This post is brought to you by a job you actually like, a decent paycheck, the letter F, and The Forté Foundation.
I knew it was time to change careers when I found a cockroach floating in my coffee cup.
At the time, I was working as an ESL teacher at a non-profit. I worked in a not-particularly-great neighborhood in a crumbling building that, apparently, had a cockroach problem.
Now, I should tell you that I loved the teaching part of being a teacher. I loved sharing insights, leading conversations, finding new ways to communicate an idea.
But there is SO MUCH MORE to being a classroom teacher than, ya know, teaching.
There are curriculum committees and budget issues and test prep. There are concerns about students’ safety and well-being. In my specific situation, there were concerns about cockroaches in the break room (!!!!)
When the cockroach appeared in my coffee cup, I’d been blogging for a few years. I’d been getting a slow but steady trickle of emails asking for help with writing, social media, and marketing.
It was the turning point when I decided that it was time to get serious about changing careers. I knew I needed to learn some new skills and make the leap from education to self-employment.
Many of us have had our own cockroach-in-the-coffee moment.
Maybe yours is working at 2 am on a Sunday or having a boss who belittles you. Maybe it’s 200 travel days a year or discovering you earn 60 percent of what your male counterparts earn.
Whatever it is that’s turning your eyes towards greener career pastures, I want you to know that changing careers is totally, totally possible—but you want to be smart about planning your next move.
4 career change tips I wish someone had told me
1. Notice what you love about your current job
Sometimes the Venn diagram of ‘Job Description’ and ‘What You Actually Like About Your Job’ doesn’t quite overlap the way you’d think.
Maybe you’re an editor, but the highlight of your week is advising and leading the junior members of your team.
Maybe your company hired you for graphic design, but you’d rather be poking around the backend of Google Analytics, seeing which content is popular and where online traffic is coming from.
Maybe you’re a classroom teacher, but you love designing worksheets and bulletin boards more than you enjoy managing a gaggle of eight-year-olds.
Notice the parts of your workday where time flies. When do you feel light and alive and full of creativity? When you know that, you can plan your next step.
2. Talk to people who have made a similar career change
If you’re a teacher who wants to become a project manager, you’re not limited to finding someone who’s had that exact career path.
Talk to people who’ve left education or came to project management from a totally different career. What’s most important is that you chat with people who have made a similar leap and can point you in the right direction.
Related: The Forté Foundation’s Business360 blog has tons of super helpful career advice articles you can sort by industry, career stage, and focus. Handy!
3. Look into + think about the daily realities of other careers
When I was in college, I interned at a small newspaper. I was writing! And getting paid for it! I was living the dream!
Well, yes and no. The daily reality of being a newspaper journalist is writing on extremely tight deadlines, sitting in front of a computer all day, worrying that advertisers will pull funding because of your stories, and asking people questions they don’t want to answer.
Also: working evenings and weekends or whenever a story breaks.
I have a deeply introverted friend who didn’t really realize until he was in med school that being a physician would necessitate talking to people all day, every day.
Being a veterinarian means being on your feet all day and euthanizing a lot of animals.
If you’re a wedding photographer, you’ll probably experience the joys + challenges of self-employment AND work every weekend from May to September.
These aren’t reasons to avoid those careers, but it’s super important that we understand what we’re getting into before we devote time, energy, and money to a career change.
4. If your career change necessitates going back to school, OMG DO SOME RESEARCH
True story: I went to graduate school for Applied Linguistics at the University of Victoria, Wellington because it was cheaper than grad school in America and New Zealand seemed cool???
Friends, that’s not how you choose a school.
- I know you know this, but you also shouldn’t apply to a school just because a) it’s in the city where you already live b) your friend is going there c) it’s easy to get into Click To Tweet
Education is an investment! Let’s give it the time, thought, and research it deserves!
Talk to graduates and current students. Tour some dang campuses. Look at the types of jobs alumni have.
Related: If you want to get an MBA, the Forté Foundation has a tons of free, pre-MBA resources for you. Webinars! A forum! Fellowships!
But I want to hear from you! How are you feeling about your current career? If you’ve made a big career switch, how’d you manage it? Tell us in the comments so we can learn from you!
Forté Foundation is an action-oriented non-profit that’s passionate about advancing women in business. Forté is moving the needle by growing the number of women business leaders. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that make Yes & Yes possible!