True Story: I went from fashion school to business school to missionary work (and I couldn’t be happier)

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Betsy and her decision to change directions – three times. 


Tell us a bit about yourself! 
Hi I’m Betsy! I am 26-years-old and grew up in the Midwest (Ohio) but also lived in NYC and Florida during my twenties. I coach women (primarily in their 20’s) how to live out a better, more full life story and in my free time I love spending time outside. I also spend a lot of time hula hooping, reading and traveling as much as I can!
As a child, did you grow up with a specific idea about the type of work you wanted to do?
When I was in preschool I wanted to be a writer (I couldn’t yet write at this point but I loved telling stories) Then, in elementary school I really wanted to be a teacher. I would go home and have imaginary students that I would read to and would develop lesson plans for. My parents always encouraged me to find things that I enjoyed and they would often compliment me on being creative Although I loved teaching, there was never a subject I loved enough to want to teach. In high school I transitioned into the business and fashion track.
What lead you to fashion school?
Growing up, I’d always loved fashion and at the time I wanted to live in NYC. I knew that I wanted to have a job that I was passionate about and I never felt that passionate about the classes I was taking in high school. People would often compliment me on what I was wearing or for my quirky sense in fashion. As an insecure teenager who didn’t really know where she fit in, fashion was a creative outlet for me.
And why did you quit?
I remember sitting in a class at FIT and thinking to myself “Do I really want to spend the rest of my life working in this industry? I want to create change in people’s lives. I want people to not simply “get by” but to love each step of the journey.” New York, and fashion specifically, can be really cut-throat. Girls would often come to class crying and were totally downtrodden because of the way they were treated at their jobs and internships.
Until that point fashion had been a home for me – a place of comfort. Living in New York and going to FIT was a great experience and I learned a lot about myself but my gut was telling me that it was time to change directions. So I finished my degree a few months later and moved on.
What made you choose business school after fashion school?
I really love the middle ground between analytical and creative so I chose to do a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship because it really seemed to be the culmination of what I was good at and what I enjoyed. At that point, I had finished my AA degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and my Bachelors with a double major in Business Administration & Fashion, so it was the right fit for me. I loved that the courses seemed both fun and practical and I had a strong feeling that it was the right next step for me.
For reference, this was back in 2010 so the tone amongst professors, recent grads, and parents was pushing students to stay in school and earn higher level degrees in order to set yourself apart from your peers.
What did you like about business school? 
First and foremost I loved the community. The classes were an interesting mix between book learning and hands-on. Each Friday we had an entrepreneur guest speaker and we would do a case study, a Q & A, and a chance for networking afterwards.
The corporate world never really appealed to me when I was in graduate school so I always thought I would work for a start-up or start my own business and then someday become a professor. Also, universities have so many valuable resources (networking, alumni, study abroad, etc) which I think students should really take advantage of. We also had a mandatory study abroad trip to Dublin, Ireland which was certainly a bonus.
Tell us about your decision to work as a missionary after completing your MBA. 
I kept going back and forth whether or not I should do it. However, the deciding factor for me was when I finally asked myself would you regret NOT doing this? I knew at once that I absolutely had to go for it.
I worked with an organization called Adventures in Missions, which is a Christian missions organization. In all honesty, I never imagined myself doing missions. I had never liked camping, I get car sick, I’m a huge introvert, and I never particularly liked kids. From the outside, my doing this seemed like a disaster waiting to happen…however, it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
The program that I did was called The World Race, so I worked in 11 countries throughout Central America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia. Our jobs varied in each country from teaching & putting together programs in schools, sorting drugs for HIV patients, speaking & preaching, assembling wheelchairs, preparing and serving feeding programs, manual labor, visiting widows, leading devotionals at a sewing school for women, and working with kids and young adults with disabilities.
How did the people in your life react to the twists and turns in your professional life?
Most people have been really supportive. My family has always encouraged the decisions I’ve made and I grew up in a family that loved to travel, read, and was always learning. There have been a few friends who I think have found it strange but that’s ok.
Do you have any regrets about decisions you’ve made along the way?
I wish I would have given myself permission to be ok with not having everything figured out.
What have been the benefits of changing direction? The drawbacks?
I think that if you set your mind to it then you can apply any situation to what you are doing. Changing direction can give you a broad range of experiences and expose you to different types of people, organizations, and environments. Being an entrepreneur, I think that changing directions has been beneficial. However, for someone in a different or more structured career path such as an accountant, engineer, nurse, etc. then changing direction might not be the best route.
What are you doing now, job-wise? 
I teach/coach women to live a greater story with their lives. This for me is certainly soul work. It lights me up and is a way for me to use my gifts while helping create change in those around me. I could certainly see myself doing this for quite some time. I’m also in the process of writing a book and would like to be a professor at least part-time in the next few years.
What advice would you give to people who feel stuck in a career track they don’t like?
Don’t be afraid to try something new and don’t feel as though you need to change everything at once. What do you enjoy? What did you like as a child? Do you know anyone who has a job that you would like to do? Start with a small step such a taking a class on the weekend…or doing some informational interviews with people in careers that sound exciting…start volunteering a few hours a week or even start journaling or write a blog. Allow time for things you enjoy and don’t be so hard on yourself. Start small and be patient.Thanks so much for sharing, Betsy! Have any of you guys changed direction in a big way? 

P.S. True Story: I dropped out of my PhD program and How to turn your passion into a business.

3 Comments

Chelle Lynn

This is greatness and so timely for me! I recently went from library work to event planning, and am today trying to figure out how to tell my boss (who I love) that I am quitting to go to cosmetology school. Some people figure it out early, but it has taken me lots of time and experience to decide what I want to do with my life. Glad to know that other people have similar stories!

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Joss

This is a great and very apt for me as well. I've gone from a journalism degree, to working in events to being a legal administrator! I've had a lot of jobs, mainly in events, but I feel that it works in my favour as I've met lots of different people from all different places. And it also means because I've had a lot of change, I'm less fearful or taking risks. And Betsy I've just started a blog as well (http://the29challenge.blogspot.co.uk) , and the challenge I've given myself my career may change direction again! Keep doing what your doing Betsy 🙂

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