At age nine, I assisted in my dog’s surgery and had my first “aha” moment. I loved animals, was great at biology and chemistry, and therefore decided to become a veterinarian.
My career plan lasted until I realized that being a vet meant 8+ years of college. This was the first time I switched my career plans, but not the last. I never intended to be so fickle, but have found myself over time career morphing from one field to another for a variety of reasons.
As a senior in high school, I lobbied the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill to allow me to complete a year-long rotational internship, which brought me to my first career in hotel management. After 10 years in the hotel business, I was recruited to run a high-end day spa, resulting in career number two. Four years later, I went into business for myself as a small-business consultant for retailers – career number three. And here I am, five years into career number four in higher education. My resume is a smorgasbord of seemingly unrelated experiences, but along the way, I’ve picked up these tips:
- Have a Common Thread: This will help you weave together your story or elevator pitch. Mine is helping people and customer-facing roles. I thrive in these and make sure that my resume, interviewing and LinkedIn profile reflect this.
- Focus on Transferrable Skills: This can mean redesigning your resume to feature these prominently. Recruiters don’t always know how to equate your past with their current needs, so do the work for them.
- Make an Action Plan: As you swing through the jungle of life, have another vine to grab hold of before you let go of the one you’re holding! Take time to research the switch. Have informational interviews with people in your new field, so you understand what a day of the life of the new career looks like. Make sure you use resources like your college career center and alumni office to make connections. Start planning early; don’t wait until your current skills are obsolete or you get burned out in your current career.
- Be Flexible: You may not get to your new career right away, or you may have an unexpected opportunity knock in an industry you hadn’t thought of.
The important thing to remember is that it’s ok to have a zigzag path. Be open to new prospects and don’t think of your next career as your forever career. You will learn, you will grow, and you may change careers again.
- Prepare for Sacrifice: You may need to make financial or other sacrifices in the short term to achieve long-term career readiness in a new field. Gaining new skills can be exhausting, but it’s excellent for your brain and body. Plan to give up some evenings out with friends or family time so you can take an online course at night or volunteer on weekends. It will be worth it in the end.