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Career Changer Spotlight: Michael McLean

Sometimes, in order to fulfil your potential, you have to try something new, change your path, change your industry, unlearn what you know and be open to learning a new way. That's what career changers do. You can do it too.

We're bringing you stories of individuals who changed careers, they found their why and made the transition. Will you?

👋 Meet Michael McLean and find out about his transition from retail back into education and ultimately landing a manager role in accounting.

Before you changed careers, what were you doing?

It all started about 20 years ago when I was 16 when I had my first job working in retail for Sainsbury’s. I just left school and I was desperate to get a job earning my own money. From then on, I changed jobs in retail every 2 years until I found a job working for the fashion brand NEXT.

My position was as a sales assistant which involved helping customers with fashion queries, working on the tills, replenishing the shop floor and assisting with stock take.

Why did you decide that you needed to move away from that career path?

During my time at NEXT as the years flew by, the role was becoming very repetitive and I would often be bored as the role was not challenging me in any sort of way. Standing up on my feet all day with no customers in the shop was probably the time I often would wonder what I’m doing with my life.

I was never interested in progressing up the ranks within the company as I always knew that this wasn’t something I wanted to do when I was older and I knew I had the ability and skills I could put into another profession.

Something had to change!!

I always thought I was good with numbers and I’ve always liked the thought of an office-based job where I can, at last, sit down and work (haha!). I thought the only way to get the change I was craving for would be to re-educate myself and enrol into college. I always liked the thought of being an accountant and of course, the potential high salary was also attractive.

I studied level 2&3 in accounting and then I started applying for accountancy roles.

And what career are you now in? Drum roll please…

I now work for an online travel agent specialising in cruise holidays where I work within the accounts department. I’m a Sales Ledger Team Leader managing a team of 3 and some of my daily functions include checking daily receipts and reconciling, making sure customer balances are paid and following up payment queries via card payments, bank transfers and direct debits.

What excites you the most about what you do now?

My current role is very challenging and keeps me on my toes as it’s an evolving industry. No two days are alike and I feel like I’m still learning something new every day which I never felt working at NEXT.

When I started this job, I was a Sales Ledger Assistant and very low paid. I needed the experience which is why I took the position.

Within 6 months, I was promoted to be team leader and my salary had increased by 50%.

For me, the whole journey has been a wonderful experience and there is still plenty of scope for me to aim even higher within the company or challenging myself again within a new role in another company. Now that I have the experience, the world is my oyster as they say.

If you could have used CareerEar when you were changing career, what question would you have asked on the platform?

Changing industries will always throw up unknowns so if I wish I had the opportunity to use CareerEar back then. If I had, I would have asked other people in accounts what qualifications I needed, if any, to be able to succeed in this job?

What skills are needed for me to attain my goals?

Tell us your top tip for any potential career changer

My top tip for any career changer would be to make sure it’s something that you know you will enjoy and that you can expand the position whether you set up your own business or if you are going to be an employee.

Also going back into education is an excellent way to brush up and learn new skills.

Without me going back to college, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. Gaining new skills or improving your existing ones will stand you in good stead for the future.


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