the thing for you and it’s not you.

Anna:               Yeah. You’re so right, and I think they don’t. I think you’re coming across very sort of clear and you had that conviction about what you wanted to do and how you’re going to do it and so on. I think unfortunately, many people don’t have that. And as you say, I think if you’ve got thousands of people in your programme, of course, there’s going to be a few success stories of people going, “Oh, yeah, I made six figures in six weeks or whatever.” But there’s going to be probably the vast majority who are struggling, and then you begin to feel, hang on, what am I doing wrong? I’ve been following this exactly, and I’ve been investing and showing up and doing everything, and yet not getting the results. So I think you’re right and it’s a difficult one to solve I guess, but hopefully, people watching this really just take heart and be reassured that actually there is no right answer. It’s about finding what works for you and for your clients.

Steph:              Yeah. Yeah.

Anna:               Great. Well, great discussion then. What about the best part of what you’re doing right now in both lifestyle, work, maybe Australia? What is it that you’re enjoying most now in this new phase, this current phase I guess I should say of your life?

4) What’s the best part of your lifestyle today?

Steph:              I think it’s got to be the collaborations and I’ve been really lucky to have worked with some really fantastic people, both clients, but also, other organisations or groups or companies that I’ve worked with and done some projects with, which has just been fantastic. And the quality of relationships you build during those projects is stuff that will stick with you. And just you can kind of see you look forward and will see yourselves growing together or you maybe not always collaborating, but just kind of alongside each other as co-people, co-humans, which I think is really nice.steph-clarke-ice-cream

Steph:              So for me, it’s been the relationships and just I’ve been posting this week on LinkedIn last week about the 10 things I learnt about myself, but also about the lessons just from working for myself. And there’s probably two things that have been my favourite parts have been A, of course … Okay, three things. Number one, obviously, the flexibility. Now, obviously, I run in-person programmes for clients and there’s an element of travel involved so there’s an element of inflexibility, too, because if I’m running a workshop that day, I can’t be like, “Oh, today looks like a great beach day. I’m going to do that instead.” So yeah, flexible inflexibility.

Steph:              The other two parts would be creating your own team or you’re creating your own colleagues and finding those people around you. Both people in organisations, not just other solopreneurs or freelancers doing their own thing, but building your own colleagues network and finding new places to work and building those things.

Steph:              And then the third thing would be creating your own learning and development plan, which is always something I’ve done anyway quite naturally because I’ve always been inclined to own my own development, but actually having the complete freedom to do that and be like, “No, I want to learn a bit of graphic design because that would supplement some of the stuff I’m doing in my businesses and some of the output documents I’m doing or in some of the podcast artwork and things like that.” So being able to have that freedom of deciding what skills it is you need and realising that those aren’t as linear as corporate learning and development programmes would have you believe sometimes.

Anna:               I love that last one. I mean I’m such a fan of learning always and it’s so true. I’m now reflecting a little bit late in the day at the end of the year thinking about who I’m going to work with in the year and what new skills and things I want to learn, but again, it’s sort of a little bit scary and new because in our old corporate jobs, we would’ve been told this is the programme you should go on, this is the training. And as you say, that’s a good-

Steph:              I’ll have written that programme.

Anna:               There you go. Well, see, that’s especially interesting. And it’s a great programme, but obviously, then the company’s paying for it and so on, so that almost transitions into the next question, which is the advice you’d give, and I think that’s a great piece of advice already to make sure you’re budgeting for your own learning and development programme as you said. But what other advice would you give to someone both either who’s maybe the accountant sort of type of role and looking to watch, how on earth should I start navigating and then also, yeah, anything else you want to share over the last few years of learning?

5) What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is considering making a big career or lifestyle change?

Steph:              Probably a couple of things. Number one would be intentional and have a plan even if the plan is to not have a plan, but knowing what you want to get out of that period of time, which is maybe more experimentation and really seeing that time is right. I’m going to go and find out what works for me, what I like doing, and whether you have to do that on the side, whether you can reduce your hours.

Steph:              So in 2018 I actually reduced my hours at work to four days a week and it was probably the biggest investment I made in my business and in myself is to go, “If I’m going to make this work, I can’t just do it in the evenings and the weekends,” because funny enough with a corporate audience, no one wants to do a workshop on a Saturday. So I know amazing, but … So giving yourself that first step to succeed and letting yourself succeed rather than being, “Oh, well, I get to the end of the year and haven’t done that or haven’t invested in that,” and being “Oh, see, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it,” so I think doing-

Anna:               Oh, that’s really interesting because you can get stuck in that. It sounds very sensible and is a good transition plan as you say to do this gradual process side hustle and so on, but if you then get stuck, as you say, you kind of get comfortable in that comfort zone of “Oh, yeah, I’m kind of dabbling in a little bit.” And as you say, “I can’t even do any client work because I’m just sort of refining my website for the 30th time.” So that’s a really interesting point. It’s almost a second pivot point. Yes, I’ve started my business, but now, I need to actually … And again to go part time of course is another great gradual step rather than throwing it all in before you even have any clients.

Steph:              Absolutely, and obviously, I’m not going to even get into the politics or the different organisations’ or industries’ views on that, but that’s something you need to navigate yourself and have again, the confidence to and conviction in yourself to have that conversation in the best way you do. I wouldn’t suggest trying to hide it because eventually, that is going to bite you in the bum somewhere or another.

Steph:              Anyway, the other thing would be, as you said, to invest in your own development and think about in advance what you need to learn, what skills you need and actually be honest with yourself and get others to input to that if you’ve got those around you. And find other people who are … always find someone who’s at least one year ahead because they can just give you that first … just that little bit of extra like, “Oh, you’re going to come up against this in the next six months.” “Okay, cool.” But then also find people who are three, five, 10 years ahead because they can give obviously different perspectives and things.

Anna:               Yeah, to lift you up.

Steph:              So I think having someone who’s only just ahead of you is really useful. Sorry, my ears are really weird shaped so these headphones never fit in. So I’m sorry. So that’s why I’m just like this the whole time.

Steph:              Anyway, the other piece of advice would be … So find people around you, be intentional and experiment and set yourself up for success. And the other thing would just be to probably to have fun because this is what it should be. And I think if you’re [inaudible 00:21:21] yourself just before you’ve even started, I would wonder how you’re going to cope when you actually have some real problems to deal with in terms of that invoice hasn’t been paid yet or whatever so …

Steph:              And on that note, there probably is the thing around just being sensible about what financial commitments you’ve got, what runway you need, just the really practical stuff that everyone knows, but not everyone necessarily I think really thinks about or does something about so spend … And that was the other reason I took probably 18 months to do mine is because in the background, I was building up that runway and that cashflow so that I did have the cushion that I needed or should I need it particularly for the first few months plus building that pipeline of clients so that when I was ready to go, I was ready to go because a few people-

Anna:               I think all those pieces of-

Steph:              Oh, sorry. I was just going to say because I’ve had a couple of people approach me who maybe have just been made redundant or their jobs have been put at risk or something over …and this is over the last 12 months, not necessarily recently, and said, “Right, what do I do now because I want to start my own thing? I’ve just been made redundant or about to be. My job has been put at risk. What do I do?” And I’m like, “Well, unfortunately, the answer is start 12 months ago and don’t wait until you’re in that position where now ” … Obviously, again if you get massive pay out or whatever, obviously, there’s different situations. But in general, that is not the time to be suddenly deciding what you want to do, building a network, all of that stuff, which takes time.

Anna:               What’s very interesting about that is I hear again and again people and close to me too saying, “I want that push,” and “Oh, it’s a good thing,” and so on, but it’s very strange because we don’t want to make ourselves uncomfortable and yet somehow, we’re very happy to let someone else push us over the cliff, which is a bit of a sort of a conundrum I think. And as you say, that the best time would have been before when you’re not at risk at all to be as you have been leveraging your LinkedIn, to getting your profiles in order, to maybe up-skilling in new areas to just reflecting.

Anna:               And I think all your other advice ties in so well because the financial piece is so critical. While you’re being intentional about what you’re currently doing, whether that is actually learning something or doing something concrete, which tends to be where we all lean into. I’ve got to take action. I’m going to do this course and I’m going to do that and get a website. But actually, as you said, and I love that, too, and I’ve written about that as well in terms of the experimentation and exploration, it’s so critical. But when we first leave, and especially if we don’t have that full-time job, then it’s an initial euphoria of, “Oh, my gosh, this is incredible.” But soon enough, the money isn’t coming in and suddenly, we get stressed and we start sort willy-nilly-

Steph:              Doing anything.

Anna:               Doing anything, scattergun applying to jobs we know we don’t want and so … whereas if we’ve gone, okay, we know I have, as say this one work can just about manage until June. That means I’m going to spend the two first months not making any decisions, just exploring, reflecting, travelling, enjoying and then … Because if we have that deadline at least then, we know, okay, well this is exploration time and it is a really important part of the process.

Anna:               I also had another podcast, I’m a big fan of podcasts as well, but they were talking about how when you’ve just broken up with someone, a bad relationship, the advice would be to have a man ban as they called it. You wouldn’t then rush straight into the next one. So I think if you have been let’s say made redundant or left and you don’t know what you want, the last thing you want to do is rush into a new business or role or anything. And actually having a bit of time to find out who you are as a single person, then is really good advice as well. So, love all of those points-

Steph:              Yeah. And I almost would argue, and again, everyone’s answer different, so whatever, but caveat, but I’d almost argue in that situation where you’ve just been burnt, you’ve just been hurt from being made redundant, especially if it was unexpected, you’re almost better off going to another job, licking your wounds, doing something you know you can do and then going, “Right, I’m not going to let that happen to me again.” Let’s spend the next 12, 18 months, whatever, building your exit strategy from that job, unless you suddenly find your dream job obviously, and [inaudible 00:25:01] that. And that’s only obviously if you’ve got that intention to go and do your own thing or start something, but otherwise …

Steph:              But I think someone said to me the other week, which I just thought was fantastic and I’m going to use it forevermore, is once you’ve worked for yourself, you’re kind of invincible because nothing can really scare you. So even if you went back to another job, even if you were made redundant, even if something happened, if you’ve worked for yourself, you know you can do it. If you know if you’ve worked for yourself, you know you can be okay out on your own.

Anna:               I love that. I’m not sure if I … I mean I certainly feel that way, but I’ve seen others. I’m not sure. I think it’s so easy to get into your comfort zone again. And I think if you are to go back to a job, I think you’d very quickly potentially lose the sort of strength or resilience you have I think unfortunately, but I do love the point and I was going to say the same thing. So thanks for making that, in terms of taking another role, it feels like you’re taking a step back and so on, and of course, you have to be very intentional again to make sure you’re not taking a role that’s incredibly demanding and stressful and you won’t be able to have the energy to explore.

Anna:               And by the way, whether you want to start a business or go into different direction, right, because unless you have, as you say, a lot of savings, a very understanding spouse, whatever it is, you do need time and you will need the income. So it’s again playing the long game, knowing that you’ve got many years to find your dream career and to build that. So in the meantime, take something that’s sort of at least giving you the peace of mind, that financial security while you then do what you should have maybe done 12 months ago as you said. So I think that’s really sensible. Not so exciting, not maybe so popular advice, but really, yeah, very good step in terms of laying the foundations towards then actually making a sustainable escape and not just kind of throwing stuff out there and then, panicking and going back into the job that you left in the first place.

Steph:              Yeah, and it’s a really point you make around if you did work for yourself and then went into another role for whatever reason, you’re right, you’d have to actually maintain that mentality and learning and self-direction and all the rest and the discipline that it requires. Otherwise, yeah, you would absolutely regress to being kind of comfortable and then, being, yeah, potentially something changing and being made redundant or whatever, and then it will kind of spiral-

Anna:               But to some extent, and this is a whole other conversation I guess, but I feel like it’s that, I haven’t heard that phrase in a while, but the entrepreneur concept and a little bit about-

Steph:              Which I like, yeah.

Anna:               … when I talk about personal branding, I tend to talk to entrepreneurs or freelancers, whatever we want to call ourselves, but I do think that that’s so important for someone in even a traditional career path as we said at the beginning, that’s not going to be the case anymore and you need to work on your personal branding, you need to put yourself out there, you need to build your resilience and take ownership of your own learning development regardless. So I think almost being like a CEO of your own career and being a business or even though you don’t actually work for yourself, I think is good advice for those people out there who are still navigating in their career and who knows what will happen in the future anyway.

Steph:              Yeah, and I absolutely, so if I’m ever talking to people internally who are looking to build their career or anything, yeah, the biggest piece of advice I give people is act as if someone’s paying you. And I know that’s funny because obviously, they are being paid because they’re doing a job and they’re getting I assume some kind of salary, but it’s act as if you are invoicing someone for that work because it’s a very different mentality to just getting a paycheck versus having that mindset of I’m going to pretend I am contracting to this person, I am running my business as the accountant or as the marketing person or as the learning and development person, whatever your role is, pretend that you are actually invoicing for your time, your services, et cetera. And what would you do differently if you were running your role as your own business? Because I’d imagine there’s quite a few things.

Anna:               I love that as practise for when you do run your own business because it is a bit of a rude awakening otherwise, right, suddenly and just having to ask people for money rather than having that paycheck regardless of what you do. So today, I’ve just been sort of faffing around on this presentation and yet I still get paid. Whereas if you’re going to actually, and you know I’ve recently had a baby and I’ve got very few hours in the day so it’s very important that the hour is no, no, I need to be either helping a client or talking to a potential client or … It suddenly becomes very, very different. So I love that. I haven’t heard that before. So that’s great advice as well.

Steph:              And I think even regardless, whether you’re looking to run your own business or not, that advice I think still stands. If you want to stand out in your company, if you want to get promoted, also, if you want to be more retainable should things change, especially in Australia where probably, everyone, there’s talk of we’re kind of overdue a downturn or whatever, if you want to be the person who stands out and in all of those good ways, be the one who stands out in all those good ways by running it as if you’re running your business. Because I think it just does challenge your mindset around, as you say, efficiency, but also the quality of the service you’re doing for your internal or external clients. So I think it really does challenge that mindset.

Anna:               Well, I love that and I think there’s a lot of advice there even if people aren’t quite ready yet to take the leap and so on, then actually to explore, to begin thinking of yourself as sort of an entrepreneur and as you say, to lay the groundwork even if you have no thought of leaving anytime soon. Because often I speak to and say, “Oh, yeah, maybe at some point,” but okay as you said, before you’re made redundant or before you have that urge to leave, before you burn out, before enough is enough and you reach that trigger point, make sure you’re doing as much as you can sort of just to build the foundation and then, you’ll really have that springboard.

Steph:              Yeah, definitely before you hate your job, that’s my-

Anna:               Exactly. Too late then.

Steph:              My thing is in all of my roles, it’s always been the mentality of quit while you’re ahead.

Anna:               Yeah. But that is difficult and I have to say I admire you say much because hearing you talk, you have I feel like done all the right things and to disrupt yourself even like an industry or a company, right, is a very tricky thing. When you’re riding high you’re sort of, “Oh, yeah, coasting along, this is going so well.” And that’s as you say, probably the time when if you really want to have a successful career and enjoy yourself, you should be thinking proactively and building … It’s very difficult for many of us, especially when we’re already tired and busy and have all these things going on, so fantastic advice, harder to implement in reality, but I think good to think about and see how we can then take that on board.

Anna:               Well, look, I want to wrap up since we’re at the end of our time together, but thank you so much for sharing your story and where can we find you? I’d love to get the name of your podcast that you’re talking about as well and wherever else you want to send people to find out more about what you do.

Steph:              Yeah, so LinkedIn is probably the best place, which I’m sure you can put a link in the notes to this, but it’s Steph-Clarke, it’s got an E on the end if you’re looking for me on there. And the podcast is called Steph’s Business Bookshelf, which is wherever you get your podcasts from and also, there’s a website which is and you can find all the episodes, but it’s on Spotify, Apple, Google, all those good places-

Anna:               Perfect. I’ll make sure to subscribe to that and add that to my many lists of podcasts I’m following. Well, that sounds great so-

Steph:              Yeah. Well, it will save you time. It will save you time.

Anna:               I was going to say so I guess there’s a summary of sort of key or do you just … Just tell us more about the format. What do you do on the podcast?

Steph:              Yeah, so the concept of the podcast is to help busy, ambitious people still do the learning that they want, but while they’re on their commute. So the episodes are commuter distance or the commuter length, and it’s the three big ideas from the best nonfiction books so marketing, psychology, business biographies, autobiographies, everything in between is covered on the podcast.

Anna:               Love that. So no excuses, you guys watching now. If you think you don’t have time, listen to it on the commute and begin your learning development journey as well as an internal entrepreneur. Great. Well, thank you so much, Steph-

Steph:              Thanks, Anna.

Anna:               … for sharing some really fantastic insights there. So hopefully, you guys have been watching and maybe even go back and watch a few clips again because I think it’s worth really taking notes and thinking about a few of these steps. So thank you so much, Steph. Really happy to hear and how far you’ve come in your career journey and excited to hear more about the future maybe in the next … Well, I don’t know how old you are-  But many years until you’re 80 plus, many decades ahead. So I’m sure there’ll be more twists and turns.

Steph:              We’ll do an annual one in like 60 years, we’ll be like …

Anna:               Or every decade, yes, exactly, massive changes every time. No, but fantastic. Well, congratulations and thanks so much for your time.

Steph:              Thanks, Anna. Thanks. Bye.


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