HOW I MADE MY CAREER CHANGE, IN FIVE ACTIONABLE STEPS
Resolutions are notoriously hard to keep. It was January 1, the first day of 2014. I stood around the counter in my grandmother’s kitchen, chatting with my family members about what we hoped to accomplish in the coming year.
I had grown wary of family gatherings, as I tend to do when I’m feeling unconfident about an aspect of my life. For fear of being asked about the things that secretly pained me most. At the start of this particular year, the question I feared most was “How’s the job search going?” The answer I wanted to spitefully spit out was Terrible. If I don’t yet have a job, it’s obviously not going all too great!
However, as much I wanted to yell and scream that, I always quietly responded Fine, and would go on defense, explaining every potential opportunity in my pipeline.
The problem was that I had digested a preconceived notion of what success was supposed to mean for me. As a classically trained singer with stage grandparents, I had grown to feel that music was the only thing I was supposed to do, and I would be letting everyone down if I didn’t. I knew I needed to define a new path for myself, but felt lost on what exactly to do. What exactly was going to make me happy?
As I stood by that counter in my grandmother’s kitchen on that New Year’s Day, everyone shared their resolutions. Most were the typical; lose weight, eat healthier, be a general better person. But for me, I was desperate for a change and decided 2014 was going to be the year I start a career, whatever that was going to be. I was going to figure it out.
Thus began my year of searching and redefining myself. There is something so freeing about defining what success is going to mean for you, and then owning it. For those of you struggling with changes you may need in your own path, I want to share with you the five steps I took to get to where I am now and achieved a new year’s resolution that brought meaning and confidence back into my life.
How to change your career in five steps:
1) Research career options
I knew I needed a career transition, but was clueless on what would actually be fulfilling to me. I needed to explore and see what else was out there. To do this I read, and read, and read, and read some more. Books about different career paths, about subject matter that interested me in high school that had gone unexplored, about job salaries, and what was in market demand. I scoured job sites and read the descriptions and the needed skillsets to see what was feasible and interesting in various roles. I dove in deep down each of these avenues to discover what I might love.
2) Do some self-searching
Another very important piece to complement my research was digging deeper into who I was. I asked myself many questions: what am I doing when I’m the happiest? What pieces about past jobs made me feel most fulfilled? What are the strengths of my personality, and where does my power lie? I also took personality tests, such as the Myers Briggs (I’m an ENFP), and learned about what types of careers tend to be most fulfilling for my personality type, and then repeated the research step once more.
3) Assess life circumstances
Once I had narrowed down a path or two that I had determined would be a good fit, I then needed to get realistic. Through my research and self-search, I was looking at two potential paths: I either wanted to become an astrophysicist, or go into marketing. I then weighed the pros and cons of each. How much schooling would it take to work in those fields and how much money was it going to cost? If school was the route I need to go, what were the best ones, and what were the prerequisites?
When you make a huge career change, it typically involves needing to learn something new, which can likely involve you needing to quit your job. Financials are a big, often scary, often not-talked-about part of the puzzle. Plan and weigh the cost against the likely benefits in each of your options you’re considering.
For me, being an astrophysicist, while incredibly interesting, would have required that I get another degree, spend a lot of money, do a lot of painful math, and not get paid much in my possible entry-level job outcomes. I ultimately chose marketing, and enrolled in Startup Institute’s marketing coursebecause it was eight weeks long and cost a fraction of what grad school would have cost. There are lots of opportunities in the tech market, which I knew would allow me flexibility to move around more in my career, between different roles and company missions.
4) Take action
Making a career change can be terrifying. The fear of failure or change can paralyze people in their lives and careers. For me, there was a moment when remaining stagnant became significantly more frightening than the idea of jumping into the unknown. Once I had decided on a course of action and worked out the realistic financial feasibility and necessary budgeting involved in quitting my job to start this new thing, I finally had to take that leap. The only way we grow as humans is by doing the things that make us most uncomfortable. I knew my fear was natural, so I chose not to let it paralyze me.
5) Be resilient
This precipice that you need to leap from is only the halfway point in the battle. As I was working towards learning new skills in marketing, and dealing with endless self doubt, I had to develop an attitude of resilience. When faced with a roadblock, I tapped into that part of myself that was hungry for the change—that person who feared going backwards—so that I could continue pushing forward into the unknown, tirelessly working to humble myself and improve.
As I worked to tell my story with more confidence on job interviews, I got better. As I asked for help when I was struggling with WordPress, I got better. As I swallowed the self doubt and sting of rejection after an interview, I learned and got better. Don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Research shows that this grit is a key predictor of career success.
Nearly a year from that resolution, on Christmas Eve 2014, I received my first full-time job offer in a marketing and operations role for Sittercity. I had the opportunity to open their New York office and help launch their on-demand babysitting service in NYC. It was the sweetest victory. Not only did I begin a career, but it was one that was incredibly fulfilling. I learned new things about myself along the way, grew confidence in my ability to not be paralyzed by fear, gained a new network of friends and mentors through my education at Startup Institute, and found true career love. Finding your perfect path is hard work. It takes resilience, self awareness, and humility.
So, while you have likely already created your resolutions for 2016, I encourage you to think about the things that will truly make your life more fulfilled and focus on these. Develop an action plan that balances self-awareness and discovery with realistic expectations and tactical steps. If you are stuck in your career, don’t be afraid of the change and don’t give up.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: STARTUP INSTITUTE & CHRISTINE ZIMMERMAN
Christine Zimmerman spreads the Startup Institute magic as Content Marketing Manager. She is an avid dancer and lover of all cheese.