It happens to the best of us: We identify a dream job, pick a relevant major, apply and network like crazy, finally land on the path to that dream job, work tirelessly…only to realize the dream job wasn’t such a dream after all.
Career regret is real. Maybe you’ve felt fleeting pangs of it, or maybe you’re 100 percent certain your current job or industry is just not right for you. The good news? People can – and do! – switch career paths every day. And sure, it can be a challenging, scary move to make, but it just might lead you to ultimate job satisfaction.
Thinking of making a change? We spoke with women who have successfully pivoted in their own careers and asked them to share their best pieces of advice. There’s some seriously inspiring stuff here, and their advice just might help you finally make that leap.
Liz Funk, 29:
“When I was in my twenties, I was a marketing manager; I was originally on staff at a few different organizations, and then I went freelance as a marketing strategist. Ugh. I hated it!,” said Funk, who co-founded a sustainable fashion startup called And We Evolve. “I have one main piece of advice for potential career changers. Before you do anything else in your life, figure out what’s currently working. You have supportive friends, you like your book club, you like yoga, you like meditating, you’re super organized — whatever it is that’s currently going well in your life, you’ll want to lean into that when you start to make changes.”
Maggie Germano, 30:
“Remember that it’s never too late to make a change. Just because you’ve been in one line of work doesn’t mean you have to do that forever,” Germano, who left a career in the nonprofit sector to become a financial coach for women, said. “If you realize that you have a new career dream, you have every right to go after it; it doesn’t matter if it wasn’t in your original life plan. So go for it! Find out what you need to do to make your career pivot a reality. Do you have to get a new certification or go back to school? Create a plan to make that happen. And make sure to get support along the way. Reach out to other women who have made career changes and ask for their advice. Confide in your loved ones if you’re scared. Self-doubt and fear are normal, but don’t let them hold you back from going after what you really want.”
Anjali Pradhan, 38:
“It’s okay to be afraid, but do it anyway. My proudest career moments have been as a result of doing something that scared me. Whether it was asking for a promotion, a raise, or now starting my own business, these were the actions that brought career advancement. Safe is rarely fruitful,” said Pradhan, who was laid off from her banking job before she decided to found her own company. “Find your tribe. Surround yourself with people who share your passion, even if it’s not directly related to your job. You never know what will come from these people. They might have a project that needs your skillset. Or they might introduce you to someone else who might help propel your career. This network will also feed your soul and replenish your ‘career energy’. Also, know that no one ever succeeded on their own. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And don’t forget to give back to your network.”
Nicole Faith, 26:
“Don’t ask everyone for their advice! Or if you do, take it with a grain of salt. It’s natural to want our friends and family to support us, but sometimes they can’t see how your proposed change makes sense. You need to be comfortable with your decision, and asking other people what they think can cloud your judgment and make you doubt yourself,” said Faith, who left her job at a tech company to found 10 Carat Creations. “Find a bridge between your past and your future, if possible. Some career changes seem very abrupt, but if you can weave all of your experience together then you look even better. This is helpful when discussing your new career with people who know you a certain way. For example, I never took a class on entrepreneurship, yet I was able to cultivate a career out of my past writing, design, and business experience. Remember, your job doesn’t define you! While your professional identity might change, your fundamental identity won’t. You’re still you.”
Meredith Castin, 39:
“Line up as many informational interviews as possible, shadow as many people on the job as possible, and do lots of homework on the health of the new industry being considered. An emerging industry that’s currently booming might turn out to be a fad, while other industries will remain viable options for the long term,” said Castin, a physical-therapist-turned-writer. “Do some research to discover whether salaries are stagnating or increasing, and line up informational interviews with actual industry employees to ask them about the good, the bad, and the ugly of their work.”
“Lastly, don’t trust those articles you see — you know, the ones saying that this career or that career is the happiest or most stable,” Castin continued. “Those articles are written by writers, not actual employees of a given industry, and they often don’t reflect the current market trends or feelings of actual employees. Do real digging before you make the plunge. Talk to real people doing the job you think you want in the industry you’re considering. Only after doing your grassroots homework should you make the move.”
Christina Nicholson, 34:
“If you’re interested in a career change, you need to prepared to spend two things – time and money,” said Nicholson, a former TV reporter/anchor who now owns a PR agency. “When I started my business, I wasn’t making money, so I worked 14 hours a day. I soaked up all the free resources I could to learn how to do what I needed to do to be successful. It helped me earn a little bit of money. It wasn’t enough to support my lifestyle and invest in my business at the same time, so I took out a loan to invest in my business. When I invested in people to help take me and my business to the next level, I earned more money. When you have more money, you can buy time by building a team. Then, it’s like snowball effect.”
“I’m shocked at the number of people who want to change a career or start a business and they aren’t willing to invest time or money,” she added. “It’s a must. Decide what you want to do then do what needs to be done to get there. If it were easy, everyone would do it. It’s not easy.”
Laura Arndt, 33:
“My best advice for women looking to make a career change is don’t be afraid to access everyone in your network! All too often women are afraid of asking for help, but I’ve found people I’ve met and worked with through the years are more than happy to share their guidance, resources and mentor me through the new challenges I face. In fact, many of my past clients from my personal training business have become current business partners in my technology company and are happy to work with someone they know and trust!” said Arndt, CEO of Matriarc, a health and wellness app for moms.
Rebecca Viner, 26:
“I strongly believe that as women we need to listen to ourselves more. It’s easy to listen to and watch others or do what we feel we should be doing (especially with social media influencing us), but if we take a step back and embrace our truth, we will find more clarity in what we really want. Journaling and meditation are great ways to make those honest decisions and feel more connected to what we are telling ourselves, especially when it comes to changing our career,” said Viner, who left a job as a special needs teaching assistant to found her business, Sparked Passion.
“I didn’t have a plan or any savings [when I made my career change],” Viner added. “I just knew it was up to me to make this change I needed for my mental health and to follow my career calling but it wasn’t the ideal situation. Prioritizing self-care and mindfulness helped me to trust my intuition, feel more confident in my choices and be purposeful in my work and life.”
Margo Aaron, 31:
My advice to other young women looking to make a career change is: Don’t let “lack of credentials” hold you back. There are always going to be people smarter than you and more qualified. Focus on what you do have,” Aaron, who transitioned from academia to marketing to entrepreneurship, advised. “Make a case for yourself as to why you should be hired and don’t be afraid of being wrong. It’s not your job to disqualify yourself from opportunities – throw your hat in the ring, even if you’re not qualified. Often what companies are really looking for is different from what’s listed on that job listing.”
Priyanka Prakash, 31:
“When trying to change careers, the best you can do is highlight transferable skill sets and use them as leverage to transition into your new industry. Think about what skills your dream career requires, and highlight any and all experiences you have had with building those skills,” Prakash said. “That’s what it takes to get a hiring manager to take a chance on you, even if you’re fresh to the industry. For example, I started out my career as a lawyer and while I didn’t like the day-to-day of my job, one thing I did like about the legal profession was the amount of writing I was able to do. I developed strong writing skills and was able to highlight those experiences in my resume. This helped me land a full-time role as an editor and now as a writer at financial technology startup Fundera. I love what I do now.”
Erin Stripe, 33:
“A career change can sometimes like a step backward. Know what you are and aren’t willing to compromise on when it comes to compensation, hours, environment, responsibilities, learning opportunities etc. before you start your search. Changing industry does not mean you check past experience at the door. Be confident,” said Stripe, who transitioned from a career in luxury sales to a role at a 3D printing and laser company. “Starting a new career does not necessarily mean starting over with school. Experience and soft skills are transferable, especially in business, sales, marketing and tech sectors. Do your research and assess your experience and skills first.”
Stripe provided a few alternative resources for people looking to switch careers. “Check out online tutorials (free through public libraries), industry specific-meet-ups and networking events,” she said. “Reach out to people who work in the role you are considering. Ask them for advice, and what their day-to-day is like. These are great ways to see if you like the industry before making a change while building a picture of the qualifications you need to make the big move!”