From Civil Service to Full-Time Author: How Crossing Thresholds Helped Me Achieve My Dream Career

by Yvonne Vincent
Published: Monday, 23 October, 2023

I joined the Civil Service in 1989, thinking it would do until something better came along. Nobody warned me it would take thirty-four years for that to happen!

You may have heard other grads enthuse about Crossing Thresholds, saying how the process has helped them in their careers and waxing lyrical about the wonderful women in their group. Trust me, whatever you’ve heard, you haven’t heard enough. Crossing Thresholds was a game-changer for me. I began writing during lockdown in 2020 and am now a full-time author.

When I started module one in late 2021, I was confident about what I wanted; Grade 7 in a business unit management role followed, eventually, by leaving the Civil Service to be a writer. Nothing else would do. I visualised myself in five years, being very busy and important, and I started to plan how I’d get there. Then I began to talk it through with people. Then I looked at my plan again. By the end of day one, I was beginning to have doubts. But I couldn’t just jettison a whole career to write books instead, could I?

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was exercising my nascent want muscle. I say “nascent” because whatever they tell you about your want muscle, it takes a while to get your head around using it. At that stage, I was still locked into the idea of an illustrious Civil Service career, somehow squeezing the writing in around the day job and then retiring. I decided that a compromise would be to make a sideways move into comms. This was an area where I could effectively use my creative side and learn skills that would help me market books in future, as well as do the day job.

During Crossing Thresholds, you are asked to link up with a mentor - something which may feel very awkward. However, as a wise woman (my mum) once told me, put on your big girl pants and just do it. My mentor had lots of wise things to say, all of which are in a notebook somewhere because I have the brain of a goldfish made of sieves. She even put me in touch with someone in comms so that I could pick his (far less sieve-like) brain. This helped me understand that I had relevant experience and that networking, job-shadowing and generally making a nuisance of myself might give me a leg up. Phew! It sounded like a lot of effort for something that still didn’t sit right with me.

Throughout all the anxious cogitating and ruminating, I’d been attending the CT modules and building my want muscle. My confidence had grown. The lesson that stuck with me was to stop using apologetic language. Seeing myself as someone who said, ‘Sorry, I know you’re busy but…’ was a wake-up call. It didn’t just change the language I used; it changed my attitude. I began to politely tell people what I wanted, rather than grovel for a crumb of their time. My want muscle had grown, and with it my confidence and self-belief.

Things had begun to happen in my book world. One of my books was mentioned by a famous author in the New York Times (the husband had to scrape me off the ceiling, so joyfully did I explode), another book was number two in Mumsnet’s best summer reads (sandwiched between Marian Keyes and Richard Osman, eek) and perhaps best of all, I took what I’d learned in Crossing Thresholds and successfully pitched to a major audiobook publisher.

By the time we reached module four, I was beginning to realise that perhaps I didn’t need to be behind a Civil Service desk at all. My end goal had always been the writing. Could I bring that forward by a few years? I talked to my mentor, and she advised that if this was truly where I was headed, then perhaps I should take the foot off the gas pedal at work and shift the balance towards my writing. More wise words.

In vast contrast to module one, my career plan in module five involved selling a million books by 2025. On the very last self-directed day of Crossing Thresholds, we were asked to invite someone influential to our careers. I didn’t have anyone because, by that stage, I had already secured a year-long career break. Now, the only person who could influence my career was me.

On 29th January 2023, I began my career break. On 9th October 2023, I emailed my resignation letter and then went into a meeting with people in LA to discuss contracts in America. Life is very weird these days, and despite a healthy discussion about impostor syndrome during one of the CT modules, I remain convinced that someone will find me out.

My husband left his job in June and became my manager (which is not the same as boss, no matter how much he’d like it to be). He and I are now in charge of the next chapter, yet I will forever be grateful to Crossing Thresholds for giving me the ‘want guns’ to write it.

I also look back fondly on my thirty-four years in the Civil Service. In the words of the great Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

I’m Yvonne Vincent. You can find my books on Amazon. If you would like to know more about me, here is an interview with Booksounder or you can visit my website.

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