Has the new year got you thinking about a career change? Sarah Harris speaks to four Kiwis who've given up their normal jobs for something a bit different.

Who hasn't sat at their desk and dreamed of a different life? A career of passion rather than just the 9-5 and a safe salary?

The secure life path can be both comfort and crushing. New Zealanders change jobs often, according to Statistics New Zealand figures. Of those of who earn wages and salaries, half have been employed in their present jobs for less than 18 months.

But the most common reason men leave their job is to retire, data from the last Household Labour Force Survey reveals. For women it is for parental or family responsibilities.

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Only a tiny 5 per cent leave their job because they are unsatisfied with the work or conditions, the survey shows.

Principal consultant at Career Management Specialists Kaye Avery believes that number is likely to be rising.

She says she has seen a shift in the past 5 years of people looking for more meaning in their lives.

"People come to me just spinning, managing huge workloads, working long hours with high expectations, it's unhealthy.

"Mostly people nowadays are really wanting quality of life.

"We're over this ambitious, materialistic thing and a lot of people are wanting a more holistic approach to life and questioning why they get themselves into high paying jobs and compromising their true self."

A seductive pay packet can act as a trap and Avery often sees people who increase their lives at the rate of the income then suddenly find it very difficult to "get off the train".

Avery, who has been a careers adviser for close to 20 years, encourages people who aren't happy in their jobs to quit and pursue a passion. But, she warns, do it gradually and think carefully before you leap.

If you're thinking about making the jump Avery's advice is to:

​•Assess and establish your life values - such as well-being, abundance, family time, truthfulness - and align your career direction with those.

​•Think about what may be just an interest and what you may want to do every day. Some passions are best kept as hobbies.

​•Do some research. Talk to people who have relevant experience and get a good idea of what you're walking into.

​•Be patient. Your new career or lifestyle might not flourish overnight so give it enough time to find its feet.

'Follow my own rhythm'

Josh Lancaster quit his advertising career of 20 years to move to the Hawkes Bay and paint. Photo / Supplied
Josh Lancaster quit his advertising career of 20 years to move to the Hawkes Bay and paint. Photo / Supplied

Being in control is what Josh Lancaster loves most about quitting advertising after 20 years in the industry to pursue painting.

He was a top creative director who worked with numerous agencies around Auckland. Painting was his hobby that he used to balance out the stress of work.

But two years ago with the pressure of long work days, painting commissions at night and raising his three young sons "something had to give". His marriage broke up and Lancaster found himself writing his resignation letter.

Josh Lancaster has more time to spend with his sons now that he's a full-time artist. Photo / Supplied
Josh Lancaster has more time to spend with his sons now that he's a full-time artist. Photo / Supplied

The 39-year-old moved to Hawkes Bay, where his ex-wife and children also live, and set up a studio to paint fulltime.

"It was just what I had to do and it's been fantastic. I spend more time with my kids than I was ever able to before.

"There's something lovely about being able to follow my own rhythm. I wake up without an alarm clock, I eat when I'm hungry, exercise when I'm antsy, paint when I feel like painting.

"It's simple, you just do what you feel like doing."

Lancaster says he transferred his corporate experience - his work ethic and ability to interact with clients - to his new role. Drawing every day allowed him to build up his technical skills.

Josh Lancaster paints iconic local New Zealand places like this dairy in Grey Lynn. Photo / Supplied
Josh Lancaster paints iconic local New Zealand places like this dairy in Grey Lynn. Photo / Supplied

While painting is his dream career, artists don't get a stable income. Lancaster says there can be a huge fluctuation but he's managed to make it work - in part because he got rid of his huge Auckland mortgage.

A commission costs around $5000 and takes three or four months for Lancaster to complete.

"There was something really lovely knowing on the 15th of the month this money magically appears in your account. No matter how bad it got, you knew it was going to happen every time.

"Now if I need more money I just paint it faster or muck around a little less."

For now, Lancaster is not looking back and has no plans to return to advertising.

"I guess if people stopped buying my paintings it's something to fall back on."

​Living in a van

Lisa Jansen gave up her normal life and marketing job to live in a van and travel New Zealand. Photo / Supplied
Lisa Jansen gave up her normal life and marketing job to live in a van and travel New Zealand. Photo / Supplied

At 33, Lisa Jansen's friends were having babies, getting married or focusing hard on their careers.

Unhappy with her options, Jansen left her fulltime marketing job, sold her belongings and invested $20,000 in a self-contained van to cruise around New Zealand.

The Auckland woman spoke to the Herald on Sunday while climbing a mountain in Spirits Bay, Cape Reinga.

"These days we have all these options but I still felt like most people do the career thing or the family thing. But what if you don't want to make either one of those your top priority in your life?

"I wanted to break through and leave the traditional path for a while do something a little crazy and off the beaten track."

She's been on the road since early December last year and currently has no plans to return. She makes ends meet with some part-time marketing work which she does remotely.

She also writes a blog called Life Done Differently. Jansen hopes that, as long as no unexpected expenses crop up, she can keep travelling indefinitely.

"I don't feel stressed or bored. I've always felt either one of those. Now I have the right amount of time for everything."

Lisa Jansen is figuring out what to do with her life while cruising around the country. Photo / Supplied
Lisa Jansen is figuring out what to do with her life while cruising around the country. Photo / Supplied

Before taking the plunge, Jansen had to ensure some practicalities. She had a rack built for her van, which can carry a surfboard, kite board and bike

She also chose a van which allows her to stand upright. It includes a toilet, shower, kitchen and benches that turn into a bed.

However, breaking away from the "normal life" is not without its worries. Jansen frets sometimes about what she may be missing out on.

"I want to be less influenced by what society tells me I want. It's scary sometimes.

"Part of this is figuring out what I want to do next, what I want my life to be about… Maybe I'll keep doing it forever."

Gave passion '100 per cent'

Musician Tom Cunliffe is focusing 100 per cent on his music. Photo / Aaron Lee
Musician Tom Cunliffe is focusing 100 per cent on his music. Photo / Aaron Lee

Financial stability flew out the window when Tom Cunliffe tossed in the towel at his 9 to 5 job.

He had been a copywriter for eight years when he decided to quit to pursue music fulltime. He had played around with a guitar since university days, but his passion for music only kicked in when he started performing live.

Cunliffe describes his music as "folk music with electric guitars and synths".

"There's an amazing thing with music where you create something then get this incredible response.

"It's a pretty special thing to travel to town you've never been to and play these songs you've made up out of your head and feel people feeling the song.

"That's when I realised I had to choose. I had to say 'I really want to do this and give it the time'."

Cunliffe, 31, gave up his day job last year. Over summer he toured New Zealand and is currently preparing to release his second album in April.

He admits it was strange at the beginning but he has grown used to a new way of life.

When touring, the shows pay for themselves but while at home in Grey Lynn he relies on savings and odd jobs to get by.

Despite the uncertainty, Cunliffe has no plans to return to his old career and way of life - though he is realistic about money and the longevity of his life in music.

"When you're not touring you find work. I haven't really got to that point yet [of wanting to return to work]. When I run out of money, then I'll know how I feel about that."

Tom Cunliffe is living off his savings while he makes music. Photo / Supplied
Tom Cunliffe is living off his savings while he makes music. Photo / Supplied

Cunliffe says the change was "totally worth it" and he hasn't regretted it for a minute.

"It's not an easy path. You make your own way but that's exciting. There's happiness and fear attached to that".

'Daunting path, now looks easy'

Cory Bellringer worked as a farmhand for a year before becoming a share milker. Photo / Supplied
Cory Bellringer worked as a farmhand for a year before becoming a share milker. Photo / Supplied

Giving his two daughters the same upbringing he had drove Cory Bellringer to shift from the big city to the regions.

The move from Auckland to Taranaki meant a huge career change too. Bellringer, 35, had been working as an art director for 12 years when he decided to become a dairy farmer.

He had grown up on the land and wanted his daughters, aged 4 and 1, to feel the freedom of growing up rurally.

"It's worked out really, really good. It's just the freedom of being outside and you've got hectares to play around on. The girls can come with you to get the cows.

"The kids don't look at their iPad or iPhone, they want to do things outside. They always like to go for a ride on the motorbike."

Cory Bellringer changed careers so his daughters could have a similar childhood to him on the farm. Photo / Supplied
Cory Bellringer changed careers so his daughters could have a similar childhood to him on the farm. Photo / Supplied

The decision meant starting again and a big pay cut - Bellringer worked as a farm hand for a year to gain the experience needed to start 50/50 sharemilking on his dad's farm.

He is two years into his new life and still isn't confident he knows what he's doing. Luckily his dad "watches my every step".

"It was tough coming down to being lowest of the ranks. You do the dirty jobs, you just say yes and do it.

"But I knew where I wanted to go with it."

The hardest part is working all day, every day and being tied to the farm. But when the cows go dry he should have a few months off.

Bellringer advises anyone contemplating a career change to just do it. Scary though it can be, hindsight has shown him it was the right decision.

"If you're not happy where you are it's easy to change. It might be hard at the start and the path looks daunting, but when you look back it's pretty easy."