What I wish I knew about changing careers before starting my journey
Updated: Oct 21, 2020
Eleven years have passed since I made a conscious choice to pursue a career change. That summer I met someone who was in love with her job. She said she was excited every day to get up and go to work. Meanwhile, I was sick to my stomach and prayed every morning before work for strength to get through and every task required prayer to see it through to the end. I hope my documentation of my journey helps you career change seekers feel better about what's ahead for you.
Let me go back even further in time to explain how I ended up where I am now.
I did what many people did when selecting a college. I didn't really have a passion I wanted to pursue, and figured chasing the money would be just as satisfying. So on the recommendation of my sweet grandma, I majored in information systems because those jobs promised a great paycheck every couple of weeks. Never in my life had I ever been technically or mathematically inclined or interested in systems for that degree to make sense for me, but her reasoning was just as good as any. I didn't know about purpose and passion at 17 years old. I had always been a writer, creator, and communicator, despite being somewhat shy around others. Therefore it makes sense to me now, 21 years after college, that inevitably I ended up switching my major to English in my third year of college and spent another 3 years in school earning my degree.
I worked using my English degree as an editor and then in public affairs for the federal government for 7 years before that "soul-sucking feeling" that so many purpose seekers get when it's time to make a change. Anyone with me?
At that point I was at, what felt like, a scary decision point. How was I going to change careers to find something I LOVED doing, without feeling like a failure by "wasting" my college degree. Would I have to go back and spend 4 MORE years getting another degree? What about money? All I could think of was that any passion-filled career I went into certainly meant a pay cut.
For the rest of my time with you today, I want to share with you what I wished I'd known then about changing my career to make it all less scary for you.
First of all, there is no such thing as "wasting" your degree or any type of education or training you've gotten. It's true, I used to think this was a possibility. I would see former lawyers who were now stay-at-home parents, or former doctors who are happily working as artists, and I was screaming in my head, "WHAT ARE THEY DOING?!" All that money they spent on their degree, and they're not using it. I no longer believe that lie. Can you imagine how wonderful those at-home lawyer moms are at negotiating with their toddlers and then teenagers? Or how they can, and more importantly will, read through the contract terms of an important family purchase? That doctor might know how expressive arts can help other people heal spiritually and emotionally. The same gifts and interests a person had in order to obtain their education is always with them and acquiring the degree in an area, gives us more insight into not only that subject, but many other areas of life. At some point that knowledge and skill will be used, it all comes full circle.
Second, I never HAD to go get another degree to work in my desired career. Through a series of assessments, research, and lots of prayer, I found a career that matched the interests, skills, and abilities I ALREADY had. About 3 years into my new career, I did end up going back for a master's degree because I wanted to specialize in my new field. The best part was my employer paid for many of my classes because they applied to my work.
The third area of concern, making less money, never happened for me and I know the same is true for many others. I was realistic with the fact that pursuing my dreams might mean a steep pay cut. The reality was I had a really good, steady job, with great benefits and pay. Was I supposed to leave it all behind to be "happy"? This is where my sincerest prayers came in. I had to let go of what I viewed as my source, money, (which is really just a resource) and believe God (my true source) put me here for a reason. So I had to surrender to His plans and trust He'd make sure me and my family were taken care of. As it happened, I stepped into a new career with greater earning potential and ascended the pay scale quicker. That was an amazing blessing, but I view it through these lenses: I said yes to God's plan and he provided more than I could imagine; but also, I'm excited everyday about the work I'm doing and am willing to go above and beyond. Wouldn't employers want to work with, and potentially reward, those employees who want to be there and are giving their best?
Sometimes we have no choices when it comes to changes that occur in our lives. But making a career change offers us all kinds of choices we can make responsibly. We can choose how long we are willing to live in our current situation. Like I said, I had a steady, full-time job with great pay. I didn't have to change careers, but when I saw other people loving their j-o-b I chose to do whatever it took to feel that way too. Next, I chose to study and research my options. I knew the first time around I selected my future career based on money. This time I wanted to gather a lot of information about all the potential careers and myself to find what I was a best fit for. Third, I gathered a team around me. I found 4 other women who I knew were also looking for their next step in career and ministry and we met consistently for more than 2 months to discuss our progress and goals, and hold each other accountable. Fourth, I chose not to place restrictions on what my future work-life looked like. I chose to remain open to all possibilities, including my employer, pay, and working environment.
Here I am, 11 years post career change and still loving my field and so happy I made the change. I'm always looking for new ways to serve through my writing, editing, training, sharing, and helping people who are where I once was - maybe someone like you making the exciting, not so scary, leap. Nothing is ever wasted.