As previously seen on Wit & Delight
Editor’s Note: Our February theme on Wit & Delight centers around the idea of making needed changes to our lives. Most of the big changes in our lives generally don’t happen all at once; they all tend to start with small shifts that cumulatively get us to where we want to go. If you’re looking to switch to a new career this year, we hope these tips Kate wrote in 2018 will help you get started. You’ve got this.
I recently began using our email list as a way to send personal notes to our subscribers—about my own career path, why I started Wit & Delight, and what I hoped would come out of this newest evolution of our brand. I also invited readers to respond to me directly with their honest thoughts around the type of topics we talked about on this platform. There was A LOT of really productive feedback along with some incredibly helpful constructive commentary around topics we haven’t spent a ton of time exploring: aging, finances, career development, spirituality. And, of course, a number of requests for me to indulge deeper into lifestyle topics like building a home, decorating for living (not for those who will be visiting), and how to keep a sense of uniqueness to your sense of style when we’re bombarded by so much visual candy everywhere we look.
These responses gave me so much to work with and it really got me excited about writing again. So I thought I’d kick off one of my first reader-requested topics with the one that came up the most often: How in the HELL do I make a career change? And, when do I know I’m ready?
You might find yourself at this crossroads for a number of reasons. Maybe you are entering the workplace again after raising your children. Perhaps you have found yourself a job that is bad for your mental and physical health. Or maybe you need a challenge—-something to jolt you into the next phase of your career. There are few moments where we feel as vulnerable than when we embark on a journey where we KNOW we are the underdog. Navigating this path is overwhelming, exhausting, and oftentimes feels impossible. Here are some tips to help you along the way:
What I mean by this is that you have to face any doubts that you have and accept them as part of the process of evolving. Let’s say you want to move into the creative industry but you have no experience working in a creative field. You’re currently working in politics or in pharmaceutical sales and are positive that you’d need an internship at an agency or a BFA to even get yourself in the door.
Very few of us have the time, resources, or money to get a do-over but that doesn’t mean we are undeserving of taking our lives into our own hands and moving toward something better. You can continue moving toward the life you want despite the feeling that you might fail. You have to give yourself permission to have a different relationship with your work. Don’t apologize for that!
Experience is worth more than you might think. And a strong work ethic? Well, that goes a long, long, long way. Write down a list of reasons why you are drawn to this new field of work. Then write down what skills/talents you have. ALL industries need people with a great work ethic, integrity, a willingness to learn, and accountability.
Look for patterns in your answers—what problems could your skillset solve in this new industry? This helps you get focused on where to begin your search. Figure out how you can make yourself an asset in this new field of work based on the skills you have.
Are you incredibly organized and good at managing schedules and people? Consider project management. A solid communicator who advocates for your team and sells new ideas? How about an account executive or PR? Getting specific about your strengths can help point you in a direction that allows you to begin interviewing quickly.
Something that has calmed me when embarking into the unknown is that no one really talks about the middle of the journey. That is because the middle part of almost EVERYTHING— a new project, building a house, pounding the pavement on a job hunt, learning a new skill—is the least fun, most messy part of the process.
So remember, if you’re in the middle of your journey, or if you’ve come to grips with the fact you HAVE to take this journey in order to get yourself out of our current situation, it is supposed to suck. That means you’re doing it right.
We get excited about setting goals and celebrating our accomplishments. We talk about the journey when it is over because we have the benefit of hindsight. So remember, if you’re in the middle of your journey, or if you’ve come to grips with the fact you HAVE to take this journey in order to get yourself out of our current situation, it is supposed to suck. That means you’re doing it right. Because we’re fixated on what the end result will be with no roadmap in front of us guiding the way forward.
If you do need to learn a new skill in order to get your foot in the door, commit yourself to getting familiar with those skills. I’m a big proponent of using online courses to dabble in different skillsets and you can learn just about anything on the Internet these days! One of the biggest things I look for when hiring someone is their willingness to problem solve without direction. A desire to learn shows not only a commitment to growing but your willingness to expand your knowledge base when a challenge arises. This is hard to come by in an employee, so consider it a way to stand out amongst your peers!
They say you are a reflection of the company you keep. Spend your free time around people who fill you up and inspire you to be the most authentic version of yourself. People who support you are not the ones who validate your fears. They are the ones who promise to hold you accountable, who can cheer you on when the going gets tough, and be a shoulder to lean on when you need to vent.
It is important to remember that this is a vulnerable time and the company you keep can help you feel secure and remind you that while one part of your life is in flux, there is stability and consistency in other areas.
Sometimes we decide we want something based on a set of assumptions that are not proven to be true. By making time to pursue the things you enjoy doing, you are able to tap into what you may be missing from your career at the moment.
Sometimes a job is just a job and that is OK. Make time to do what you are passionate about for a little bit. This will give you the headspace to think about what kind of work excites you and the time to put toward either making new work or putting your portfolio together (or website/examples of your work).
The more people that know you are available and have a super clear idea of what it is you are pursuing, the more people can keep you top of mind. It also helps to make statements that are a bit scary in your head out loud.
Practicing talking about your career shift, having a quick elevator speech about the work you are looking for (remember—get specific), and clearly stating how someone else could help are the three most important ways you can advocate for yourself.
Start by doing it alone. Record yourself declaring what shift you are working to make and why. Listen to it. You’ll be surprised how confident you sound—there will be little trace of the anxiety you feel inside! I do this often when I’m embarking on something that terrifies me.
Then, tell someone you trust. Then, start telling people in your network who could make an introduction or connection. Practicing talking about your career shift, having a quick elevator speech about the work you are looking for (remember—get specific), and clearly stating how someone else could help are the three most important ways you can advocate for yourself.
These tips are not designed for any one specific kind of career path, but require we submit to the fact that much of the world we live in is out of our control. To make big changes, we often must face our fears, find ourselves worthy of what the change will bring, and take baby steps forward. After all, we can’t control what cards we are dealt, but we sure can control how we respond to them.
OK. I’m off to go write that last line on a post-it note for the next time I feel defeated. Readers—did I miss anything? Have you gone through the huge undertaking of changing careers? Why did you do it? Did your life change in the way you expected? We have a lot of readers working through this at the moment and they are all ears!
BY Kate Arends - February 8, 2020
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.