Valerie Khoo Career Change Interview

Valerie Khoo Career Change Interview

Knowing the Right Career Path for You

When you're young you are asked, "What would you like to be when you grow up?" The message that we are only to have one career and one pathway to get there is reinforced continually.

However, research undertaken by Seek showed that 51 per cent of Australian workers are considering a career change. Plus, it is estimated the average person will change careers five to seven times during their working life.

What this means, is that it can be confusing to know if you are on or are choosing the right career path for you.

Interview with Valerie Khoo, CEO of The Australian Writers' Centre and successful abstract artist.

Not only has Valerie helped thousands of people on their journey to become authors and writers over the past 13 years, 18 months ago she created what she calls a multi-passionate career – she combines her work as a CEO of a bustling business with the serious commitment as an artist that is commercially sustainable.

Question: What did you want to be when you 'grew up'?

Valerie Khoo: When I was younger, I loved all things creative. I loved art, music, writing, making things. My uncles are artists and my mother was always making things. But, for some reason, I never thought of these as real jobs!

I thought a real job was one where you worked in an office. So, in my naivete, I wanted to be a "businesswoman"! But that's mainly because I didn't realise it was possible to be an artist or creative.

Question: What inspired you creative career change?

Valerie Khoo: I started scratching that creative itch that had been niggling at me for years, possibly even decades. Over my the course of my life, I would regularly buy art materials – but then let them sit in a cupboard as I gave in to other priorities. Finally, I took those art materials out of the cupboard and started using them. And I haven't looked back. Now, when I'm in my studio, time flies, I'm in a flow and it's so rewarding to be able to create art.

Question: Why do you believe 51% of Australian workers are considering a career change?

Valerie Khoo: I think that many people go into their first career without knowing very much about themselves or what their chosen career is likely to entail. And once we get there, we often realise it's nothing like what we expected.

Some of those people know they need to make a change because they can't face the thought of another 10 years in a job they don't like. So they plot out how they can transition from one career to another.

Question: How much of this do you believe is directly related to stress, money and unfulfillment?

Valerie Khoo: It's directly related. If your chosen career doesn't fire you up, you're not going to excel at it. And that means it's going to be hard to progress. But when you can wake up every day to a job that you love, it doesn't feel like work! You love learning, you don't mind putting in extra hours – because it's simply a joy for you to be in that world. That's a feeling most people would love to have.

Question: When and how did you know you were on the right career path?

Valerie Khoo: When I'm in a situation where I would still choose my job or career even if I didn't get paid for it, I know I'm on the right path!

Question: What advice do you have for other Australians starting their own side-hustle?

Valerie Khoo: Do it! If you feel that you would like to feed your creative soul with an activity that might turn into a real side hustle, I recommend giving in to that curiosity. Start doing it on weekends, work out ways you can incorporate it into your life. You have absolutely nothing to lose – and so much to gain!

Question: How do you juggle your work?

Valerie Khoo: My work life is pretty full so ruthless time management is the key. I must admit, with everything on my plate, there is little time left over for a social life. I also have to make sure that I'm efficient and have streamlined processes and workflows so that I don't waste time.

To that end, I have various "stations" that are all ready to go with the tools I need so that I can just walk up to them and start working. In my art studio, I have several stations with different canvases on them so that, while I'm literally waiting for the paint to dry on one, I can move forward with others. I also ensure that I have devices in key rooms of my home and that all my emails and documents are in the cloud so that I'm not tied to one computer.

Question: What's a typical day like, for you?

Valerie Khoo: I'll start the day with brekkie and I admit I'll check my emails and the news during this time. I then sit down and plan my to do list for the day.

Typically, I need a balance of time in the studio and time at my computer so I map out a rough idea of when this will be. I'm co-host to two podcasts that are released every week so I usually record those in the morning.

Lately, I've been trying to go for a walk or get some exercise at lunchtime because I need to get more steps in!

In the afternoons I often have meetings. I mentor creatives so I might have sessions with them. Or I also have regular meetings with artists and organisers for my role as the City of Sydney's Curator of the Sydney Lunar Festival.

I tend to do long stretches of painting in the evening, often into the early hours of the morning because I just lose track of time!

Interview by Brooke Hunter
Artwork featured by Valerie Khoo


Copyright © 2001 -, a Company - All rights reserved.