Chris is an enterprising person from Perth in Western Australia. From librarian to owner of an information gathering business she has put her passion and skills to good use. We like her straight forward comment that, ‘I give each job my best shot, charge fairly, and meet deadlines. My clients know it’.

Name: Chris Lees
Age: 50+
Previous Occupation: Public and Private Librarianship for 15 years
Location Of Your Previous Career: Perth
Current Occupation:
Owner and dogsbody at Preparedmind Australia
Location: Perth, WA

Well, it seems there’s an epidemic of lifestyle ‘changers’! And why not? It’s never too late for a midlife career change. Before he taught himself how to paint, Vincent Van Gogh was an art dealer, schoolmaster, student priest, and missionary. In fact, he was well into his thirties before his artistic talents were recognised. Not too shoddy for a midlife career change! With such an illustrious example of late development, who was I to buck the trend?

After formal studies at Edith Cowan University, much to my surprise I didn’t land the job of my dreams researching programs for the ABC, CNN, or any other globally recognised media outlet. Instead, I found myself in public and private Libraries. Libraries were people-centred organisations in those days, and for the longest time I enjoyed being part of it. The internet came along and with it, the potential to gather information on a larger and more significant scale. We were thrilled – confidently expecting to be funded by Federal, State and Local largesse. Well, we sharpened our pencils while we waited, and not long after the excitement faded I had learnt two important things: this was not the real world; and it was time for a change. Luckily, I had one or two close business associates who were encouraging me to write as well as gather information. I listened closely, trying to absorb all their experience. I continued to study. By the time 1998 arrived, it was time to see if I had what it took to be commercially viable…

Oh yeah? In the real world, for most of the time, WRITING EXPERTISE isn‘t valued. I often hear ‘Someone around here who can do it’; or variations on that theme. Sometimes, ‘someone around here’ can do it. It all depends. And I say, if that’s the case, give them a go! BUT the written or spoken word is reputation, and reputation is profit – so do you suppose that’s what happens in the banking industry? Or Telstra (a wonderful example of the power of words)?

INFORMATION-GATHERING though, is a different animal entirely. Credible information is king, and seriously competitive businesses usually ‘get that’. Of course, it’s always, always a question of results. And they come through hard work, experience, calling in favours, lots of phone calls… et al. Aside from all that, there are one or two rules I have learnt to follow: listen well, verify everything, don’t spit, don’t kick.

I love getting to know each client, each product or service they are engaged with. I think people gravitate toward what they can do well. Being fulfilled is just a matter of finding out what that is; and pursuing it.

What are the challenges of your job?
Like John, (see the IT in the Outback story) red tape.

What have you learnt in your second career?
I’ve learnt, and watched as other people before me learnt, that it’s never too late to try something different. That what you imagine will happen if you give up your ‘safe’ job, is invariably not true. I’ve learnt self-reliance, along with a deep gratitude for those who have been by my side.

Advice for people who would like to pursue a similar career?

  • Firstly, know your strengths and weaknesses
  • Know your intended client base
  • Be honest, forthright and positive
  • Keep your skills and tools honed (nothing stands still for long)
  • Don’t undersell your service (the no. 1 temptation)
  • Just keep going. You will learn along the way and one day, a client will believe in you enough to give you a go.

by Chris Lees
Preparedmind Australia
P: 61 089 574 1768
Or leave Chris a message at:

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