I had a privilege to interview Stine Dulong, a former city lawyer following a more creative path having become a full time ceramic artist and the founder of pottery brand Skandihus. Stine’s work has been showcased in the pages of British Vogue and exhibited in top London restaurants. Three years ago Stine made what felt a radical decision at the time, and left her high paying job in the City to transform her career to do work work that she truly loves.
1) What made you leave your corporate career as a lawyer and pursue your passion of pottery?
I had been feeling unhappy and unfulfilled in my job for years. I remember being out for dinner with a friend, complaining about my job as I always would, and her saying to me: "Stine, you get one shot at life, don't waste yours". I think this was the moment that I started planning my "escape". I saved up for a year to give myself the chance to take a break without having to work and I also signed up for lots of evening classes in various creative fields as I had always wanted to be an artist. I didn't know what I wanted to do but I knew what I DIDN'T want to do.
When I quit, I slowed down and started focusing on the things around me that gave me a sense of fulfilment. One of those things was my evening pottery classes. I remember when I touched the clay in my first class, it was like I'd arrived home. I can't describe it any other way. I started waking up at night thinking about new designs I wanted to make. Slowly the pottery took over my world and when I was making, I was there in the moment. For the first time in my life, looking at it in hindsight, I stopped running away from things and stopped looking for the next thing that was going to fulfill the emptiness I was feeling inside.
2) What was your biggest fear when setting up Skandihus?
I don't actually think that I had a fear of failing as I didn't look at it in those terms. SkandiHus for me wasn't about it being successful. It was about me suddenly doing something that felt meaningful and gave me a sense of fulfilment. Having said this, maybe I did have a fear that no one would buy my work but only because it would've meant having to go back to an office job when my savings ran out! That was a pretty good motivator to work hard, I have to say.
3) What were your biggest setbacks and how did you handle them?
So far I've actually not had any setbacks (touch wood). It's all been going so fast I can't really keep up.
4) How did you manage the transition and how long did it take?
I think my biggest challenge was actually respecting myself as an (at the time) unsuccessful potter and come to terms with the new me who wasn't a hot shot lawyer. It took me a good year to realise that this classic notion of what success is just didn't fit with what I wanted from my life. I also struggled a lot with a constant sense of guilt for enjoying what I was doing and not feeling completely stressed and overwhelmed all the time. It was a feeling of "surely a job can't feel this good and easy".
I don't have those feelings anymore but instead I sometimes forget to make the most of my freedom to do things when I want to do them. It's very easy to end up working all the time when you work for yourself and do something you love.
Stine's 5 Secrets To Successfully Transitioning From Corporate Career To Doing Work You Love
1) Don't try to do everything at once. It gets overwhelming and you end up not getting much done. Write a list of manageable tasks each week and be accountable to yourself.
2) Don't forget to enjoy the journey. Too many people are only focused on the end result and the fact is, we rarely end up where we think that we will.
3) Don't be scared of making a career change. Often the skills you have acquired in previous careers are exactly what will make you stand out and succeed. I use both my marketing and legal skills almost on a daily basis and I'm certain that I would not have been as successful as quickly, had it not been for those skills. Also, remember that it is hard work starting out on your own. There's no way about it.
But if you do what you love, you'll find a way to be successful with it. Passion goes a long way towards success.
4) Join a networking group like Driven Woman. I set up my own networking group, The Female Creatives, of female entrepreneurs in the creative fields and the support I've been getting from them has been invaluable.
5) Remember that it doesn't have to be all or nothing. Sometimes just taking an hour out of your day to do something you enjoy (whether that's a walk in the park, signing up for an evening class etc) can make a big difference to how fulfilled we feel.
Take time to listen to yourself and your needs.
I hope this article has been inspiring! To hear Stine's whole story and other amazing speakers - join Festival Of Doers. We created this one day event to celebrate and showcase women who are defining success in their own terms. 250 women will gather on 27.1.2017 in London to discuss how to create a bigger life - live with passion & purpose, make a positive impact and 'have it all' by living a balanced lifestyle. More info and tickets here.