Chef Angela Hartnett has an extremely useful tip for changing career

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Megan Murray
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You might be in a job you suspect isn’t for you, but the idea of jumping ship to career 2.0 can be daunting. So take some tips from an inspirational woman who’s forged an incredibly successful career in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

Award-winning chef Angela Hartnett MBE has shared her biggest tip for women who want to change their career later in life.

A protégée of Gordan Ramsay, Hartnett is now wildly successful, and one of the most respected chefs in the UK. But although she owns multiple restaurants, has two cookery books under her belt and is known for appearances on MasterChef and Hells Kitchen, she came to her vocation relatively late compared to her peers.

Because of this, not to mention her brilliantly candid and unfazed attitude, we are very much of the opinion that if Hartnett gives you life advice, you sit up and listen.

According to a survey commissioned by recruitment consultancy Robert Half, which spoke to more than 2,000 employees, 8% of 18-34 year olds are unhappy at work – a figure that doubled for the 35-54 age group and rose to 17% for the over 55s.

Whether it’s feeling undervalued in your current position, the realisation that your job spec wasn’t all it seemed or simply that the enthusiasm for the career you chose in your 20s has waned, there are many reasons behind your dreams of pastures new.

As Karen Meager, a psychotherapist who set up careers consultancy Monkey Puzzle Training, says, it’s often a result of a changing in personality as we grow older.

Meager explains, “We often end up in careers we think we ‘should’ have taken and when we get to our thirties, we realise we have other talents and passions.”

So if you decide to make the jump and try out a new profession, what’s the one thing you need to make sure you do first? The answer’s pretty logical when you think about it: try it out. 

Angela Hartnett and Mary Berry at the Fortnum & Mason Food & Drink Awards

Hartnett explains that putting yourself in your future shoes is the most crucial step when thinking about a change in direction. She tells “Go and see something, whatever it is.

“Whether you want to be a journalist or you want to be a writer, go and spend some time doing it. Save a bit of cash, take a month off and say I’m going to go and work in a kitchen if it’s a chef you want to be.

“Because I think if you’re making a real huge career move, you need to.”

Hartnett completed a history degree before deciding to pursue a totally different career at the age of 22 – relatively late in an industry that sees many enrol in culinary school or start on the bottom rung in their teens. Now she says it’s important to understand the realities of the job you’re hoping to transition to, especially if you’re looking at turning a hobby or a passion into full-time work.

“So many people say to me, my family or friends think I’m a great chef and I cook at home all the time. But cooking at home for 10 people or 20 people is not the same as running a restaurant,” she explains.

“In fact, they are absolutely poles apart – and I would say that’s the same for most businesses. You have to be prepared to go from morning until midnight, dealing with someone calling in sick. That’s very different to cooking at home and getting up to wash the plates the next day because you couldn’t be bothered to do it the night before.”

And Hartnett reckons if you want it enough, at any age, the answer to the question “Shall I go for it?” should be a resounding yes.

She continues: “There are real reality checks. But I know plenty of people that have successfully done it.

“My head chef at Morano was a graphic designer, and at about 26 gave it up and started cooking. It’s totally possible. But that’s what she did – she went in, got her head down and immersed herself in it.”

There’s no doubt leaving the knowledge you’ve learned behind is a terrifying prospect, but, as Hartnett says, having that previous life experience is potentially beneficial in the long run.

She reflects: “I feel it was good for me to start my career a little later. It gave me a bit of perspective, I don’t think it’s the be all or end all of everything.”

If you’re seriously thinking about switching things up in the professional department, take a look at our advice on how to change career in your early 30s – and meet the women who made it work.

Angela Hartnett is a member of the Michelin-starred jury for the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2017 UK & Ireland Final. Angela will mentor the victorious young chef ahead of the global final in Milan in May 2018.

Images: Angela Hartnett


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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a senior digital writer for, who enjoys writing about homeware (particularly candles), travel, food trends, restaurants and all the wonderful things London has to offer.