60. Career change: Switching sectors, industries, and countries - Karen James shares her story and tips.

career change career planning job hunting women's career Dec 14, 2020
The Job Hunting Podcast Episode 60

Karen James is the CEO of Business for Development and one of Australia's most well-loved businesswomen. Her vast network and her support of women in the corporate and SME sectors have been a hallmark of her relentless work advocating for women while working as a senior executive in the Australian banking sector and her ongoing engagement with Business Chicks, a professional association for women.

Karen has an amazing professional story to tell. Her career took many turns over the years, and she has embraced change, risk, and novelty along the way. Listen as she describes her career transitions and gives tips and advice to those who are willing to embrace career change as well.

About our guest, Karen James: 

With a background in Systems Thinking and Engineering, Karen James (KJ) has a unique talent for unpacking complex issues with companies to determine strategic opportunities. Her work with clients has enabled them to define and bring their Purpose, vision, and strategy to life, with a strong focus on execution. KJ's strengths lie in facilitating dialogue with various stakeholders and broker partnerships between organizations to achieve shared value.

KJ started her career in providing technical solutions for the European and Asia Pacific markets. Over time this led her to work for Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), taking on responsibility for Corporate Financial Services' strategy and operations. Given her commitment to changing the way businesses tackle sustainability, KJ founded CBA's Women in Focus community, which supports women in developing their businesses, providing connections and access to the latest tools, practical guidance, and insights to guide them on their business journey.

She also worked with the bank to develop and execute strategies for Community Business Finance. She led the Vision & Leadership Program at CBA, which analyzed The Hunger Project's strategies at tackling complex issues with McKinsey and incorporated those learnings into the bank's strategic approaches.

In 2014 Wiley International published KJ's book On Purpose – a business book for people who want to steer their work back on course, with Purpose leading the way – and started a consulting business. Key projects include building a new FinTech business in Ireland; developing an Indigenous language revival platform for the Federal Government; and working as an advisor to the CEO of a finance company, working to change the culture.

KJ achieved her Masters in Environmental Engineering at the University of Sydney and earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Hartford, where she studied Electrical Engineering. 


  • 05:29 – How to lead a team during a pandemic
  • 09:51 – Karen's career journey
  • 17:47 – Thanking the people who helped us in our career
  • 20:21 – How Karen and Renata met
  • 23:23 – Karen's key strengths that helped her career transitions
  • 26:09 – Poor house concept
  • 28:41 – Living Life on Purpose
  • 31:03 – Photos in Papua New Guinea
  • 32:08 – What Karen has learned from her career transitions
  • 36:33 – Interview process for not-for-profits
  • 42:41 – Importance of your network
  • 44:59 – Advice for introverts
  • 49:06 – Advice for people in between jobs
  • 54:42 – A bit about the NGO Business for Development

Audio podcast:

Links mentioned in this episode:

Are you new to The Job Hunting Podcast? 

Hello, I’m Renata Bernarde, the Host of The Job Hunting Podcast. I’m also an executive coach, job hunting expert, and career strategist. I teach corporate, non-profit, and public professionals the steps and frameworks to help them find great jobs, change, and advance their careers with confidence and less stress. 

If you are 1) an ambitious professional who is keen to develop a robust career plan, 2) looking to find your next job or promotion, or 3) you want to keep a finger on the pulse of the job market so that when you are ready, and an opportunity arises, you can hit the ground running – then this podcast is for you. In addition to The Job Hunting Podcast, I have developed a range of courses and services for professionals in career or job transition. And, of course, I also coach private clients. 

So there is no excuse – I’m determined to help you! I want you to feel empowered, nail your next job, and have the career you want.

Enjoy the episode, and ciao for now!


Renata Bernarde | Job Hunting Expert

[email protected]


I cannot recommend it highly enough.

To my friends and colleagues who are currently job hunting, this podcast is for you. Renata Bernarde and her stellar line up of guests very generously share their perspective, advice, behind-the-scene secrets, tips, and anecdotes. "It's called The Job Hunting Podcast (it is what it says on the tin!) Guests include Anita Ziemer, Michelle Redfern, Mohit Bhargava. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Run. Don't Walk." - LinkedIn post shared by Amber Knight.

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