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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?

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

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!

Thank you so much for your response, Ro! I found your advice really helpful. I see you work in career services now, and my interests are very aligned with yours since I also want to assist others to succeed. My heart is set toward becoming a career counselor in higher education, but I think my anxiety stems from the fact that I haven't had an opportunity to gain experience in the field, and I worry that I will discover that it's not actually suited for me once I acquire my first job. But I like your advice regarding first jobs, and I would be interested in hearing more about how you shifted from law to the education sector, if you would be willing to share! Catherine T.

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jennifer’s Answer

Hi Catherine,

I have a wealth of experience in this area. In fact, most people change careers at least once in their lifetime. So your thoughts are more common than you may think.

I began my career in nursing. I eventually grew professionally into nursing administration, then to management. After having very young children, I decided to change career paths, and open retail clothing stores. I needed to read everything I could get my hands on, and take workshops and online seminars to fully understand the business, marketing, online sales, distribution, and network channels. I did this for 10 years. I eventually returned to nursing after selling my company. I then went back to school to earn a degree in marketing management.

So to answer your question, if you have passion for what you want to do, you will make the time, and put in the work to make the dream become a reality. But it DOES take TIME , WORK, and EFFORT. There are NO shortcuts, but its worth it

I would recommend starting your career in an area that is grounded. One that will always be needed. That is why I chose nursing. There will always be a need for medical professionals, so I always knew there were jobs with a steady paycheck ( and i loved working with people).
If you wanted to branch out after you learned about a new career that you are passionate about, it is completely fine to dip your toe in that pool. Just remember, if it doesn't work out, you can still go back to that first career that is stable and dependable.

I hope I was able to help .
Good luck in your career pursuits.

Jennifer, I found your advice really helpful, and it actually makes me feel a lot better! I appreciate that you described the steps you needed to take in order to make the shift from nursing to retail, and I see myself in a similar position since I want to go into higher education but I'm passionate about writing. Thank you so much for your help! Catherine T.

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Eric’s Answer

Greetings I feel your anxiety and confusion. Fist question what fields interest you. I have changed to so many careers during my life time from McDonalds in High School to retired Master's in Vocational Rehab/ Mental Health Counselor retired. But ad the times are changing. Write on a piece of paper. Write what you have thought about doing verses what's going on now with separation isolation business are closing. So what other intrests you.
1. What do you really want to do in your heart. (enjoy, happy)
2. What can you tolerate (put up with)
3. What you won't do.
Career changes upon mostly in burn out situations high stress and confusion.
So before choosing anything research potential jobs their expectancy .research potential growth and negative findings
These are just some of the questions you might think about.
With the love of Jesus live well

Thank you for your advice, Eric! Sending you well wishes too. Catherine T.

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Aaron’s Answer

I would suggest developing some sort of network in each area that you are interested in. People with established careers remember what it was like to be in that position and chances are, they had to decide to change paths at one point too! Ask for 15 minutes of their time, map out what the pros and cons are of that specific line of work. Even if you decide not to move forward with their kind of job, always get back to them and let them know where you have decided to go and where your head is! This will pay dividends in your future.

Informational interviews are always a great idea. Thank you for the advice, Aaron! Catherine T.

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Kathy’s Answer

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

Kathy, I found this really helpful, and I especially like your advice to remember that "real life" experience is valuable even if it's not in the perfect industry or job. What you said has reminded me about how important it is to be flexible, and I need to keep that in mind as I move forward with my career journey. Thank you so much for your advice! Catherine T.

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Adam’s Answer

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!

Thank you Adam, I appreciate the advice! Catherine T.

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Alyssa’s Answer

This is a great question. I've personally changed careers from Fashion Merchandising to Provider Management. It was a huge change and one that happened gradually. I'd encourage you to think about what you like to do and are good at. That seems like a general answer but take it a step further and consider your strengths. For me, I knew I loved interacting with people and creating processes. With each job, I thought about what projects or tasks excited me and I kept pursuing those. Eventually, I went from Fashion Merchandising to Content Management to Recruiting and ended up in Provider Management.

If you still feel really stuck when graduating consider going into recruiting. It's a great career starter. You'll learn about other careers, what they pay, and what employers look for. It will also teach you sales and people skills that will be invaluable later on in your career. I hope this helps! Don't be afraid to try and change directions. Best of luck!

I would be interested in hearing more about what drove your career changes and the specific steps that occurred as you made the gradual change, if you'd be willing to share, and thank you for your response, Alyssa! Catherine T.