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Having The Guts To Change Your Career

The global pandemic has led to many people looking for new challenges and changing their career. In fact, according to research by Microsoft, pandemic pressure has seen a remarkable 1 in 4 people over 45 considering a career change. Melissa Thom from the Bristol Academy of Voice Acting (BRAVA) is empowering and supporting others to do exactly that.

Many years before the pandemic hit, Melissa had been through that same experience of feeling stuck in her current role and wanting to move her career forward. The problem was a familiar one to many professionals: a feeling of being stuck.

“Starting as a radio host and voiceover in 1996, presenting breakfast for radio groups, I went on to launch a couple of startups and a design agency with my husband. I then moved into marketing, working as Head of Comms for a digital agency. I was unfulfilled in that world. Plus, at that point I was a new mum and feeling creatively stuck.”

Melissa missed the world of broadcast and voice, but knew that the radio industry was shrinking - with the continued mass closure of stations across the UK. However, in 2016, her husband’s tech company, whose HQ was based in California, enabled them to move to San Francisco. It was with this move that the seeds of opportunity were sown.

Past Skills, Present Opportunity

Voice Over (VO) is a recognised industry in the U.S., with those fully trained often referring to themselves as voice actors, and Melissa jumped at the opportunity to raise her game and take her skills to the next level, training with some of the best VO professionals in the world. She committed to learning everything she could about voice acting, as well as gaining an understanding of the U.S. market.

From being creatively stuck, to being excited about the opportunities ahead of her, Melissa credits one thing to being able to switch lanes: her past. Reflecting on her career switch, Melissa knew that it wouldn't have been possible to jump into voice over without having picked up skills along the way.

Everything I’d done in my career had contributed to this point. Voice acting requires a variety of skills – understanding the world of digital agencies is key to voicing for their clients who are often big global brands, while running agencies and startups gives you the business acumen you need to understand the day-to-day hustle.

She launched her full-time VO career in America, signing with agents across the U.S and utilised her agency experience with many global clients. Two years later, Melissa moved back to the UK, where she established her full-time UK voice acting career.

An Opportunity To Help Others

It was during lockdown in the UK that Melissa realised she was hearing the same story she had told herself years earlier, only this time it was being recited by friends and colleagues. People she knew personally were now struggling professionally with the same issues she had experienced over the previous decade. However, these problems were magnified and exacerbated by the unique circumstances of lockdown.

As the pressures of lockdown took hold, conversations with colleagues in broadcast, digital and marketing were telling me the same thing. They were worried about the future of their careers, or deeply unfulfilled in their roles. They also wondered whether now was the right time to change careers. There are many growing facets to the VO industry. Lockdown saw exponential growth in areas such as gaming, and the need for properly trained voice actors has subsequently exploded.

Melissa saw the potential to create a VO Academy to not only offer training in the art and business of VO, but also to empower and support others looking to re-train and re-launch their careers. She has now successfully launched the Bristol Academy of Voice Acting and works with students from the worlds of acting, broadcast, marketing, podcasting, digital and more.

Being able to empower people’s potential and help them change careers has been rewarding for Melissa, though it wouldn't have been possible without her ability to recognise and seize the opportunities that life her presented.

You can read more about Melissa's work on her website or by visiting BRAVA

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