Most people don’t stay in one set job for their entire work life, and many don’t even stay in the same field of work. But as a naive 18-year-old, heading to college, I largely assumed I had to have “everything figured out” and go to school right then for what I would do for the rest of my life.
Some people are fortunate to have such a path – my husband being one of them. And there’s something special about starting out and then continuing to pursue just the work field you love and are passionate about for years and years. But this was not the case for me.
I spent one full year in the field of work I went to college for, and immediately knew it wasn’t what I was meant to do for the rest of my life, at least in that specific format. (for those who know I was a teacher, please don’t get me wrong here – I loved the students and their families and I gave my all every day in that classroom – I just knew that there was something else in store for me after that year.) I reenrolled in school, and after graduation, spent the next two years running my own business. But then, I became a mother. And that entire experience rocked my world in more ways than I can explain, including, unexpectedly, my career path. I once again pursued more education, and that lead me to where I am today. I’m grateful to now be in the position I’m in, and I see now that I’m blessed to have the journey I did.
When I first knew that my original job wasn’t going to work long-term, I felt a crushing amount of shame and embarrassment. I struggled deeply with the fear of others’ opinions, rejection, and judgment. I now see how pointless that was, and I wouldn’t change one bit of my journey, but that’s only because now, hindsight is 20/20. I want to encourage you today to approach such a change differently, positively, excitedly!
The desire to change careers (or even alter positions in the same field) can be intimidating and stressful, even before any change occurs.
I’m not an expert in career counseling, by any means, but I’ve learned many valuable lessons from my own personal experience.
Here’s what I’ve learned and the advice I have for you if you’re considering a change in the work you do:
- Answer this question: Where do your gifts and passions collide with opportunities for work? Only you can truly know how you feel about your current position, and only you can understand (and share) the gifts you’ve been given and how they intertwine with where life’s brought you. While I strongly encourage you to also discuss this with those directly affected by your potential decision, of course, please make sure the influence on your decision doesn’t come strictly from outside voices.
- We are graciously fortunate to have so many opportunities for change and redirection right in front of us – find what fills up your cup while you pour out to others. If you can find a position that allows you to do just that, I can’t imagine work that’s better than that.
- Trust your instincts/gut/intuition/spiritual/initial response. Whatever you call it, you know that influence I’m referring to. Do not underestimate its value!
- Thoroughly sort through the practicalities of your new (potential) position. How will it change your life on both a day-to-day and year-to-year basis? Will those changes positively influence the goals you (and your family) have for your life? Will it accommodate upcoming changes in your life?
- What sacrifices might the change bring? There will be something that gets sacrificed – consider what it could be to ensure the exchange is completely worthwhile to you.
- Consider working with a career coach, counselor, or other trusted leadership in your life. This is a huge decision and guidance from great sources may help clarify your options and desires.
- Make a sound action plan (including financial specifics) before diving into your change. This is essential and, in my opinion, a no-give aspect of such a change.
- Don’t cut ties with your current work/field before moving on to what’s new. Connections/relationships are valuable no matter where you move to, and depending on the course and time you take getting to your new position, retaining your current work may be necessary to varying degrees.
- Network, network, network. For some this is easier said than done (*raises hand*), but it is the greatest way to enter into a new field. Contact those who are in the new position you’re seeking – more than likely, they’ll jump at the chance to meet with you and answer all of your questions, direct you to helpful resources, and possibly even be a mentor for you during your time of transition.
- Find the support you’ll need for this change. This can be anything from career mentors and friendships to new childcare and schedules. Be practical and realistic and know that change will be oh-so life-giving.
Remember that life is short and it’s just simply not worth spending time and energy on things that don’t bring you (and this world!) joy.