The Case for Changing Careers

The Case for Changing Careers

By: Jenelle Tortorella

“What am I doing at this job?”

I’m sure you’ve asked yourself that question at one point or another. For many, the answer involves rent, or student loans, or family. For just as many, the answer is that the work is satisfying (if not occasionally frustrating), or a truly wonderful set of coworkers, or your company’s generous happy hour policy.

After college, I landed a job doing what I’d spent four years learning how to do. It was fantastic for about five months. And then I started to have serious doubts. “Is this what I really want to be doing?” became a question I asked myself every day.

Long story short, I realized I needed a change. Which was both liberating and terrifying. Because what was I going to do? I spent four years of my life learning how to do one thing.  Answering the question of “what next?” seemed too big to tackle at first. Instead, I focused on a few things to make the whole process less daunting.

Find what you love. I thought long and hard about leaving my job/career. And part of that was recognizing what I loved about it — the ability to work and interact with a lot of different people on a daily basis and tell their stories — and knowing I could parlay that into another career.

Figure out what you’re good at. I’m a people person. I write and read and engage with my surroundings. Numbers aren’t my thing. Find out what things you do really, really well. If you’re unsure of where to start, ask your colleagues or boss what skills they think you have naturally and which ones you can improve on. (This is a win-win, since it makes you look proactive, and it will help you learn more about yourself.)

Network. I cannot say this enough. Talk to everyone and anyone who can give you their perspective. Use LinkedIn. Use your alumni databases. Send random(ish) emails.The world is full of people who want to help you… or at least talk about themselves a bit and then help you.

Network some more. You know that saying “It’s about who you know”? There’s a reason that’s a saying. There could be a million people gunning for that job. Set yourself apart.

Be smart. You have experience now. You’re bringing a unique skill set to this new career. Determine how you can help improve the new company or team you’re trying to join and then be prepared to talk about it. Why are you the best choice?

Be thankful. In my honest opinion, ‘thank you’ is one of the most underrated expressions, especially when it’s sincere. Send a thank you note (email works, handwritten is even better). People are taking time to talk to you. Pay it forward and reap the rewards.

The too long; didn’t read version of this: use the experience you’ve gained at your current job (and any others before) to help figure out what direction you want to move in professionally. And remember: as long as you’re learning, you’re doing something right.

Image via: Ge (Creative Commons)

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