To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’ve been speaking to women in a range of industries about their career journey – the highs, the lows, the advice they were given and the advice they would give. Everybody’s career journey is unique, and we hope these interviews will inspire.
Katie Hall is a senior lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University. She has worked as a Tax associate for Grant Thornton. Wanting to be a doctor, she originally set out to study Biomedical Science, but decided to make a change.
Katie discusses the challenges and benefits of changing direction, the importance of having a mentor at any stage of your career, and the advice she would give her 18-year-old self.
How did you know you had chosen the wrong course?
I applied initially to study biomedicine at the University of Liverpool, mainly because I loved science at school. I had completed various work experience in hospital and care settings and really loved the role. However a lot of my course was laboratory-based which I felt didn’t complement my skill set. I felt very disconnected from the outside world spending hours in the lab, I wasn’t really using my communication skills and I struggled with long periods of concentrated work. I weighed up my skills with what I was currently doing and realised there was a complete mismatch!
How far were you into your course when you realised you had chosen the wrong course?
I was in the second semester of my first year. I really enjoyed semester one as it was learning theory in the classroom, but I didn’t enjoy putting it into practice in the lab.
How did you navigate such a big change?
I remember I didn’t tell my family for a week or so until I had found a course I wanted to swap to (Accounting & Finance). I was really worried that I would disappoint them as they had always encouraged me down the medical route. I discussed it with my friend and with my current course leader. I also went to see the leader of the Accounting & Finance course. She gave me a book to read to see if I thought it would appeal to me.
I would say not to rely on the opinions of others too much. Often our friends and family can try and talk us into the ‘safe’ option or encourage us to stick to the path in front of us because they care. However, we know ourselves better than anybody else! Sometimes you have to trust your gut instincts and as cliché as it sounds, do what you love.
When I was little I used to love using my whiteboard to teach anybody in my house who would listen! I always loved to teach and nurture people, I feel like I was born to be a lecturer.
Did you have anyone you could go to advice for, such as a career coach of mentor? How did they help you? If not, do you think that would that have made a difference?
I think we need to use mentors more. I would encourage anybody to find an unbiased and unconnected person to have a careers chat with.
People who don’t know you can often give you advice much more objectively and really listen to you.
Upon finishing my degree in Accounting & Finance I gained a graduate role to commence my ACA qualification at Grant Thornton, and I had certain managers I would chat to who would often provide careers advice and support. In my current role as a Senior Lecturer in Accounting at LJMU I still have people who are much further ahead of me who I go to for career wisdom. I would say having a mentor or a career coach is crucial.
What advice would you give someone who wants to change career?
Change is scary, but so is doing a job forever that you don’t love. Get your facts, know your next steps, talk to people and go for it.
What advice would you give to 18-year-old Katie?
You will get there in the end.
Take the pressure off yourself to have achieved things at a certain date and in line with your friends/family’s timescales. Sometimes things take a little longer than expected, sometimes they happen much quicker.
Failing things is part of life – everybody has their own ‘battle’ even if you can’t see it. You aren’t behind, you are exactly where you need to be.