Have you ever dreamed about making a career change and doing something completely different with your life? You’re not alone. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on employees, so much so that 50 percent of employees intend to make career changes as a result, according to a Catalyst-CNBC survey. Thirty-three percent are looking for a job in a new industry, while 27 percent plan to quit their current job to start their own business. Based on the survey, it seems like the pandemic has been the catalyst for change in many career paths, but I have to wonder how many people felt this way before the pandemic but felt like it wasn’t the right time to make a career change.
So what holds us back? Why do we hold on to things for so long? Most of us don’t like change and are likely to stay in jobs that no longer serve us. The fear of the unknown, lack of control, imposter syndrome, loss of identity, and more can contribute to the feeling of being stuck. I stayed in a position for two years where I was overqualified, underpaid, and miserable. I convinced myself that I needed to stick it out for a certain amount of time. Clients share similar stories all the time, things like:
- Feeling like they have to stay in a job that was not what it was promised for at least a year
- Getting passed over for a promotion due to nepotism but convincing themselves to stick it out
- Dealing with a boss who demeans or belittles them into thinking they couldn’t find another position
- They’ve spent most of their career at the same job and don’t know how to start the job search process
- They don’t know what they want to do next and are afraid of the unknown
This is particularly common during the mid-career period – someone with more than 10 years of professional experience. I’ve taken a specific interest in the mid-career professional after having written my dissertation on the subject. As the biggest and most significant chunk of your career, there is barely any research done on people in their mid-career. That’s why I started my coaching practice to provide resources to people in their mid-career.
The fear keeps us stuck. Stuck in a situation that makes us miserable – that seeps out into every part of our life. How do we face our fear? Knowledge and preparation. The more you know, the more well thought out your plan, these are the antidotes to fear. Many other people have made successful mid-career changes, including some of the most well-known success stories:
- Oprah Winfrey started hosting The Oprah Winfrey Show at 32
- Julia Child didn’t learn how to cook until she was 36
- Toni Morrison was 39 when she published her first novel
- Lucille Ball was 40 when the first season of I Love Lucy aired
- Vera Wang started her bridal business at 40
- Martha Stewart was 41 when she published Entertaining
- Leslie Jones was 47 when she signed on to Saturday Night Live
- Viola Davis won her first Emmy at 49
- Patricia Field was 56 when the first episode of Sex and the City aired
- Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 when she published her first book
There is no age limit to success and it’s NEVER too late to add yourself to this list!
When to Make a Change
How do you know when it’s time to make a career change? If you feel off, but don’t know what you want to do next, it’s hard to step into something new. Ask yourself if any of these things apply to you:
- You’re bored or frustrated at your job and it’s affecting other areas of your life
- You still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up
- You’re feeling overwhelmed
- You’ve started a new position every 8-12 months
- You’ve landed some interviews but can’t close the deal on a new job
Before going out and quitting your job, you need to do some soul searching. What things interest you? What do you like doing? What are you good at doing? Where do your lists overlap? Check out my previous blog posts on Finding Alignment and Goal Setting for more in-depth coaching on where to start.
How to Switch Industries
If you’re considering a career change with little to no relevant experience, preparation is key. Start researching your new industry, find out if you need to upskill. Do you know anyone in this industry that could give you advice on where to start? Look at your desired position and note the skills and qualifications they are looking for. Which ones do you already have? How can you work on acquiring new skills before making a change?
Once you are armed with knowledge, define your WHY. Why are you interested in this new career? Is it money, flexibility, leadership opportunities, passion, curiosity? Once you’ve figured out the WHY, then decide on the WHEN. Are you going to build up skills for the new career while at your current job? Is there a financial benefit to staying for a certain time?
Having a defined timeline will help you make a logical change versus an emotional change. If you don’t have a plan, you may decide to quit on a whim when you’ve had a bad day and be completely unprepared. Being prepared means that you have a date in mind of when you will leave your current position. For example, maybe you’re planning to start a new business and you have an opportunity to sign your first big client. That might be the catalyst you need to make the first move. You just need to know what that is in advance.
As you promote yourself to recruiters and new industries, you need to craft your story. How are you going to explain your changing career history when networking or in an interview? This is where knowing your WHY will be important.
Consider how you’ll get experience. While you won’t have the same, traditional experience as other candidates, you can gain experience by moonlighting or volunteering. If you’re looking to leave the education field and go into marketing, you might consider picking up some tasks on UpWork or Fiverr to get samples for your portfolio. If you’re leaving an engineering profession to go into the culinary field, are there volunteer opportunities you can take advantage of to practice your skills? Maybe you can get hours volunteering to make food at your church. These will be valuable additions to your resume and show that you’re serious about making a change.
There are many opportunities to take free or low-cost classes on LinkedIn or Google or at your local community center. Walking into an interview with your volunteer time and certifications will give you credibility and show your enthusiasm and dedication. You can also join a professional organization to start meeting people in your desired industry.
Finally, you’ll want to revamp your resume focusing on your transferable skills and accomplishments. Emphasize the experience you do have and how it can contribute to your new industry. This type of resume lists your expertise first and then your work experiences.
Make the Leap
Once you’ve done the work, you’re ready to make the leap. Many of my clients have said, “I wish I had called you sooner.” Usually, because they were afraid, which kept them stuck. Afraid of change, of feeling uncomfortable in a new work environment, afraid of failing. So, they stay. We think fear keeps us safe. It doesn’t. It keeps us small. Here are a few examples of clients that have taken the leap and made a successful career change:
Stefanie K. shared, “Monica was so exceptionally helpful in my journey to changing not just positions but career paths. As a mid-career woman, I felt a little stuck and a lot uncertain about how to frame my experiences and update my documents for my new field. Monica gave concrete, solid advice that not only addressed the tangible pieces of a job search (resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile) but she really took the time to listen to what I was saying, honor what I was feeling and help me reframe it to create a positive thought process and actionable items. Monica’s support, attention to detail and guidance were major components of my job search success, and if you’re a mid-career woman who feels stuck, I highly recommend you invest in Monica’s services.”
Amanda R. shared, “I met Monica through her group coaching classes, called Crossroads. The experience was wonderful for me. Crossroads helped me feel supported in my career transitions, gave me the opportunity to form connections with other people in similar life transitions, and provided tangible action items so that I could take steps in-between sessions. I felt like the group allowed me the ability to have accountability but also support when the path to something new was challenging. It can be lonely working through big life changes, and doing this group coaching group gave me the momentum I needed to make positive changes in my life. Monica set clear expectations, was understanding, provided encouragement and quick support when interviews started to pop up and was very respectful of where everyone was in their own process. I would highly recommend Monica and especially joining in the group coaching sessions.”
If you can relate to any of these things, we should talk. You have my permission to quit and to live out your dreams, even if you don’t know what they are yet. This is where I can help you develop a clearer picture of what’s next. Set up a free consultation with me and you won’t be disappointed. What do you have to lose…five more years at a job you hate?