From publicist to Pilates instructor
There was a time when I tied so much of my identity to having a career in the music industry. I’d been with the same company for eight years and loved it. I was turned down for the job three times before they took me onboard.
That was a really big moment for me. During my time there, I was lucky enough to live all over the country, work with awesome talent and have some incredible once-in-a-lifetime experiences. It really was a dream job but at the end of last year I decided to give it all up.
At the time, I had a lot going on in my personal life and felt like I couldn’t give my job everything it needed. But it took a lot of hard conversations with my husband and asking myself what I want out of life and for my family before I made the call to step away. After hitting send on the resignation email to my boss, I remember just bawling my eyes out.
Up until that last moment, I had worried I’d made the wrong choice. I’ve never had something I was so emotionally attached to. I also didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do next and that was scary, but I trusted the process and allowed myself the time and the headspace to answer those important questions.
After a short break, I signed up for a course to teach Pilates and put myself out there for freelance public relations work. Since resigning, I’ve definitely had moments of doubt where I have asked myself, “Have I just left a really stable career, plus a role and colleagues that I love?”
It’s easy for your job to become all-encompassing. For me, it became such a huge part of who I was. I still catch up with former colleagues and they tell me about all these amazing things they’ve been working on. Truthfully, I still feel an element of missing the job but I know that there are other opportunities out there for me.
Now, I feel like I’m approaching everything with fresh, hungry eyes. It’s been a nice surprise to be able to prove myself again. To rely solely on my abilities and realise that I can do this has given me a whole new level of confidence.”
From flight attendant to business owner
I was on a surf trip with a friend in Bali when I ripped a hole in the sleeve of my rash vest. I’d become conscious of sun damage after noticing the pigmentation on the back of my dad’s hands [he is champion surfer Nat Young].
After that trip, I went searching for a wetsuit that would properly cover my hands but no-one was selling them. I decided I was going to have to draw up a pattern and make one myself, and my business YoungSurf was born.
At that point in my life, I’d been a flight attendant with Qantas for 27 years. I loved that job and had no desire to give it up. I lived and breathed my role and the opportunity it afforded me to travel the world.
When the pandemic hit, everything changed. I was offered an optional redundancy payout and my boyfriend at the time said, “Naomi, take that money and build your business. Take a leap of faith.” So I did. It was the scariest thing I have ever done. I told my girlfriends to come over and we opened a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. Then the three of us pressed the button together accepting my redundancy and I took the payout.
Starting the business has been incredibly challenging. I’ve had to learn how to create a website, register a business, organise the budget and navigate the supply issues that came with the pandemic. I also work part-time as a waitress at a restaurant on the Northern Beaches [of Sydney].
If it wasn’t for Covid, I have no doubt that I would still be working at Qantas. I wasn’t ready to give up my career and I suffered from post-traumatic stress as a result. I’d been with the company since I was 21 and it was such a big part of who I was.
Last year, I was offered a job at Virgin airlines. I did the training and received my first roster but after much deliberation I turned down the job. I decided that if I was going to make the business work, I had to follow my heart and back myself.
A small business is definitely not for the faint-hearted. I keep myself motivated with daily gratitude over the small wins, like someone browsing my website. People often
ask me, “Why are you doing this? You know most small businesses fail.” I reply, “Yes but some succeed too.”
It’s been really tough but it’s also so rewarding to know that my business is saving people’s skin and also empowering women in the surf community. If I could go back and give myself a piece of advice, it would be to stay resilient. There will be many bumps in the road but those bumps are like falling off your surfboard: you’ve got to get straight back on, even if you wipe out. Just keep going.
From teacher to makeup artist
When the pandemic hit, there was a real lack of empathy towards teachers. I’d been a primary school teacher for about 11 years and I felt like we had become part of the government grind. At the time, a lot of us started to feel like we had become a number and that really impacted me.
I started thinking about what else I could do. I’d done makeup artistry on the side for nearly 20 years, so I decided to turn my side hustle into a full-time gig. Choosing to take the leap and leave my full-time job was terrifying, especially as teaching was considered an essential-worker job, while makeup artistry was certainly not pandemic-proof.
But I thought to myself, “You only get one life and therefore you only get one chance to shoot your shot.”
Leaving a secure and stable income was always going to be scary. Building a proper business has been an ongoing challenge, especially in a wedding capital like Byron Bay. There’s a lot of amazing artists here who I am constantly competing with for work.
That said, I have no regrets. The flexibility and better work-life balance that comes with freelancing outweighs the security of a full-time job for me. I have a young daughter, and freelancing means I can organise to be there for her athletics carnivals, attend assemblies and drop her off and pick her up each day.
If it wasn’t for Covid, I probably would have stayed in teaching, just because it was so secure. But I have found fulfilment in other areas of my new job. I’m predominantly a bridal makeup artist and I find it so rewarding to be part of someone’s special day.
For anyone worried about what change would look like, I empathise. It’s unsettling to give up your security but if we don’t take a chance on ourselves then we’ll never know what great things lie in the unknown.
From TV reporter to beauty entrepreneur
I wanted to be a news reporter ever since I was 10 years old. The idea of being at the forefront of breaking news stories seemed so exhilarating to me.
When I finished school, I did work experience at a television network and then I moved to New York to complete an internship at the Fox News channel. I’d never been to the United States before, and here I was in the middle of Times Square.
I felt like I was at the centre of the universe. When I returned to Sydney, I worked in numerous parts of the Channel 7 Sydney newsroom before I landed my dream job
on Sunrise [Channel 7’s breakfast show].
It was everything I’d imagined. There were some weeks where I would work seven days in a row on it and I loved every minute. I volunteered for every spare shift and I didn’t want to leave.
Then Covid arrived and we went straight from reporting on the bushfires to covering the pandemic. I reported on it for two years straight, day in and day out, until one day I couldn’t do it anymore. I asked my boss for a break to spend time with my daughter.
During that time off, I got to do all the simple things, like take her to kindy, stay at home if she was sick and I even had time to meet friends for coffee. I knew it was time for a change.
I’d been working on my sunscreen brand Naked Sundays as a side hustle. The idea came about because I needed sunscreen that I could put over my makeup at work. At the time, I didn’t know anything about manufacturing or being a CEO or doing financials or business plans, but I knew that I liked my product and I knew that there was a huge gap in the market.
My job now is fulfilling in a new way. I do a lot of charity work, including fundraising and spreading awareness about melanoma and reminding people how prevalent it is in Australia. It’s incredibly rewarding and I don’t have to set my alarm for 3.30am, which is a huge perk!
My advice to people looking to take a big career leap is that the first time is always the scariest. After you’ve done it once you realise that it’s not that bad and you will get back on your feet again. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” That often alleviates some of the stress that comes with having to make those big career changes.
This article origionally appeared in the April issue of marie claire Australia.