Whether you’re looking for a fresh start, leaving a dwindling industry, or finally pursuing the dream job you’ve always wanted, changing careers is no easy feat. Making a career change involves dedication, flexibility, and patience – especially when switching to a completely different industry requiring a new set of skills and qualifications.
Rest assured, changing career paths is possible if you are willing to put in the time and effort, set clear goals, and play up your transferable skills. If you’re wondering how to change careers or how to change industries, you’ve come to the right place. For inspiration, we asked real-life “career changers” to share their stories along with their best advice for job seekers considering a new occupation.
Kimberly Smith started in the medical field as a speech-language pathologist. When she decided to explore a career in marketing, her colleagues questioned her move.
“A lot of people in my network raised concerns about what I’d be losing [in starting a new career],” Smith said. “They commented on the significant amount of time and money (graduate school is expensive) I’d already invested in my old career.”
But Smith had a different perspective. “To me, there was a greater risk of staying put because I’d be wasting the future, too,” she noted.
Smith encouraged those looking to switch industries to do the same: avoid thinking of your old career as “wasted time.” She also suggested leveraging the soft skills used in previous jobs to jumpstart a new career.
“Soft skills tend to be transferable across industries,” Smith added. “Use the relevant soft skills from your old career as a leverage point to show prospective employers why you’re the right person for the job.”
Today, Smith is a marketing manager at Clarify Capital, a small business lending company.
After earning a degree in civil engineering, Allan Borch began a job at a large construction firm where he worked 80-hour weeks. “I could not take it anymore and knew there had to be something better,” Borch recalled.
One year into his construction job, Borch quit, but found a silver lining: “This job changed me. It gave me the drive to start my own business,” he said.
Borch went on to open an ice cream shop but sold it after a year because it still wasn’t a good fit. He then discovered e-commerce and content marketing, paving the way for founding a digital startup, DotcomDollar.com, which helps clients monetize blogging.
His best advice for career changers? “When your job isn’t working out, give yourself the opportunity to introspect. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks. You might be pulled in a completely different, but a highly successful, direction.”
Megan Kitt began her career as a journalist with her sights set on one day working for The New York Times. However, her goals changed after traveling to Uganda on assignment. There, she was inspired to start her own business, Tuli, a fashion brand based in East Africa that fights poverty by creating sustainable jobs for Ugandan and Kenyan citizens.
“I honestly had no business starting a business; I had no background in it and spent a lot of time Googling to get started,” Kitt explained. “It was hard, but it was worth it.”
Kitt urged anyone wanting to make a major switch to be open to learning. “My biggest advantage as a former journalist is that I’m very accustomed to research,” she said. “In fact, one of the things I loved about my old job was that I got to learn about something new every day. I took that same spirit into entrepreneurship.”
A CPA and former VP of Finance, Abir Syed discovered his passion for digital marketing while helping his previous employer with the e-commerce side of the business.
“I spent a ton of personal time learning everything I could about that industry to be useful,” Syed commented. “But as time went on, I started really enjoying it.”
Eventually, Syed quit his job and started a consultancy, UpCounting, offering both accounting and digital marketing services.
His advice to career changers: test the waters first. “In my case, I got to experience marketing while I was helping at the job, and I got the confidence to dive into it,” he said.
Nine years ago, Lauren Hasson, a former assistant at a financial firm, found herself at a dead end in her career. “I had zero marketable skills, zero network, zero job prospects, and zero money in my bank account,” Hasson said.
To make a change, she had to invest in herself, retooling her skillset. “My top advice is to take action and invest in yourself before you feel you are ready. This alone has paid dividends in my career transitions and growth. My only regret is that I didn’t take action and invest in myself sooner,” Hasson commented.
In two years, Hasson climbed to the top of her field – her work has been featured in Apple iOS keynotes, and she was one of 100 top tech innovators invited to attend the UK G8 Innovation Summit, among other honors. Today, Hasson is a software engineer for a Silicon Valley fintech company and runs DevelopHER, a career development platform for women.
Not all career changes are entirely voluntary. Julie Ann Dokowicz worked in event production while making a name for herself as an actor, on-camera host, and producer. When the entertainment and events industries shut down due to COVID-19, Dokowicz was forced to pivot.
“I ended up taking my love of being on camera and producing content and shifted it to opening my own creative agency,” Dokowicz. “I now create content for brands, businesses, and entrepreneurs, as well as provide on-camera coaching for their video marketing content so that they can enhance their sales.”
Dokowicz is now CEO and Creative Director of Girl in Heels Travel. Her best piece of advice from her experience is to lean on your support network.
“Sure, I could have pivoted alone, but by having strong support and an uplifting network, I had the confidence to explore new options and plenty of experts to turn to when I got stuck. And the pivot was much faster because I had easier access to helpful resources,” Dokowicz concluded.