Q: I work in marketing for a large cosmetics company and have done for the past decade. Recently, my father became very ill and, although he has recovered well, I've been left questioning what I've been doing with my life. I never thought I'd think this but makeup seems frivolous now and I think I want to do something more worthwhile. But I've got no idea what. Also, I've worked hard to get where I am and earn a good salary. I am at a real crossroads but feel stuck. I don't know what to do now; can you give me some advice?
A: People's aims and values quite often change over time. Just because you now want to do something 'more worthwhile' doesn't mean that you've wasted your past 10 years on frivolity. You've presumably enjoyed yourself, earned a good living and - importantly - will have acquired skills and experience that can be usefully applied elsewhere.
Your trickiest problem, as I'm sure you already realise, is likely to centre on income. The chances must be that any organisation providing the kind of satisfactions you now hope to find will pay a good deal less than a large cosmetics company. If you've got used to your salary and find yourself spending more or less up to its limit each month, a change of gear could prove very uncomfortable for you.
But if you're ready for that and believe you could manage without regret or resentment, see if you can match up your particular abilities with particular causes with which you feel a personal affinity. For example, it was your father's serious illness that prompted you to reassess your life. If there's a charity committed to research into your father's condition - or to helping people recover from it - that could provide you with the perfect sense of direction and motivation.
More than ever, good causes need effective marketing. To them, someone such as yourself, eager to put invaluable experience in support of their own marketing effort, could be a very attractive proposition. But do, please, be certain in your own mind before embarking on such a radical change of course. The more worthwhile the cause, the more careful you must be never to disappoint it.
- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office? is published by Penguin at £6.99.
Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: email@example.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.