One of the biggest barriers to making a career change after reaching a senior level is having to go back to the bottom of the career ladder and start again. However, Innocent Drink’s head of people and culture, Jane Marsh, is proof that it’s very possible to change careers without having to start from scratch. Here’s how she made the switch after more than a decade of working as a lawyer. 

 

Name: Jane Marsh

Job title: Head of people and culture at Innocent Drinks

Years since changing path: 8

Town/city: London

 

TAP: You originally trained and worked as a lawyer, yet today you lead the people and culture team at Innocent drinks. First of all, what does your current role involve?

JM: Lots of things. I have the full range of HR responsibilities like learning and development, talent and recruitment and I’m also responsible for culture at Innocent, which is a big responsibility. We look after our culture in a very specific way. For example, my team put together two big events (one at Christmas and another in the summer) for the whole company. We hold these events in the Europe locations our products are sold, and we make sure that as well as talking through business updates, we build in lots of time for activities that bring everyone together to have some fun. Being responsible for the culture team brings with it responsibility for all of our properties across Europe which is also a bit different to most traditional HR roles. I have a real variety of responsibilities and that’s what keeps the role interesting.

TAP: And it’s a world away from working as a lawyer isn’t it? Can you tell us how you made that career change?

JM: I’ve always been driven by new challenges, so even though I started my career working in employment law for a private law firm in the City, I ended up going to work as an in-house lawyer for a broking house in the City. That move from private practice to going in-house for a company could be seen as the first stage of my career change because it called for a very different approach to practising law. However, the culture at the broking house wasn’t a good fit for me, so I left within a couple of years and moved to (IT giant) IBM.

I stayed at IBM for 12 years, carrying out three roles for three or four years each. The first was an employment lawyer and then I switched to become a pensions lawyer. After that, they asked me to be the HR director for the UK a big move because it meant I would no longer be working as a lawyer. Despite the change in career fields, it was actually quite an organic move. I’d been at IBM for eight years by then, I was quite well known in the company and, fortunately, they believed in my potential. It probably also helped that as I’d already been an employment lawyer, I’d experienced a good proportion of what the HR team did albeit only the negative side of it, which is when lawyers tend to get involved.

TAP: But you were very well established as a lawyer, how did you know it was time to make a change?

JM: I think part of changing career is that you have an itch that after a while you can’t help but scratch. Change is in my psyche and I find that after a while, that itch becomes so strong I have to act on it. I’ve also been quite lucky being offered the HR role by IBM allowed me to move from law to HR in one step. I actually didn’t think too much about or carefully plan my change. An opportunity was presented to me at a time when I was ready for a new challenge, so I took it and dealt with what happened afterwards.

I think lady luck plays a huge role in anybody’s career. You can do all the planning you like, but you also have to be ready to jump when an opportunity is presented to you, even if you don’t know how it’s going to work out. IBM gave me just 24 hours to decide if I wanted to step away from the legal team and run the HR function instead. I’m glad I wasn’t given more time as I’d probably have started to overthink things and I don’t think that always helps. Sometimes you’ve got to just do it and deal with the consequences later. That’s much easier than trying to think everything through and work it out in advance.

Career change from lawyer
Jane started her work life as a lawyer for a broking house in London

TAP: How did you know you were doing the right thing?

JM: I didn’t. I really didn’t know. And even when I came to Innocent four years ago, I also didn’t know if I was doing the right thing. The move from IBM to Innocent was massive, probably the biggest change I made in my career to date yes I was staying within HR, but I was changing sector – going from a large business to an SME – and not just any SME – it was Innocent! Add to that the additional responsibilities and it was a lot of change at once.

TAP: What advice would you give to someone who has reached a senior level in their career, but is now thinking about making a big career change

JM: Prepare to be overwhelmed for the first three to six months. You’ll sink before you swim and you have to be OK with the feeling of being out of control and not knowing what you’re doing. You’ll have to ask for help quite a lot, and again, you have to be OK with doing that. If you move fields at a senior level, you’ll most likely find yourself leading a team with more experience in certain areas than you. That means they’re likely to be assessing you and wondering what you can possibly bring to the table since they have more knowledge than you do in that area.

You have to be confident in yourself and just say, “You’re not going to see the best of me now because I’m massively in over my head, but just roll with me and I’ll show you what I can do.” And it’s really not easy. Every time I do it, I vow that I will think really hard about doing it again. But I’ll actually be leaving Innocent at the end of June to do it again, so it’s something you can survive and grow from.

TAP: Can you tell us more about your next move?

JM: I’ll be staying in HR but moving to another brand. It’s a smaller company, which I can’t say too much about at the moment, but it’s all part of that itch that I need to scratch. I’ve been at Innocent Drinks for coming up to four and half years, and that’s just my threshold. I can’t explain it, but I just know I’m ready to put myself right through that process of challenges, learning and being plunged into a new situation.

TAP: What would you say is the single biggest factor for achieving success when changing careers?

JM: I truly believe that a person’s character predicts how successful they’ll be when making a career change. Many people get bogged down with having the skills needed to do a job, but they forget that most of us can learn the skills we need for a role. What we can’t learn so easily is how to cope with the journey you have to go on to build those skills and the bashing your ego will take. So I think being resilient and being comfortable with not knowing things is vital for success as a career changer.

TAP: Innocent Drinks has a great reputation for being fun, modern and giving employees a great work-life balance. What has working there been like?

JM: The best thing about working at Innocent is that it’s exactly as you imagine it is. Our employer brand is very close to our product brand, so it’s very open, natural and friendly. There’s so much I love about working there, from seeing the impact of the work the Innocent Foundation does, to the products themselves and the focus we put on people. Innocent sometimes gets described as having a bit of an old-fashioned people culture because we choose to look after our people in ways that seem to have gone out of fashion. Many companies have stopped spending money on recognising that people are human beings and work together at their best when they have developed relationships that are not just business focused. Something as simple as giving out free ice creams to staff on a hot afternoon doesn’t cost a lot, but it’s great for morale.

TAP: Finally, what resources would you recommend to anyone looking to navigate their career change?

  1. Use your network. There’s no substitute for just talking to people and sharing information. And the more you talk to people, the more you’ll feel that you need to do something rather than just talk about it.
  2. Any book that helps you get to know yourself. Once you get a better understanding of your strengths, values, motivators etc. you’ll become more confident about making decisions that are best for you.

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