Changing Careers into 'The Outdoors'

Leave the office job and the 9-5 for a career working in the mountains.

Is it really that easy?

Earlier this month we spoke to Sian Sykes about her new life, living and working outdoors in North Wales (the interview can be found on the BMC website). Here, in the follow up interview, we find out about the challenges involved in leaving a successful career for a world of unknowns... Sian Sykes

So, you've made the change from marketing professional in London to outdoor instructor in North Wales. What was the 'tipping point' that triggered you to hand in your resignation?

I was working over 18 hours a day. I had no time for myself and I was totally absorbed and consumed by work, that's when I slammed on the brakes and re-evaluated my life.

How prepared were you for what was about to happen?

Before I left my job in London I started researching careers in the outdoors. I spoke to other outdoor instructors and I was directed to Mountain Training and the Outdoor Partnership who were really helpful; they gave me direction and provided training and support. I also invested my time in volunteering which was a great way to get myself known in the industry and to gain extra experience. I did plenty of research before I took the plunge and I was lucky enough to have very supportive parents and friends. I was also fortunate that I had plenty of experience walking and climbing over the last 16 years on a personal level, so that really helped when I was working towards my awards.

What were you most worried about?

I was worried about the unknown - I was well experienced in my previous profession of digital advertising, however not so much in the outdoor sector. It was a grey area to me so I spent the time researching and networking. Lots of people in the outdoor industry explained I would struggle to make any money and they highlighted that it's a very competitive industry, especially in North Wales. Lucky enough, money is not my main driver in life. I believe you just need to find a niche to be successful.

Did you have any contingency plans in place in case it didn't work out?

My back up is that I have enough experience and a good reputation to be able to take on short contracts in the digital industry. This helps me over the winter season when outdoor work is sparse. The plan is to work towards getting my International Mountain Leader award so going forward I'll be able to work all year round.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your career change?

It has been hard to start right from the beginning again and go through all the awards and training, however it has been worth while as I have gained much more experience and I am now doing what I truly enjoy. Another challenge was to readjust to a significantly reduced income which has been harder to adapt to than I thought it would be!

What's the best piece of advice you'd give to someone thinking about leaving their job for a career in the mountains?

Stay positive, and do your research. Also, invest time volunteering; it's a great way of networking and gaining valuable experience.

Sian now runs her own company, 'Psyched Adventures' in North Wales and recently completed the Winter Training element of the International Mountain Leader award.

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