Once upon a time, there was this strong conviction that one should spend all their life in the same career. Starting young, you would raise the career ladder step after step, and your salary would progress accordingly. What this fairy tale didn’t say is that we don’t live in an ideal world neither in a stable economy. But as human beings, we have all dreams, ambitions and talents. And also, we need to pay the bills and make ends meet.
In many cases, a career change is not a slow and well-thought process. It just happens. You may start after university by taking a job that is giving you a salary or some experience but is not matching your ambitions. Then, later on, the right opportunity comes across, and you can’t say no. Or you may have been in a very comfortable, steady and safe job for years and suddenly suffer a redundancy. You may then realise that you have so many skills and talents and that you are a multipotential o mulitpotentialite – a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life.
Multipotentials are people who get bored very quickly if the environment does not stimulate them. Because of their knowledge in different fields, they are capable of gathering a significant amount of information about a specific topic in a short amount of time, and they can apply that knowledge to any situation. They are also able to take on different roles and functions within an organisation.
Now, how much different is this positive concept from the negative one of job-hopping? Is it that easier to change the negative stigma associated with career and job change among recruiters and hiring managers?
Why do so many people feel they have to hide their real professional experience in their CV’s, to be taken seriously when job hunting? What is so threatening or unprofessional in a CV’s that shows that someone is open to use all their talents and skills during their professional lives?
Is it staying in the same job or career day after day, year after year, more valuable than someone that has multiple talents, skills and the courage to change?
Recruiters and the job market are generally not very open to the prospect of hiring “career changers” or “multipotentialities”. This has become something more evident than ever, after the wave of redundancies and job losses caused by the COVID19. You just need to scroll your LinkedIn feed to see how many people have voiced this issue.
Today, for The Career Changers Interview, we met Katiuscia Colombaro Flanagan, a professed multipotentialite. Katiuscia has an incredible career change story, that shows how an individual can go through life and overcome its challenges by making themselves flexible and open to use their skills and talents. She is the one that introduced me to the positive concept of multipotentialite – a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life – versus the negative one of job-hopping.
For Katiuscia the career change door opportunity opened after she was made redundant in a job she loved as Financial Service Administrator. After that she experienced life as a Chocolate Taster, (yes that’s correct!), Italian Teacher, Cat sitter, and lately Client Success Associate for a FinTech. And she is still dreaming of becoming a Sommelier!
What is your educational background?
I studied accountancy and modern foreign languages (English and German) in Italy.
How many languages do you speak?
I speak Italian, my native language, English, Spanish and some German. I have always liked foreign languages. When I moved in the UK, I first went to college to improve my English and then also decided to learn Spanish. I would love to learn Russian and Japanese and would cherish the opportunity to travel and practice those languages.
What difference has the knowledge of these languages made in your life?
Learning English has helped me to find rewarding jobs and to settle down and integrate in the UK. It has broadened my mind and allowed me to be part of a multicultural community here in the UK – English is often used as lingua franca amongst foreigners.
Which job did you want to do when you were a child?
I have always had lots of interests and can’t remember exactly what I wanted to do. I went through a phase of wanting to become a doctor; however, maths and science were not my strong subjects at school.
How did you become a Financial Services Administrator?
I worked for a large insurance company for over ten years, initially in life assurance and then in pensions administration. I started off working full time and then reduced my hours when I had my daughter in 2005, the company operated a flexi-working system and they were very supportive of working parents. Sadly, I was made redundant in 2010.
So, you were made redundant and lost a job you love. How did you feel at the time?
I felt disappointed and disheartened. Still, the company gave us plenty of warning (they told us about the redundancies one year in advance), and they also paid for us to go on CV writing and job interview courses, which were extremely helpful. Consequently, the vast majority of my colleagues, including myself, managed to find jobs straightaway.
What did you do after your redundancy?
For the following four years, I worked for two pensions companies, as a full-time administrator. The long hours, the unmanageable deadlines, the lack of training and support and the stressful environment took a toll on me, so much so that I decided to leave and never go back to pensions again, despite my extensive experience and good salary.
Where did you go after leaving that job?? How did that happen?
Talk about that experience. I was frightened and full of doubts, I had not realised my full potential and, initially, finding another job or jobs was extremely difficult. Surprisingly, my career path took lots of different directions as I started taking on different part-time jobs in disparate fields ranging from education to sensory evaluation and e-commerce, just to mention a few. After a few months of searching, I started a part-time job, working eight hours per week, as a sensory panellist, initially tasting gum and candy, then cocoa beverages and chocolate, for a large confectionery company. Yes, I know what you are thinking, getting paid to eat chocolate? That sounds like a dream job, and indeed it was. At the same time, I advertised as a private Italian tutor and quickly found some students, so I was teaching both adults and teenagers and spreading my love for languages. Those two jobs were not enough for me, so, after a few months, I managed to find a part-time position as a customer service advisor in an e-commerce firm selling music merchandise. I was in charge of returns, damages and PayPal disputes, and this was another dream job for me because I finally got to work in the music industry! Not satisfied with three jobs, there was one year when I took on a temporary part-time job as a social media evaluator, surveying adverts on my mobile in my spare time. It was through that job that I signed up for a famous cat sitting website and also started working as a cat sitter!
What life and transferable skills have you learned from these jobs?
I discovered that I could adapt quickly to new environments and could work with people from different backgrounds while communicating successfully with everyone. Performing a variety of roles throughout the day allowed me to wear “different hats” and push my boundaries. I especially enjoyed my one-to-one relationship with students, and the fact that they passed their Italian exams made me feel very proud and satisfied. Building a portfolio of regular “furry” clients in my catsitting job has also been enormously gratifying; I love cats, and I understand how people find working with animals so rewarding. I also enjoyed getting to know their owners and building their trust while ensuring they left positive feedback on my profile.
How and when did you start thinking about changing career?
I started considering a new career (another one?) a couple of years ago. The confectionery company I worked for decided to move to another town, the news was heartbreaking for everyone! Initially, I decided to stay on and give it a go: I managed to negotiate a change of working hours, and the company paid for the first year of transport to the new site. Tasting chocolate was fantastic. However, this type of role can only be performed for a couple of hours a day due to the nature of the food, which is high in sugar (you need to watch your diet!). Once the company stopped subsidising the transport costs, the journey was no longer worth the effort and I still had my other job in e-commerce to go to every day. To help me make a decision, I wrote down a list of pros and cons and finally decided it was time to move on.
What challenges did you have to overcome to start your new career?
I didn’t want to go back to pensions; however, I thought my experience in Financial Services would help me open up a new path, and I applied for a full-time position as a Client Success Associate for a FinTech company. Passing all the three interview stages was a challenge in itself; for the final interview I was told I had to prepare a presentation, this took me by surprise as the job description did not mention presentations. In the end, I decided to turn the presentation into a game called gamification. It’s a method that motivates students to learn by using video game design and game elements in learning environments. I sometimes use it with my students to make learning more fun and interactive. Luckily my gamble paid off! I started a few weeks later, and I must admit the first few months were a real challenge. I worked very hard to learn how to use the software tools sold by the company so that I could fully support clients and colleagues alike. The role also involved delivering online webinars and training to clients and, despite my initial fears, I excelled in this field.
What are the highlights and lowlights of your job?
Let’s start with the bad ones: the lowlights are the long hours and the client base consisting of a lot of financial advisers who struggle with basic IT skills and get easily frustrated. The highlights are delivering online webinars and training and establishing a good relationship with my accounts – I have actually never met any of my clients in person. Still, I managed to build a bond by providing constant support and “holding their hand” while they find their way through the company’s software. The role also involves a lot of patience and resilience, a skill which I developed while teaching Italian.
What is your typical day?
Every day is different as I never know what kind of customer queries I am going to receive and these can be via email or over the phone. We do not use live chat which I am currently championing as an additional tool to communicate with clients. I volunteer to get involved in different projects and often help our marketing department and our finance department, I like the concept of being “a team of teams”, and the company is very inclusive and supportive.
Where do you see yourself in the future? What are you enjoying the most?
There is still some variety in my working life even though I only have one student now and have cut down on catsitting appointments. Ideally, I would prefer to work part-time again, perhaps in five- or six years. I still have a keen interest in sensory evaluation and would consider becoming a qualified sommelier. I have recently signed up for an online course in social media marketing, which I am planning to complete by the end of the summer. I love online learning as it’s very flexible and can be done from the comfort of your home.
Why do you think changing a career is a good thing?
Unless you are an absolute specialist in your field of expertise, you can change careers as many times as you like or need to or you could have various careers at the same time. A few years ago, I discovered a fantastic website for people with different careers and projects in their lives; it’s called puttylike.com, a home for multipotentialities! You can take the test and find out which type of multipotentialite you are; I am a simultaneous multipotentialite, running different jobs and projects at the same time but you could be a sequential multipotentiality, changing from one job to the next. The website provides help and support, and you can find guides on topics like how to write your CV when you have a portfolio career or how to manage different projects at the same time.
Has your career been impacted by the coronavirus in any way?
I have been extremely lucky and so glad I work for a software company who has been well prepared and supportive during lockdown. We are all working from home, and I am enjoying it. I find it easier to concentrate, and I am saving about an hour or more every day on travelling and getting ready for work. It doesn’t mean I wear my pyjamas all day; I wouldn’t be able to motivate myself! I try to keep to a routine every day, practising yoga and meditation helps me stay fit and calm. In addition to that, I get to spend a lot more time with my husband; he usually works evenings and weekends so, before lockdown, I hardly ever saw him! The most challenging part is the homeschooling, and I am sure all parents agree with me unless they are teaching saints!
Anything else you would like to add with our readers?
With recent global events, it is becoming hard to think about the future, and we do not know how our lives will change post Covid19. We cannot go back in time to change the past or worry about the future, which hasn’t happened yet; we need to live in the now and appreciate the simple things in life. I believe we all have something we can learn from each other, and our purpose is to share hour knowledge and help each other on the difficult journey that is life.
Did you enjoy reading this career change story? If you are looking for more inspiration find more career change interviews here.