Maybe your selected industry has failed to recover post-recession, characterized by falling compensation and lean opportunities. Or maybe your chosen profession fails to provide you the satisfaction or work life balance anticipated, leaving you a new grad, disillusioned. Instead of being fulfilled with a sense of accomplishment from your higher education pursuits, you’re filled with regrets about selecting the “wrong” career, and feel “stuck” in an industry that you no longer foresee a future in.
What can you do? Make a change. A bold, brazen, and ballsy career change. Here are four tips (don’t worry—they’re “tried and true”, courtesy of my not so awesome early career choices) that will help you navigate the big leap into the exhilarating unknown:
Forget Sunk Costs
In business school, we drilled sunk cost theory. What’s “sunk cost”? Here’s my fav example:
You buy a movie ticket for $9.25 (sunk cost).
Halfway through the movie, you go between falling asleep from shear boredom to puking at the all too graphic alien guts that keep spilling all over the big screen. You can think of a hundred things you’d rather do than sit through the remaining 55 excruciating minutes of this movie.
Do you let your sunk cost—an investment that once spent cannot get back—of $9.25 keep you glued to your seat, or do you walk out and go do something more fun?
Turns out, successful people (those earning more) say “to hell” with sunk costs (aka: they walk out of the movie), and never let past investments dictate future course. Just because you spent $120k on an undergrad degree in Biology, doesn’t mean you’ve got to stay on the pre-med/pharm track. What you’ve already spent should NOT play into what you’re going to do today and tomorrow.
Analyze Your Skill Sets
Sure, maybe the 36 hours of grad level coursework you took in Medieval Literature won’t directly translate into hard skills, but think out of the box here. What about those mad research skills you developed, combing through one ancient manuscript after another? Or the writing skills you so expertly honed while crafting an eighty page thesis on the work of Geoffrey Chaucer? Bingo! These skills are applicable. These skills are marketable.
Inventory your skill set through a new lens. Sometimes, it helps asking others to assist with translation. As a recovering science nerd, I’m all about super smart people utilizing their academic pursuits in “out of the box” ways via business. Mallie Rydzik, millennial entrepreneur, podcaster, and just super brilliant gal, left her “secure” Ph.D track to create an amazing business system to help entrepreneurs reach more people (be sure to check out “Systems Scientist”). Mallie’s unique science background now provides hundreds to thousands of treps with the resources they need to realize their full potential.
Get Serious About Networking
Okay, so your major Chemistry professor refuses to write a solid reference for your new career path in Business, as he thinks your career change is “wasteful, irresponsible, and just plain stupid” (yes, this really happened). Ouch. Lick your wounds, say your goodbyes, and get ready to rustle up a relevant network.
My career change coincided with a cross country move, landing me with a “double whammy” of new network needs. Knowing no one in this “new chapter” in life, I had to start over at square one, with no friends, no mentors, no body. It was time to get serious about connecting with people.
Research networking opportunities takes time, and a lot of trial and error. Call your local Chamber of Commerce, do a quick Google search for industry groups, and consult area professionals for recommendations of places you should hit up. There’s no shortage of groups designated for the sole purpose of meeting people, but here’s a few of my favorites:
Even if there’s none in your area, identify a few regional industry conferences that may lead to some good connections. Networking is exponential. Every person you meet knows hundreds of others. Think of making intros as an elaborate “connect the dots”, and don’t ignore a seemingly “blah” professional just because you don’t think they have much to offer. Chances are they know people you need to know. Get more info on networking in my August blog post, “5 Tips for Networking like a Millennial Pro”.
Give Yourself Permission to Feel Good
Very few people believed in my radical career change, as many perceived it as simply put, a “suicide mission”. After months of listening to constant waves of criticism regarding my bold and brazen career move, I realized that what others may think of my career of choice did not matter. The only person it mattered to was ME.
I hated my previous profession--it made me physically sick; the industry was spiraling in a nosedive of self-destruction evidenced by disappearing need and discouraging salaries; my colleagues were individuals of low character that I did not want to be associated with in any way.
My new profession was wonderful. It made me feel more alive than ever before, the industries I was able to become involved in were improving society, and my colleagues were some of the most inspirational individuals I’d ever encountered—men and women devoted to changing the world through economic opportunity. It was then I decided to stop defending my career choices, and simply embrace them!
Most of life is trial and error.
Super risk averse people may argue that if you’re really smart, none of your “trials end in error”.
I disagree, as no one I’ve met seems to have the corner on fortune telling crystal balls.
So the career path you picked at 18 didn’t turn out as expected (what does at 18?!). That’s cool. Don’t wallow in it, beat yourself up, or listen to a bunch of underachieving professionals who’s #1 goal in life seems to be avoid risk of all sorts. Commit to making a change, and continue on the journey towards professional fulfillment, even if it means making a ballsy career change on the verge of Quarter Life Crisis.
About Hannah Becker:
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