You want to make a career change, but you hesitate because the switch feels like it takes more than a leap of faith. Perhaps you’re envisioning a huge, death-defying jump across the Grand Canyon. Well, I can’t tell you that the transition to a completely new profession (or rejoining the work force) isn't scary or doubt-ridden at times. But I know we don't have to let our fears, worries, and overthinking paralyze us in the process of fulfilling our dreams, or at least trying.
Before I dive into a few tips I’ve learned from moving from a career in law to self-employed to social media and marketing (which I hope will ease some of your jitters), I have two pieces of advice for you to keep in mind as you contemplate going for it. And I apologize in advance for the clichés.
There is no time like the present. I realize there are external factors that come into play when contemplating a career change, such as family, finances, health, and happiness. But we also can’t use these as excuses to stay comfortable because of the “what ifs” that we may encounter if we leave our day job. In fact, suffering a little discomfort as you set forth on a new path might motivate you to keep pushing forward through any obstacles.
You don’t have to have THE perfect idea, only a good one. If you wait for that million dollar Aha! moment to arrive, you may never move forward with a new career because — let’s face it — we often takes many not-so-good plans (maybe even 1000s) to arrive at the best one. You’ll hone your good idea as your grow, learn, and even make a few wrong turns in a new market. Plus, I guarantee you can think of plenty of successful businesses and ideas that are built around simple concepts. Use that as motivation.
Now that’s we’ve gotten these friendly reminders out of the way (I have to revisit them often), let’s get to the good stuff. I’m often asked “why” and “how” I left the law. The “why” is a much longer story for another day, but the “how” is something we can cut our teeth on now. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating/finding/starting a new career, here are some things that eased the way for me (although I didn’t figure them out is the nice, orderly fashion):
1. Listen to your gut. This is the time to ignore the spinning wheels in your head (they’ll have their moment to shine later in the process). If you wake up each day and something inside keeps telling you that things are off, don’t ignore it. You are your own best compass and your body is signaling that a change might be needed.
2. Identify your passions. Have you been in business, but writing a cooking blog on the side? Do you volunteer as children’s advocate and want to move into charitable work full-time? Are you a great party planner who spends ALL her free time managing events? What line of work would your pursue if you were free to do whatever you want? What makes you tick? Brings happiness? Write a list, create a diagram, keep a journal…write it down and analyze it for common threads. Then…
3. Honestly and realistically identify your specific career goals. Based on your strengths and passions, identify the type of career you want. This is the time to be truthful and not get caught up in others’ expectations for you. I promise your parents will still love you if being a doctor and lawyer isn’t as great as they (or you) had hoped.
4. Set out to educate yourself in the new career space. Reach out to mentors who already practice in that area or have achieved the work/life balance you similarly want. Ask lots of questions — everything related to skills needed to day-to-day logistics to market trends. Take on internships, volunteer work, or freelance jobs in the field you want to adopt (this is also great for demonstrating to future employers, partners, and investors that you are serious about the career jump and have the skills to back it up). Learn as much as you can about the nitty-gritty related to the new career you desire.
For Sarah Stewart Holland and me, creating Salt & Nectar proved to be a good jumping off point for a new writing and social media career — we learned how to deliver daily content, grow an audience, master social media channels, and developed relationships with other bloggers. In fact, it convinced Sarah she could do something she never even thought possible before. When we were ready make the move, we had a portfolio of work to show.
5. Create a career plan. Now that you’ve had time to learn about the ins and outs of your new career, create a plan for how and when you are going to achieve it. Factor in if you need to go back to school, how much money you need to save, how the division of labor at home will change, childcare demands, etc. This is when you can let your head do all the work.
6. Go for it. Deep down, you know you’re a maverick.
7. Stay motivated. Find support groups (friends, local business/networking organizations, online sites) and practice habits that keep you inspired on the journey. Move LifeStyle, Project Eve, Ladies Who Launch, and Fast Company are great champions of carving out your own career.
What tips would you add for an aspiring career changer?
~ The Other Sarah