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For anyone who has made a successful career change, what were the most important things you had to do, or what advice would you give others looking to do the same?

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I'm a current college student, so I haven't officially started my career yet, but I'm extremely anxious about doing so, especially now that the pandemic has changed life as we know it. I've changed my career aspirations several times already, but now I'm nearing graduation and I'm still terrified that I'll wind up in a career I don't enjoy. Whether you ended up changing careers because you were dissatisfied or because you found better opportunities in another field, I'm really interested in hearing the experiences of professionals who have been in a situation like me. How did you overcome your worries, and what advice would you give to someone else? #career #career-counseling #careers #career-advice #future #career-options #college #college-student #graduation #career-change #career-switch #career-changes #career-switches #advice #july #july20 #scholarship

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Ro’s Answer

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I gave part of this answer to a prior question posted at CareerVillage, and wanted to share it with you because I think it's applicable:

This is just a personal opinion I'd like to share:

I pursued a job right after college not knowing if I would like the industry or not because I wanted to "start a career". I became a paralegal, liked some aspects of the job, and naturally thought that law school and becoming a lawyer were the next steps I should pursue. Years later, I changed my career into the education sector because teaching, guiding, and working within higher education was where my skills and passions were. My personal lesson learned was: I should have thought about what I enjoyed, and pursued it. Because I didn't do that right after college, I lost a lot of years working extremely hard at places that would have replaced me within a week if I left the firm. You graduate around 22, you'll be 32 after 10 years...you should be well on your way in a career you enjoy. No one keeps their first job anyways, so use it as a stepping stone to see if you like an industry.

My advice: first figure out what you like to do. I don't mean "I like to teach, or I like to practice medicine". Focus on why you want to work - ex: "I want to assist those that are less fortunate", or "I want to clean up the environment". This is your personal mission, and you can accomplish your mission through a variety of jobs. Personally, I want to assist others to succeed, and I was fortunate to get a position assisting college students find jobs - this was much more satisfying to me than accomplishing a merger between companies, or assisting someone win money from a company or insurance firm. Although the path I've been on has not been easy, I'm much more satisfied and proud of my work than I was earlier on in my career.

I hope that my opinion can shed a little bit of light on your question. Best of luck!
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Kathy’s Answer

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Completely changing from one industry or career to another is not impossible but it does take some planning and networking. What is important to hiring managers is that a candidate has the right skills - both hard skills and soft skills to do the job - not what major you chose. That said, if you are unsure, you might consider a more general degree than a specific one. For example, if you don't know if you want to be doctor, a researcher or a physical therapist, you might consider a degree in biology which could set you up to purse any of these at some point down the road. Likewise, if you don't know if you want to be a computer scientist, a stock broker or an engineer, you might consider a more general degree in Math. Most of us did not know what we wanted to "be" when we were twenty years old, so don't stress over it too much. Concentrate on studying material that is in a field you like learning about so that you have a strong backbone on which to build a career.

If you have an opportunity to do formal internships or informal job shadowing, that will help you decide on the type of environment you will be happiest in. Interview people in the jobs you are thinking about, and find out what kinds of skills they think are most helpful to them in the role. For example: Leadership, collaboration, creativity, persistence, eye for detail, ability to work crazy hours, entrepreneurship, etc. This will help you understand which jobs you are naturally a good fit for and which you should avoid. It will also tell you what types of additional formal or informal training you might need for jobs you'd like to take on.

On the other hand, if you are not sure if you want to pursue a career in chemical engineering or fashion design, you do have some decisions to make! Just remember that school is expensive and "real life" experience may be just as valuable even if it is in an industry or job that isn't a perfect match. Regardless of which degree you choose, as long as you make time for your person interests and passions, and you work to maintain an extensive network in both, there will always be time to try something new when the opportunity arises.

I have taken jobs in accounting/finance, sales, marketing and strategic sourcing, and ended my career as VP of Operations. I worked in health care operations, health insurance and property and casualty insurance. My best advice is to learn as much as you can in your current role to position you for the next role you'd like to have.

Kathy recommends the following next steps:

  • Talk to friends, professors or your school placement office to see if there are opportunities to speak with professionals in the field(s) you are interested in.
  • Set up time to interview people in the jobs you are interested in and ask them which skills they find most important
  • Select electives that help you build those skills in addition to your major
  • If you are still undecided, select a more general degree so that you don't feel like you are pigeon-holing yourselft
  • Pursue personal hobbies and interests along with whatever degree or job you take. This will help you stay connected and give you options
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Adam’s Answer

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I agree with Ro. Additionally, I will say that even though you may set out to do 1 and then end up doing something totally different is completely fine. The only way to know if you enjoy something is to experience it. In my opinion. I will also say that you should look to diversify your skill set as you go and look to obtain skills that can be applied universally as well as more specific areas once you are to narrow down the area or path you wish to follow. You want be well rounded and experience multiple areas. Also i recommend reaching out to folks in the workforce via your schools network and your linkedIn connections to gain valuable insight and feedback on how jobs really are on a day to day basis from people who have actually been in them. This will help guide you a bit more to where you want to go. Best of luck!
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