How to do work experience and a career change at 40! Bec Fisher from 40 by 40

How can you change careers when you don’t know what you want to do, are almost 40, married with kids?

Bec Fisher is doing something many of us would never consider. She’s turned 40 and wants a career change so decided to do 40 lots of work experience to see what she enjoys. Someone in a group shared her site and I loved the concept. Doing different jobs, pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and getting to know what works is a great way to change your career and life!

If you own a business, Bec is open to more work experience as she hasn’t reached 40 experiences yet! Details at the end of the post. Check out her site here, follow her on Facebook and Instagram too.

To do this, Bec has used a combination of her savings with still doing some casual work as a teacher.

About Bec

I’m a 40-year-old married mum of two from Brisbane. I love being in the great outdoors, spending time with my family and friends, living an active lifestyle and hanging out with my dog Lexie. If money were no object, I’d live in a house with a view of the beach, and go on many adventures.

What made you decide to do 40 work experiences?

I’ve always been a primary school teacher but have been working in contract and relief roles since my children were born. I’d been contemplating a career change for a while, but really wasn’t certain about which direction to take. Do I return to study? And if so, study what? Do I look into starting a small business? Should I update my skills, regain some confidence and return to teaching my own class? Or try something new completely?

With my 40th birthday fast approaching, I wanted to be certain that whichever career I decided to spend my time and money pursuing was the right one for me. It suddenly occurred to me that the best way to discover my next career would be by doing work experience. Lots of it. It’s the craziest idea I’ve ever had, but I was excited and committed to it right from the start.

How did you secure placements?

Many of my work experience placements have been through my connections. Friends, or friends of friends, that have seen value in what I’m doing and been willing to be a part of my work experience adventure. I’ve contacted businesses directly, and have had a couple of people approach me offering work experience after coming across my story. I’m extremely grateful to each of them. I’ve had some rejections, but understand that taking on someone for work experience doesn’t suit every person or every organisation.
Usually, I only ever have two to four placements lined up in advance. Lining up jobs has been one of the most time-consuming (and at times stressful) parts of this project, and I’m always excited when another one is confirmed.

How long is each placement?

My average work experience placement is three days, although I’m always willing to do less or more depending on the nature of the job and what suits the business best. For example, I worked for six days as an equine and small animal Vet, and for one day as a Live Broadcaster at a national basketball game.

What did you need to start?

There was a minimal amount of money needed to set up my website. I was lucky that my husband was able to help me with the technical side of that, although it was all new to him too. I did have to buy a sturdy pair of work boots for my job as a camel farmer (they’ve come in handy at more jobs than I expected), and a few new shirts for work, but that’s it. The main cost has been a loss of income due to not being available to teach, but I consider this project to be an investment in myself, so in that sense, it’s well worth it.

What has been your favourite work experience job so far and why?

I’ve had so many exciting experiences over the past seven months, and have often had to pinch myself along the way. I would never have expected to walk a baby camel, sit under a fire, help to x-ray a horse, skin and stuff a bird, make tortellini in a fine dining restaurant or sit in on fourteen physiotherapy sessions among so many other incredible things.

I’ve found each job fascinating, and have learnt something in all of them. Rather than thinking about which particular job stands out as a favourite, I’m reflecting more about myself and really thinking a lot about what it is I like doing, what I’m good at and which kind of work environment I prefer working in.

What have been the key learnings for you?

It’s amazing how much insight I’ve gained into the variety of jobs I’ve done so far. It’s been particularly interesting for me to get an inside look into how businesses operate and to see effective teams in operation. Talking to my bosses and colleagues in each role, and hearing about the career path they’ve taken has been really useful. Some had even had successful career changes of their own. I’ve learnt that many people are willing to help, share their stories, or offer advice if you’re genuine and take the time to ask.

In terms of self-reflection, I’ve learnt that I’m much braver than I thought I was. I’ve had to step way outside my comfort zone at times, especially when speaking on the radio or being interviewed for television. There’s no better feeling than doing something you previously didn’t think you could. It’s important to me that my children see my commitment, persistence and resilience throughout this project, and that I achieve what I set out to do.

Do you think you’ll change careers or stay with teaching?

I love teaching. Building relationships with students and their families, getting a high five in the playground, giving comfort when it’s needed, and seeing children progress throughout a school year is really fulfilling. At this stage though, I’m still not sure. I’ve got another 20 years of work ahead of me so there’s plenty of time to start something new if I want to. Or perhaps I’ll make a sideways shift in education. Or go back into the classroom after all…as you can tell I’m still undecided! I’ve still got a very open mind though, with 15 jobs to go.

What tips would you give others who might want to do something similar?

Go for it! Work experience offers you such valuable insight into other people’s jobs that you can’t gain any other way. Even one day of work experience, if that’s all you can manage, can be enough to know whether it’s a job you can see yourself doing or not. Did it ignite a spark? Was it as interesting as you thought it’d be? Was it more stressful than you thought? Does the thought of going back to do it all again excite you? Finding the answers to these questions can make your decision about whether to commit to a career change or not so much clearer.

I have no doubt that whichever direction I choose to take at the end of my 40 work experience jobs will be right for me.

Be a part of my adventure, and I can be a part of yours.

I’m still looking for interesting work experience opportunities in any field I haven’t tried yet: healthcare, advertising and marketing, travel and tourism etc. If any of your readers would like to be a part of my adventure by taking me on for work experience I’d love to hear from them! They can contact me at [email protected], or through my website.

List of jobs I’ve done so far

Graphic designer
Camel farmer
Real Estate Agent
Furniture Refinisher
Property Stylist
Content and Social Media Manager
Radio Producer
Hostel worker
Property maintenance worker
Non-profit volunteer
Dance Therapist
Bec #2 (watching Rebecca Sparrow at work)
Equine and small animal Vet
Art Gallery Assistant
Cabinet Maker
Live Broadcaster
Children’s Entertainer

What do you think? Have you tried work experience as an adult? What job would you like to try?

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