Very few people wake up one morning, spring from the shower and go quit their job to embark on an entirely new career path, just like that.
Even fewer do it completely on their own, reliant on their own income only to make ends. How exactly did I make that leap from hobby to career without a set path laid out by a specialist recruitment/careers advisor, graduate scheme, or apprenticeship?
I came to my decision to leave a comfortable career for the unpredictable world of cooking, recipe development and teaching, after years of dreaming about it. It was obvious that the thing I did best and cared most about was working towards a healthy life. One avenue for this was seeking out, preparing and eating whole, healthful foods.
Everyone’s experience is different, but my path followed these steps, which I hope can serve as guidance for you as well:
I asked myself, where am I now and where do I want to be?
Is it your current career or your current job you want to leave? When I was struggling with this question, I assumed it was my career, although with a dying parent, my emotional life was in turmoil too. Just to check, I went to a job interview at a similar organisation to the one where I was working. It completely confirmed that I needed a new way of doing things, and that it had to be about sharing my love of healthful nutritious cooking.
I explored and studied
Education is an invaluable tool, and will help you find your own personal voice in an industry full of noisy contradictions. It will expand your mind, your networks and do nothing but grow your passion. Find a long course, a short course or a day-course – preferably taught by professionals offering well researched science-based nutritional advice or pro cooking expertise.
Before I made the huge and expensive decision to undertake a natural chef course at Bauman College on the other side of the world, I tested the waters with some courses close to home. A short course in nutrition at College of Naturopathic Medicine in London, and a week long cookery course at Ashburton Cookery School in Devon taught me so much, and not just about food.
I cut down on weekends and volunteered
I used my spare day to get my blog in tip-top condition, organized a pop up tea for charity, helped in the kitchen at a pop-up restaurant, volunteered for Food Blogger Connect and wrote for a number of publications to grow my audience. I also grew my network by writing to people in the industry and asking for an informal meeting over coffee. My contacts list still grows steadily. Think about it this way – if you don’t introduce yourself to the world, how are they going to know you are there?
An internship, preferably well structured with learning opportunities for professional development, is one of the best ways to see the depth and breadth of the natural foods industry. Made In Hackney take on volunteers to help at their cookery classes, and I wish this opportunity had been around 2 years ago!
I utilise my hard-won skills from my former career
I was a project and events manager for an orchestra for ten years. It’s silly to ignore those nifty skills I worked hard to develop. So I now use those skills to organise pop ups, cooking classes, help out with Food Blogger Connect and have recently had the opportunity to add freelance admin work in project management to my portfolio career.
Accounting, photography, and marketing have never been my area, so I don’t pretend to be expert at them now. Instead I aim to seek out advice or courses to sharpen my skills and gain knowledge in the fields I am unfamiliar with.
I refuse to be scared – I try everything in my new field
And I don’t expect to get any of it right the first time. In the 18 months since I left my safe job, I acquired a certification as a Natural Chef, spent eight months working as a chef in a café, organised a pop up market stall, a pop up afternoon tea, made healthful wedding truffles and a wedding cake, worked at a number of cooking schools, led my own workshops and demos, wrote articles for magazines, and developed recipes for brands. Some of these ‘jobs’ didn’t earn me a penny, but most did. I’m still growing and learning and finding out what people want from a Natural Chef, as well as what I want to deliver.
I refuse to give up
I constantly remind myself that what I have to give is unique. Even in in a crowded industry, there is place for each of us, too. We all have the same goal of promoting good health. We can support each other and grow ourselves and this industry into a professionally respected and supported one.
Always come back to your motivations and your passions to spur you forwards. When you are a solo entrepreneur working mostly from home, the fridge is near, loneliness stalks you, and unproductive faffing around is a given. But I am now the mistress of my owndestiny, and wouldn’t change it for the world.