Starting fresh: The rise of the radical career change

Suzanne Winterflood
Starting fresh: The rise of the radical career change

The clothes you wear, the music you listen to, even the people you love when you’re 20 are often very different by the time you’re 40. But not careers.

The job you pursued with such youthful enthusiasm often becomes stale and unchallenging after a decade or 2, no matter how successful you are. Tastes, values, and priorities shift with time.

International research suggests that we’ll have around 3 different careers in our lives. According to the latest SEEK Change Report, 2/3 of Kiwis would like to work in a completely different industry from the one they’re in. But the older we get, the more hesitant we are. The practicalities of a mortgage, family commitments, and pure fear can be enough to hold anyone back.

SEE ALSO: Why women don’t negotiate the salaries they deserve

But increasingly, women in their 30s, 40s and even 50s are throwing in established careers for a complete change of direction.

At just 21, Sarah Hutchings was one of New Zealand’s youngest midwives. She practised for 10 years before a move to London unexpectedly started her down an entirely new career path.

Sarah talks to REDnews about the bold decision that has transformed her life.


I loved being a midwifeSarah Hutchings

It’s a very special time for a family, and a real privilege to be part of the experience. For a while I specialised in high risk deliveries with the hospital medical team.


Europe changed everything

My husband Kent’s career took us to London, where I used my women’s health experience to work as a pharmaceutical company sales manager.

Eventually, we decided we wanted to start our own business back in New Zealand. Kent’s dad was a jeweller and he grew up in that world. We went to the Vicenza jewellery fair in Italy and it inspired us.


We spotted a gap in the local market

We felt there was an opportunity in New Zealand for high quality jewellery by internationally renowned Italian brands. Research confirmed our hunch.


It required a lot of self-belief to take the next step

We had to make a number of trips to Italy to convince key people that a fledgling business in a small market on the other side of the world would be able to support their brands. We passed with flying colours.

I launched Orsini ( as an online offering initially, then after six months expanded and opened a store in Parnell, Auckland.


The timing wasn’t ideal

Orsini started in July 2008, just as the GFC was hitting. Most people thought we were mad starting a fine jewellery business when the world was in meltdown.

The smart ones said, “If you can survive this you will do well. Never waste a recession!”

Sarah Hutchings

The support I received made all the difference

The support of my husband and the brands I stock gave me such confidence. Early on, I met some Australian jewellers at Vicenza and was amazed at how they were happy to share their experience and make introductions.


Life is quite different now

I travel regularly to Europe to source new collections; custom design my own range of engagement and wedding rings; and my training these days is in diamonds and coloured gemstones.

Some aspects are the same, though. Throughout my very different careers, I’ve learned that you must always treat people with respect, look after them with excellent service, and have total integrity.

SEE ALSO: Why women don’t negotiate the salaries they deserve

Sarah’s advice for other women considering a career change

  • Be open to inspiration and new ideas.

  • Find something that you’re truly passionate about.

  • Thoroughly research what you plan to do and make sure there’s a genuine opportunity.

  • Start small and build gradually.

  • Have a strong belief in yourself and your abilities.

  • Surround yourself with key people who also believe in you. 

, ,