Humans are born with a natural drive to explore, learn and grow. While formal education is important, not all of our learning comes from the classroom.

If you are wanting to retrain, particularly for a career move, an assumption is often that another university degree is needed.

“On the contrary,” says Colleen Reithrath-Smith, career coach and part of the ACCESS Trainers’ Network (ATN). “It is not necessary to start from scratch. You are building forwards. Recognise and value your skills and knowledge and create your own opportunities.”

RETRAIN: arts & crafts to coding queen

When Anna Greaves attended an open evening at a coding institute, she had no idea her life was about to change course.

In London, Anna ran an online business selling portraits she created. By 23, she was living in Amsterdam and finishing her art degree. Being creative, Anna started making handcrafted artisan mice as gifts for friends. They proved so popular that Anna grew her hobby into a business over the next eight years while she juggled the demands of motherhood.

This business was labour-intensive and profit margins were small, so by her late 30s Anna was ready to retrain for a better-paid career.

Volunteering at Amsterdam Mamas, Anna noticed job opportunities for coding skills and investigated. She completed free online coding courses, discovered she loved coding, and took a paid course with Code Institute that ‘change the course’ of her life.

Coding utilises both Anna’s creative and technical talents. By daring to try something new Anna, now 40, earns a great salary, doing something she loves. Her advice for others wanting to upskill:

  • Attend open evenings
  • Be open
  • Age is not a barrier
  • Previous experience is an asset

RETRAIN: classical violinist to TEDx trainer

When Jonathan Talbott started a new line of work, his intention was to enhance his career as a professional violinist, not replace it.

At 38, Jonathan was looking for a change. He signed up for a marketing course, discovered he loved it and, upon certification, became a successful marketing manager for a small orchestra. While volunteering on a fundraising project, Jonathan realised there were opportunities beyond the classical music industry where he could excel. Around this time, he was introduced to the Delft TEDx licensee a became a qualified TEDx coach. Jonathan’s career path did not tick traditional boxes, but his skill set proved invaluable.

His advice is to ‘play at the edges’. “Don’t follow the straight road, as it’s not where the opportunities are.” Jonathan, now aged 50, runs a successful corporate training company, is a sought-after speaker and university lecturer.

Anna and Jonathan discovered new opportunities as a result of volunteer work – to retrain, they focused on re-purposing current skills and experience to suit new careers. They enhanced their qualifications by completing course online and tapped into strong networks.

Invention of new roles

Employers are aware that formal education credentials are not the only way to recognise talent. Accelerated change, due to technology, means the skills and knowledge needed for the jobs of the future cannot be imagined today. Working from home, resulting from COVID-19 lockdowns, means companies now need a Remote Working Coordinator, which didn’t exist before 2020. New roles mean new opportunities, especially for those who do not fit a traditional career path.


For internationals just arriving, facing redundancy, returning to work after a career break, or for those simply wanting a change, retraining is one option.

When choosing to retrain, Jac Rongen, Life Coach with Archery and member of ACCESS Trainers’ Network, says: “Do something connected to you, and not just the job market.” When you gain new knowledge, new skills and new connections, you create fresh opportunities for yourself.

This article first appeared in ACCESS NL’s Winter 2020 magazine – read e magazine here.

Learn more about working with life coach and ADHD coach Jacinta Noonan here.