Grace Clapham and Solonia Teodros, co-founders of Singapore’s The Change School, talk about how they plan to help people turn around their careers – and their lives.
“When we were at our own career and life crossroads, there was nothing out there to help, other than advice that said, ‘take a retreat,’ or, ‘do an MBA.’” says Grace Clapham. “We wanted to create a space that provided the tools, resources, experience and guidance as well as the community for us to embrace the change we wanted, and move through that change with confidence.” That space is The Change School, a lifelong learning institute founded by Clapham and Solonia Teodros that helps people at just that crossroad. Since its conception in 2014, it has reached more than 1000 people and been featured on Yahoo! Travel, Fox News, Dailyworth and WeWork. The changemakers behind the scene, Grace and Solonia, sat down with us to what is special about The Change School, and what they have planned next.
Grace and Solonia met each other when they were 12, forming their friendship on the school’s basketball team. Both spent their formative years in Singapore before going separate ways, taking on marketing and PR jobs in Australia and the United States respectively. “We had been living parallel lives across the world. When we reconnected, we both found ourselves at career crossroads for different reasons. I came out of PR feeling super burnt out and lacking a sense of purpose. Grace, for different reasons, arrived at the same conclusion,” Solonia recounts. “When we looked at why we are struggling, we pinpointed three areas that would help us move forward. To begin with, we want to have a space for self-exploration and discovery. We also want to have access to resources and guidance that could prepare us for the job market. Finally, we believed it was important to have a tribe which could gather people going through something similar, to share ideas on what works and what doesn’t.” Hence, The Change School.
Branded as a lifelong learning institute, The Change School is vastly different from traditional educational institutions. “Most of the options out there are not really empowering people to navigate change or showing them how to redesign or reinvent themselves in a way that aligns with their values and who they are.” Their venture’s core difference can be reflected in The Change School’s ‘Theory of Change,’ where the main focus is to improve individuals’ ability to navigate this shift. With no formal assessments and evaluations, participants are encouraged to come in with their own measures of success. “You don’t come out with a certification, but what you do have is an understanding of who you are, what motivates you and how to reinvent and repackage yourself.”
“We have met participants who landed a completely new job in an industry that previously seemed inaccessible to them. There were also participants who started off by questioning whether or not they could start their own business, but ended up going ahead at the end of the programme,” recalls Grace. “One of our alumni landed a job within six weeks of joining the ‘Confidently Create Your Bold Career Move’ course which enabled her to shift from being an entrepreneur to a talent acquisition manager.”
Grace and Solonia both anticipate further growth thanks to a series of shifts. “We are seeing a lot more changes in the job market: mindset shifts among employers, employees moving from one job for life to a more profiled career with a mix of side hustles, freelancing gigs and part-time work.” As such, their focus is on facilitating all this. “We currently focus on career change, because it allows us to provide value to people who are struggling in their career. Once you start the journey to make a shift in your work life, that actually then impacts other parts of your life.” Some of the courses in the pipeline include a ‘revamp your resume’ online course, masterclasses with topics such as, ‘how to shift from a no-tech to tech career,’ and finding strategies to discover your next career direction.
As co-founders of a relatively young start-up, Grace and Solonia are constantly experiencing changes in their own personal and professional lives. “There are times that we need to constantly re-assess and re-evaluate what we live and breathe, what we teach and share with others. Sometimes the difficulty of running your own business is that there are so many opportunities and choices out there. It is knowing what is right for you, for the business, and knowing that sometimes you need to take those risks and learning how to navigate them.”