Making a Career Change: 5 Professionals Who Prove It’s Possible
By Ashley Brooks on 09/21/2020
Your current job just doesn’t seem to be working for you anymore. Maybe you have no enthusiasm for your job duties, your boss is a bad manager or you want to pursue more meaningful work. Whatever the reason, you’ve been eagerly eyeing up other career opportunities and dreaming of the possibilities that could await you.
You think you’re ready to take the leap—but making a career change seems scary. The thought of starting all over in a new field is enough to make you panic. Will you be behind everyone else? Is it too late for you to start a new career?
It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous about such a big change, but you shouldn’t let that hold you back from pursuing a more fulfilling career.
5 Professionals who have boldly changed careers
Don’t just take our word for it: hear it right from professionals who have made their own career changes! They’re offering their best advice on changing careers. Learn from their experiences so you can be better prepared to make your own career shift.
1. Using research to find your dream career
Gabby Abascal spent twelve years working in office administration before discovering that she was passionate about the skin care field and was ready to make a change. She took action to become a licensed massage therapist and esthetician and now owns her own small business, Skin By Gabby.
Research is your best friend when looking to switch careers, according to Abascal. “Research the good, the bad and the ugly about your new career. Talk to people in the field, and if possible shadow someone to get a full perspective of what a day in that career looks like.” Every career field has its pros and cons, and you don’t want to make the leap only to find yourself disappointed by your new role.
One thing you shouldn’t be worried about, however, is being “behind” in your new career. “Yes, you might begin your new career at the bottom of the chain, but with determination you can climb up the ladder quickly,” Abascal says.
2. Letting intuition lead the way
Many professionals plan for months or years before committing to a career shift, but Dustin Huffman took a more intuitive approach. “I left a policy job in D.C. without a long-term plan for the next career move.” He spent time travelling and focusing on personal growth as a way to discover what his next career move should be.
At the end of that time, his new career was waiting for him, as an account executive with philanthropic travel company Rustic Pathways. “If you trust that you are a dynamic and valuable team member, you don't have to fret about never finding meaningful work again,” Huffman says.
Huffman may not have planned his next career field in detail, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t prepared. “Make sure you have a solid financial runway or ‘emergency fund’ before you take the leap,” he says. This allows you to explore the career options that are the best fit for you rather than accepting another disappointing job because you’re short on funds.
3. Overcoming career-change anxiety
Career and leadership coach Jill Sammak is living proof that it’s always possible to make a career change—she’s made the switch to new career fields more than once! She launched her coaching business after years of working in the business field, followed by practicing psychotherapy.
You’ve probably been feeling nervous about the possibility of a career change. Try not to worry that this anxiety is a sign you shouldn’t take the leap. “It is uncomfortable for us to step into the unknown. Nervousness is to be expected and accepted,” Sammak says. Not only is being nervous normal, it can actually increase your momentum to achieve your career goals. “When we feel nervous, we can translate that as excitement about making a change that we want in our lives.”
If you’re still feeling worried, try to remember that it’s normal for career transitions to have their ups and downs. “Expect self-doubt and bumps in the road so that when they inevitably come, you know that they are part of the journey and not a sign that you should turn back,” Sammak says.
4. Leveraging your skills and experience
You might not expect someone to go from working on construction sites to entering the world of digital marketing, but that’s exactly what Alex Azoury did! He knew he didn’t want to work in a physical career forever, so he leveraged his construction skills—“attention to detail, good math and accurate measurements”—to kickstart his marketing career.
Azoury worked for several companies to build his digital marketing skills before becoming the head of marketing of his own company, Home Grounds. This career leap was possible thanks to all the skills and knowledge he accumulated along the way in other careers, including expertise in coffee that he picked up as a barista.
You may not have specific technical skills or training in the field you’re hoping to dive into, but you do have soft skills that can help you in nearly any career. Evaluate the transferable skills you already possess. You might discover that you’re closer to your new career than you realized!
5. Pursuing education for the career you want
“I made the jump from data analyst to marketing pretty early in my career and it turned out to be the right move,” says Quincy Smith, founder of ESL Authority. He advises doing your research and waiting six months before starting out on your new career path to make sure you’re not acting on impulse.
Once you’re sure a new career is in the cards for you, Smith suggests exploring all your education options rather than rushing into a new field with little training. “I really should have taken more courses,” Smith says. “If possible, take some time off and commit to a professional course to not only improve your skillset but also show your commitment to the change.”
Whatever you do, don’t let fear stop you from exploring a new career. Smith points out that if things don’t work out in your new career, you can always return to your original field. “If you’ve thought about switching for a long time, I personally think it’s worth it to test the waters and see for yourself.”
Take charge of your life: make a career change
Making a career change can be intimidating, but remembering these successful career change stories will remind you that you’re not alone as you plan your next career move.
One of your next steps might include pursuing further education to prepare you for a new career field. Don’t let a fear of going back to school hold you back! Learn more about how to find the right fit for you in our article, “6 Things Adult Learners Should Look for in a College Program”.