Making Career Choices

I sometimes feel a bit like I’ve sold out (for lack of a better term), because I currently work a generic job that hasn’t got much to do with my skills, interests or education.


Making Career Choices


Making Career Choices


I was at an alumni research / student-alumni networking even last week at one of my old unis and I mentioned to a few people that I work this generic, non-career, permanent job right now, half feeling like I’d be excluded for not being dedicated to finding a career position.


Instead I was met with a bit of jealousy (not in an unkind way) from people who are in the contract to contract trenches. Which is a place I was for many, many years. It’s also the reason I spent so much time and effort to find a permanent job. It’s hard not planning, personal, financial or otherwise. It’s hard not knowing if funding for your position will be renewed.


My eventual goal is to drop one day per week from my day job and freelance that one day per week. At most, I’d look to work three days per week at a a day job and two days freelance. I think that would be a good combination of job security and career interest for me.


I honestly don’t know how much freelance work people will accept in my field. I don’t think it’s much of a “done thing”. I do get the feeling you’re supposed to just be ok with contract work in person. As I wrote about here, I’m not ok with that. I think this day job/freelance combination is my attempt to have some career control over an area that is always at the whims of funding. It’s not often spoken about. But I believe that the reality of contracts and casualisation does need to be spoken about. I think the more open we are that these variables of funding and lack of security have a very real impact on people’s lives, the more we can encourage people to proactively find a way of making it work for them, rather than the current model, which feels a bit like passively sitting around and hoping for a contract renewal. 


I would ideally also like to find a day job that is closer to home, so I can save time on commuting. If it’s closer to home, I may not even have to drop a day per week – but that is something that I can only tell at the time, and I don’t think you can really plan that level of detail. 


I think a combination of day job and freelance will work for me – professionally, personally and financially. It might not work for you. But I think we need to have these discussions – what combinations have you tried? What has worked for you? Did it stop working? Do you know why it stopped working? All of these reasons, topics and the general “find what works for my life, not your life” is why I still can’t wait to start the Side Gig Life podcast. I want to talk about this. I want to give people ideas and inspiration, as well as the encouragement to find what career choice works for them, rather than what career choice you “should” make. 


If you want to be the first to know when the podcast launches, sign up here.


Have you ever struggled with the combination of life and career and interests? And would you like to be on the podcast?


28 Replies to “Making Career Choices”

  1. I dropped down to 3 days a week and then 2 days and then no days and then some days. I’m really lucky that I’m financially able to do that and although I haven’t reached any of my goals, I have been a lot happier and now enjoy the days that I do go to work, so much more.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I’d love to be part time, I really don’t think full time was ever really for me. But until I can afford to be part time…full time it will be.

  2. When I worked in the public service another lifetime ago, I managed to drop back to four days a week from full time to give me a semblance of some balance. I would use my Wednesdays to go to the movies and out for coffee and shopping. That was before kids. Now I’m self-employed and love the flexibility that it offers, but not so much the lack of security, having to live from client to client. Good luck with finding your own balance.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I had the lack of security for so many years doing contract work, so I think that has put me off of being a full time freelancer. It’s nice to be able to do things like get loans and have some insurances! Easier to get them, anyway.

  3. I like that you have a plan for the future. It does seem you are well over-qualified for this job but the price to pay for permanence is this I guess. I was employed casually on contract by the Uni where I taught but I was not seeking permanence, in fact it was to my advantage not to. In my teaching career permanency was prime but I had to give that jewel up when my ill-health caused my premature resignation. In the NSW Dept of Ed they have temporary engagements for a year/term at a time and that was how I was employed from 2004-2009. Good luck with your career goals. Denyse

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      My current job requires education OR experience equivalent to a degree… so yep, I’m way overqualified for it. But yes, it’s the price to pay for security. And most of the time it keeps me busy enough but I still have the lingering desire to actually use my education! We’ll see how it all pans out, I suppose.

  4. I currently work 22hrs per week (across 4 days) in a permanent position in local government (in a role I really enjoy). And then about 5-8hrs freelance a week. It’s the perfect balance for me. I discovered last year going totally freelance isn’t for me, I like the security of a regular job that also allows me the freedom to do some creative work on the side

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      That sounds like a great combination – I do like that in having a secure job (well, as secure as anything is these days I guess!) I finally feel like I can set myself up better financially. Now that I’m feeling better, I also crave working on personal and creative projects.

  5. I think your idea is a great balance. I’ve worked freelance since having kids and I”m lucky that my work isn’t the money we rely on. I’ve had regular contacts fall through at no notice, but that’s the nature of the game I suppose. Elisa x

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      That’s the part of freelance I think would be too hard to cope with – being the main (well, solo) income earner, I just don’t want that level of stress where things change and contracts go away.

  6. I’m the same as Sarah above. I think a mix of secure work plus freelance work is a great mix. I hope you find what you’re looking for and get that balance you crave.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I am sure I’ll get there eventually. There will be some great opportunities in the next few years with major changes in my day job area and I’m hanging out for them as they are my biggest chance of greatly reducing my commute!

  7. I think a part-time permanent position with time for your freelance work sounds like a good mix – I hope you are able to work towards this and find the balance you are seeking. I totally understand the work-life balance struggle, which is different for every person. For me, it came to a head when I moved from a part-time job into a full time job. Initially it all went well and with two kids at the time – one at school and one just about to start – I thought it was perfect timing and a good career move for me. I was wrong, but I’m a true believer that all things happen for a reason and it led me to make one of my best decisions, which was to leave behind my career to spend more time with my family. Good luck with your finding your own right balance. #teanIBOT

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I think eventually I’ll find the right combination of jobs – I think I just need to wait for the right one to appear! It seems like it’d be so hard to work full time with school aged kids. I don’t know how people juggle that one.

  8. I’m currently working three days a week but expect I will have to go to 5 days a week after I’m made redundant from my current job. I’m thinking of moving away from my area of expertise to a more generic role but will see what comes up next year and then decide.


    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      It is hard to decide. I’m glad I have more security than I’ve ever had but those lingering missing using my skills feeling are only going to grow!

  9. I would love to find work I was more passionate about / enjoyed. Writing for a living would be great – for example – but I tried the freelance thing on that front and it didn’t work out for me.

    As you know I struggle with the free time / creativity / enjoyment of work thing vs the need to earn money and pay bills.

    I’ve just applied for a full time job – but it’s only a year. In reality the money is only one reason I’ve applied… the other is that I can’t help but think it would be mentally healthy for me to move into something more challenging and interesting as I’m struggling with my current gig. #teamlovinlife

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I think it is really hard to step back from a career job into something more generic – even if all the other aspects of it are good, there’s the missing being a decision maker or having knowledge respected….for me those things are growing right now but I think I have a few more years before they become unbearable, which is why I’m hoping to work towards finding a balance now, before it gets to that stage. I’m honestly not sure right now if it is possible though.

  10. I’ve tried all of the above. I’m the closest I have been to balance now, but am struggling financially re selling my books. I’m contemplating doing some more freelance writing, but that takes away time from writing & marketing. I’m not sure there is such a thing as perfection, there is just ok. I blogged something similar yesterday on my author page – reasons to love your day job. Of course it should have been titled reasons to tolerate your day job.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I think this is something we really all do struggle with, but don’t talk about much. And of course everyone has their different levels of comfort talking about what works for them (especially financially) so I don’t mean to be judgey in that way – I just think if we all got ideas from each other about when certain mixes work and when they stop working, we’d all get more ideas and feel a bit less alone! Heading over to read your post now 🙂

  11. I feel like a real cop out / opt out – not sure what to call it? I walked away from my corporate life years ago and am not really doing any paid work at the moment. My blog is like my job but I don’t get paid to do it (well very very rarely) so in reality I should do something where I earn at least a little!! I have many ideas of what I’d like to do from home (I mean I have many talents and worked in the corporate world for over 30 years!) but I fill my time up with all that I do now and I lack clarity over which direction I should go in. Also too much time alone I think! I probably need someone to fire me up and inspire me. #TeamLovinLife

    1. When you’ve had a good and wide career, it’s so hard to choose what you could freelance in. All of my jobs have been in offices (either the admin jobs or specialist roles) so I’m sure I could get VA work if I wanted (and I have done bits of it in the past). But I was thinking about what I would WANT to sit down and do after a day of work – that was the key question for me.

  12. I’ve changed jobs and career paths several times and have gradually dropped down to three days a week. I found two wasn’t quite enough and four was too many. I love the balance between working and doing stuff for me. It makes it a lot easier to suck up a 9-5 job when you don’t do it full-time! I hope you find your perfect balance too.

    1. I think I’ll find it eventually. These things take time!

  13. I’ve had several career changes and it is a struggle stuck in a job where all you do is daydream about what you could be doing. How frustrating for you now but it will more than likely work itself out for you.

    1. My day job certainly isn’t bad, but I do have days when I wish I felt more challenged.

  14. Did someone say podcast?!?! Can’t wait!

    1. You’ll be on the first to know, haha.

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