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Time to cut and run

Your career is compiled by Fiona McWilliam fiona@solutionsinc. co. uk and Sally O'Reilly sallyoreilly@pavilion. co. uk Are you happy in your work? Most of us could think of a job we would rather have than the one we've got - rock star, astronaut or Hollywood producer spring immediately to mind. But it may be that you can use your skills as a civil engineer to do something which you find more to your liking than slaving away on site in all weathers, or hopping from contract to contract and travelling far from home.

Nick West is a case in point.

After living in London for 10 years, working in project management with Barhale and Thames Water, he and his partner decided to move to the Isle of Wight, where he found a job with the Trinity Lighthouse Service, an organisation responsible for the maintenance of 72 lighthouses around England and Wales. Despite taking a cut in salary and swapping his company car for a scooter, he enjoys indulging his fascination with lighthouses and the variety in his work, travelling to different sites by helicopter, boat and car. What is more, he can now spend more time with his family.

If that sounds appealing, then it may be worth taking a good look at your own situation, and working out what changes you could realistically make. Help is at hand in the form of an Escape Kit, a guide which comes in book disk form, and gives tactics and ideas to anyone who wants to change their career and lifestyle.

Its author, the late John T Wilson, put the kit together because he saw that career patterns are changing, and people are having to adapt by changing tack, or creating their own work.

The aim of the kit is to give professionals who want to make a major job change a route map taking them through the process. It includes case studies of people who have already stepped off the conventional career ladder, as well as background information, warnings about the pitfalls and practical ideas.

'It was originally aimed at teachers, but the advice in there could help any professional make a career shift, ' says Sue Wilson, who is now supplying the kit.

Although the kit is geared towards helping make the move from a salaried job to selfemployment, downshifting to less stressful or time-consuming work could be just as fulfilling.

The trick is to find out what you really enjoy doing, and then work out how to make money at it.

Nick West shares the view that escapees should lay careful plans before making the break for freedom.

'My advice to anyone contemplating a career downshift is first to make sure they have some financial stability, ' he says.

Being realistic about what the change will mean in terms of status is also vital - some of us would find it hard to live without the status associated with our current job. 'I had to relinquish some of my previous authority, and some responsibility in the workplace, as I now manage only myself and my own workload, ' West points out.

If you do decide to take a more junior post, rather than become self-employed, West's advice is to prepare to be questioned about being over-qualified, do your research on the organisations you would like to work for and be clear about why you want to make this unusual move.

'My only other advice is to take a chance if you feel it will enhance your quality of life, ' he says.

Key points

Plan ahead - five years in advance if possible.

List all your skills and the likely areas they might lead you to.

Research all the options - and speak to people already doing the sort of work you are aiming at.

Find out what additional training and knowledge you will need

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