Backstory: I recently posted an updated version of an article I wrote on five tips for changing careers and it occurred to me that I had enough information in there to dive a bit deeper into each of my points in separate posts. So, here is my first go at posting a blog series! This is article #2 in the series.
Tip #1 was to say yes.
True story: My previous role was in education – I was a classroom teacher. I loved the relationships I had with my students and their families, I loved teaching and seeing my students learn (and learning from them as well), and I loved how every day was filled with challenges and meaningful moments.
However, that role was also filled with a tremendous amount of emotional stress, and was very draining. Year after year went by, and I began to notice that little by little, my excitement and passion for my career started to decline. I had so many ideas (project-based learning, social-emotional learning activities, tech tools and integrations), but there were a seemingly endless amount of barriers to implementing those ideas. Some were situational, some were systemic, but I just felt tired. I was aching to:
- be creative
- put my ideas into action
- feel appreciated and valued in terms of compensation, opportunity, and respect
- continue growing professionally
- make positive change on a larger scale
Around that same time, I experienced some loss, and was reminded of how we don't know how much time we have on this planet and in this life. I decided I didn't want to waste any more time mindlessly going through the motions of something my heart truly wasn't in anymore. So I decided to make a career change and pursue something new.
Originally, I wanted a role that incorporated the things I was passionate about: education, writing, and tech for good. I took the leap and applied for a role that I was really excited about. I went through four rounds of interviews over a two-month period. Each interview went better than the last, and while I knew to not put all my eggs in one basket, I couldn't help feeling like this was the one.
Ultimately, they told me they had gone with someone else who had slightly more experience in a niche area, and I was back at square one again.
I knew that I didn't have the time or financial flexibility to spend a few more months going through this process again without some sort of income, so I ended up taking a role that was in the education space again. It was a unique situation – I was a 1:1 aide for a student who had never been in school before and needed a lot of extra support. It seemed like an intriguing challenge and I had the exact skill set they were looking for. The role was short-term, flexible, and it felt good to be contributing my skills and helping others once again.
Over the next four months, I worked in this role, and started considering going back to the education space long-term. I told myself this was the most logical thing to do, and perhaps I was trying to convince myself that my experience at a different school district, in a different role, would be different - would be enough of a change that I was looking for. Perhaps I doubted myself. Perhaps I was afraid of making the full commitment to the process of change.
However, as appreciative as I was for the opportunity, it turned out that the student needed more specialized support and resources that the school could offer and it became a very stressful situation. I realized I didn't want to settle just because it was the easiest path. I felt like I was going right back to where I had just come from and I was tired of feeling underpaid and undervalued. I really wanted to find something that checked the boxes – something that I enjoyed doing, in a place where I had opportunities for growth and felt valued and appreciated.
If you find yourself having similar thoughts about going back to something familiar because it's safe, ask yourself: is this really want I want? Don't listen to those fears! Sure, it may have been the "safer" route, but deep down, I knew that it wasn't truly what I wanted. I was ready to explore my full potential and try something totally new. That's what I actually wanted.
The education role ran its course, and this time, I decided to give the career pivot a full go. I started applying to a wider range of jobs, but selectively - making sure they were at companies whose culture, mission, vision, and values I aligned with. I looked at where the gaps were in my resume between where I had been and where I wanted to be. I started taking a ton of online courses on LinkedIn Learning and Hubspot on content strategy, digital marketing, and writing. I knew I still needed some income, so I picked up a part-time tutoring gig in the meantime – which actually worked out great because it gave me the flexibility to keep investing time into learning, applying, and hustling, but not distracting or derailing me from my goal. This time, I wasn't going to just sit back and keep throwing my resume out there without adding to it and improving it on a weekly basis. I had faith that if I put in the work, I would successfully make this transition.
As I mentioned in the first post in this series, I also did a lot of volunteering and networking during this time.
I applied to more jobs. I went on more interviews. I listened to my gut, heart, and intuition, and kept moving forward with a clear vision of what I was looking for.
For me, it was the five bullet points I listed at the beginning of this article. For you, it may be something different. But I learned more about what I wanted as I went through the process, and this allowed me to even turn down an offer that didn't align with what I was now looking for. Did I know where I was going to end up? No. But I wanted something different.
I said no to a role that was the exact same role that made me want to seek a career change in the first place.
Then I said no to a role that was different from my previous one, but not different enough.
I said no to a role that would have given me the experience I wanted, but just had a bad gut feeling during the interview.
And, I learned to say no to self doubt.
After each "no", I got a little more clarity about what I wanted. This helped me know when I wanted to say yes.
The entire process took about nine months to make the transition from one career path to another. And even though I had the confidence I could do it, I was elated that a few months after I left that short-term 1:1 education role, I found myself starting my first day at a company whose people, culture, and mission really resonated with me, and one that invested in the growth of their employees – a company that I felt good and excited about working for, and one that saw my unique background and experience in a field other than tech as an asset, not something that was lacking.
This transition may seem long for some, or short for others. While it was a long and daunting process, filled with uncertainty, I trusted that I would find what I was seeking. And eventually, I did.
If I could do it, so can you! It's totally possible to pivot and make a career change at any time. It's easy to let the excuses mount, or to talk yourself out of it, but if you follow your intuition, listen to your heart – what it's truly yearning for – and put in the work, the payoff will be priceless.
Have you ever made (or thought about making) a career change? I would honestly love to hear about your experiences. Feel free to share in the comments below and connect with me here on DEV and on Twitter!