Philomena Tan

Doctorate of Psychology (Counselling) Philomena Tan

Posted: 19 October 2011

Twelve-hour days, a blur of deadlines and missing her husband's birthday inspired Philomena Tan to chart a new course in life. Her new book How to Escape the Rat Race was the result, writes Kate Babic.

When Sigrid Thornton's character in the award-winning ABC TV series SeaChange packed in her high pressure job as a city barrister for life in a coastal hideaway, she seemed to give voice to a new aspiration: the search for a balanced life with meaning. Swinburne Doctor of Psychology graduate and psychologist Philomena Tan should know - at the age of 31 she was research director at one of Australia's largest market research consultancies. One particularly busy week when she missed her husband's birthday while interstate on business, Philomena began to question whether she was getting the most out of life. She was inspired to return to study and research other people's sea changes.

"I wanted to find out what motivated the change, the common themes underlying a majof career-lifestyle shift, as well as the personal and financial impact," she says.

Philomena says 'downshifting' is a fairly recent phenomenon that sees people demanding a more flexible approach to work and a greater sense of satisfaction.

The research for her PhD revealed that 87 percent of sea-changers were prompted by factors such as longer work hours and changing organisational culture, while 71 percent wanted more time to pursue personal goals such as spending more time with family or personal development.

After having conducted 30 in-depth interviews, Philomena was struck by the diverse yet common experiences of people whose "pre-change" income ranged from $38,000 through to $250.000.

Her resulting new book How to Escape the Rat Race gives people support for a potentially life-changing move.

"The book will encourage people to investigate all their options thoroughly by reading about other people's experiences, researching career-lifestyle change and assessing their own lives using 30 self-help exercises," she says.