James Duggan, a chef turned accountant, was “a bit of a ‘jack the lad’ at school”. James left school with minimal GCSEs which limited his options of work. But James had something he loved: food.
“I had a passion for food and in particular the ways you can express your artistic flare on a plate. It therefore seemed a no brainer to ditch the academic side of life, and focus on gaining a vocational catering qualification.”
After college, James’ catering career flourished. “I loved it, I have absolutely no regrets in my choice, I got to cook in some amazing places, cooking amazing food, for equally amazing people.”
Catering for James had a bit of everything, it could take him wherever he wanted to go in the world. “I often get asked if I miss it? And the honest answer is yes, how could I not? It was my passion and I don’t think the passion for food will ever go.”
So why, after such a fulfilling career, make a change at all?
“The simple answer is my two daughters, Lillie and Olivia. I loved my old career, but it had downsides, the biggest of which was the lack of family life. I spent so much time away from home that sometimes I would go weeks, sometimes months without seeing my children, and anyone who knows me knows everything I do, I do for them. So when the little ones where approaching five and three years old, I essentially snapped. I had missed out on so much of their lives and I hated catering for that.”
After 10 years since sitting his last exam, James looked into retraining. “Firstly, I had to learn how to learn again, and secondly, I had to find something else I’m good at.”
James enrolled into his local college and studied the core GCSEs again (English, maths science) on days off from work. It quickly transpired that he had a knack and enjoyment for maths, especially probability and statistics. After a lengthy discussion with his tutor she suggested becoming an accountant, studying AAT.
“I remember thinking, ‘ok, whatever, she must be on too much cough medicine’. You have to be the brightest of people to be an Accountant.”
However, after securing an A in maths and passing the entrance tests James enrolled on AAT. He studied the AAT Foundation Certificate in Accounting at his local college in the evenings, the Advance Diploma in Accounting on day release from his first role with HW Fisher accountancy, but what he really enjoyed was distance learning with First Intuition.
“I loved the freedom it gave me, having such a busy and active life, distance learning gives you the flexibility without restrictions to study at your own pace. I found the tutor support, especially from Nick Craggs, a lot more engaging and fulfilling, which gave me the push I needed sometimes to crack on, as it is easy to lose focus or motivation.”
And the rest as they say is history
“But if you had told me five years ago I would be a finance manager of multi million-pound firm, I would have laughed you out of the park.”
“That’s not to say it’s been an easy journey becoming an accountant. The biggest challenge and surprise for me was how hard I found getting into the profession.”
“I ended up studying AAT Foundation Certificate in Accounting while still in catering. Possibly my proudest stroke of genius was to take two weeks of annual leave to gain not only work experience but office experience within the accounts department of the company I was with.”
“I will never forget the number 452, as this is the number of job applications I filled out before getting my opportunity at HW Fisher & Co.”
But now, everyday James gets home from work and sees his children. “I get to eat an evening meal with my family, what more motivation could you want?”
James’ top tips for a successful career change
- It’s a bit cliché, but never give up and believe in yourself. It took me 452 applications just to get in the door! Remember it doesn’t matter how many people tell you no, you only need one yes.
- Don’t be afraid to think out of the box, gain experience where ever you can. I truly believe that every career has transferable skills into any other career. So look around you, what do you do now that you think you will use in your new career? Whether it’s team building, dealing with time pressure, customer interfacing skills or just being a lovely person, all of these can be taken into your new career.
- This is my personal favourite: Remember, even if you fall flat on your face, you’re still going forward. Basically, you’re going to make mistakes, you’re not human if you don’t. But it’s how you bounce back from them that will separate you from everyone else.
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