Be Your Own Boss, and Get Back to Work!

  • Jennifer Thomas
  • in
  • Back to Work, Weekend Reads
  • |
  • 24 Sep 2017


I don’t like being bored. In fact, I’ll go to great lengths to keep myself entertained. I’ll try new activities, meet new people, change jobs or even move countries seemingly on a whim.  This desire to always be challenged especially applies to my career;  I tend to be a workaholic. Some may call this crazy, folks have told me to slow down, others to "take it easy." However, those concepts are as foreign to me as eating french fries with ice cream. I was born with a restless heart.

I say all of this not as a confession, but to set the stage for the biggest plot twist of my life: six years ago I met the man I would marry.

That in itself seems like an innocuous statement, but let me color in the picture for you. I’m from Canada; my husband is from India. We met in our MBA program while in Canada, and soon after, we decided to be in a relationship. Some time into the relationship he decided to move back to India.

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 The question was, would I join him? To say it was a complicated decision would be giving it too much credit. I knew he was the one, and I knew I loved India (I visited twice for work, working with fair-trade certified organizations before we met). Feeling as if I was edging towards a change in my career anyways - I agreed to move to India without a second thought.

However little did I know that moving around the world wasn’t going to be the biggest challenge - I had to learn how to appreciate my break from work and use it to build my future.

Reflect and Re-tool 

To me, the concept of not working is a big, black hole. Some folks would luxuriate on their couch and create a Netflix binge list, in some ways, I envy those folks. When it was all said and done, the move, the wedding, the inevitable Delhi Belly, the wait for a visa, it ended up being a two-year hiatus from the work place.

 One thing my dad always said is that during unemployment or time off work, it is a time to reflect and re-tool for the next period in your life. Life continues whether you take a break or not, so don’t waste the time you have.

I knew I wouldn’t continue with the career I had before as a Special Events Logistics Manager, so what was the right next step? I ran so hard down that career path for many years that I couldn’t take another step. So what was the right step for me?

My husband (he’s a pretty handy guy to have around with his infinite wisdom), made me realize that there was no point agonizing over the perfect career, the point for me was to simply have a career.

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I decided that since I loved fitness, work out clothes, loud, obnoxious Top 50s Pop Music, and feeling like a million bucks after a sweaty work out session - I would explore being a Personal Trainer. 

Loving fitness and decided to make a career out of it was a huge risk. Not only was I making a huge departure from my current skill set, I was also entering an entirely new industry. I felt as if I was stepping back in my career by ten years, exploring a job I should have had out of high school, not out of my Masters. But my life wasn’t running down the "normal" track. I was pondering these big life questions in India, listening to the sound of raucous traffic and drinking masala chai, while a few months prior I was in -40 degrees dressed in a parka, managing one of Canada’s biggest New Years Eve Fireworks shows. There was no “normal,” and I felt free to make my own rules.

I ordered the books, enrolled in classes, and started chipping away at the new knowledge. I threw what energy I would have given into a job, into learning. I became a certified Personal Trainer, then started in on accumulating advanced education in Pre & Post Natal Exercise, Weight Management Specializations, Functional Training & Corrective Exercises - I watched Youtube clips read academic articles, I picked up text book after text book and just read for the pure joy of learning something new. The bleak unknown started to take some shape.

Reskilling and reassessing where you are is the perfect start to your second career.

 Jen Thomas Fitness and Being My Own Boss 

After two years of not being able to work, the opportunity finally came, and I began to work for myself - something I had never done before. I started Jen Thomas Fitness and opened a private training studio in Chennai, training ladies only. I love working with women because I recognize all of their insecurities, doubts, fears, and I can work with them on loving themselves, their bodies, and encourage them to take chances and big risks. It’s the most rewarding job I have ever had - and I wouldn’t have if it weren't for me taking the biggest risk of my life, and being patient during my time off.

Lessons Learned 

Rebuilding a career after an employment hiatus wasn’t easy. It was two years filled with self-doubt, and lack of confidence. But it also was two years filled with exploration, introspection, and the joy of uncovering a new passion. It was a risk that paid off many times over.  

Reskilling and reassesing yourself is a great way to restart your career after a break.

If anyone is currently in an employment hiatus or thinking about taking one, my best advice is to find little ways to invest in your knowledge and broaden your horizons. You never know what you may uncover.

If you’re stuck and don’t know where to start, I strongly advise looking at the Reskilling section on JobsForHer’s portal, where there are incredibly interesting topics that you can explore from various course-providers around the world – some free of charge, and some paid. I took a few of these kinds of courses while on my break, and I can’t recommend the exercise enough. You never know what may come of it!

About the Author

Jen Thomas is a REPs certified Personal Trainer & Fitness Instructor from the Premier International Training school in London, UK.

She runs a private training studio in Chennai, and her goal is to encourage women to become more confident and comfortable while exercising. You can follow her on Instagram @jenthomasfitness.

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