I am very fortunate to have gone to college knowing what degree I wanted to receive (Recreation & Tourism), even more fortunate to land a part-time job during my first year of college which allowed me to gain professional experience (Winona Parks & Recreation), even more fortunate to graduate with said degree and gain a full time career in desired field (Portland Parks & Recreation) all spanning a 8 year time span. I had been prepared, well groomed and trained for the recreation field as a professional. Never had I planned to leave this career so when I did, I entered culture shock.
Starting a new career (trained or not) is intimidating. Starting a new career with no background or training in the new field is horrifying. You’re probably wondering, why on earth would you put yourself in that position – here’s why: 1) job moved us closer to family 2) salary allowed for Sam to be a stay at home dad 3) it was offered to me by a good friend who believed in me and 4) I believe challenge keeps the mind young while comfort allows for complacency. While I miss my recreation career daily, I do not regret this career change. After completing my first almost six months with my new career, I’ve been able to look back and reflect on some key points that helped make this transition successful (listed in no particular order):
1. Desire challenge. Know that your mind is never at max capacity and you always have room to learn a new skill.
2. Be confident in your ability to master a new skill.
3. Be patient with yourself when the new skill does not instantly come easily.
4. Work hard. It can be frustrating, but don’t give up and don’t be afraid to go down a rabbit hole with a method you think will work, even if it turns out to not go as smoothly as you predicted.
5. Socialize. Everyone has had a first day at work, or has been the “new guy.” Make a great first impression by taking the time to get to know your co-workers. That will make it easier to go ask questions when you get stuck trying to figure out the copy machine, or refill the coffee, or how to connect a printer to your network. Share things about yourself and truly want to get to know things about them. If you’re worried about crossing professional boundaries of making friends in the office, you don’t need to invite them over for dinner – just don’t be the scrooge of the office who stays to himself.
6. Ask questions. Nobody was born knowing how to put together a car, or write a proposal – it takes time. Don’t try to re-create the wheel so ask those around you if they have any examples of projects to work off of. It helps if you know their name before you ask so make sure to conquer #5 before you go mooching off their work as a reference.
7. Have fun. Be able to laugh at yourself when you make a mistake or it takes you all day to figure out how to cut out an object and give it a transparent background in Photoshop. The small victories will make you jump out of your chair and proclaim your Photoshop super-hero powers to the office (true story). This will also make you relatable with your co-workers and give the office a sense of cohesion where everyone likes coming into work to see their friends daily.
8. Be upfront. If you miss-understand directions or are afraid to ask a question because you’re afraid it will be taken the wrong way – it is always better to come out and be upfront with your concerns. If you make it a habit of keeping things to yourself and going on with your daily work hoping that you’re doing something the way it was asked of you or hoping that what you’re doing is within company policy, you’ll create a stressful work environment for yourself and could also end up getting yourself in trouble. Your boss and co-workers will understand and sympathize with you if you give them information and share concerns upfront rather than being called out for it later on.
9. Give it a chance. If your new job isn’t all that you thought it would be – find a way to make it enjoyable by adding in a bit of your own flare. Decorate your office/cubicle to inspire more creative work. Don’t make a hasty decision to hate your new job based on office environment, development of new skills, unfriendly co-workers. If you need to learn photoshop and it intimates you – think about the iphone photos of your dog, baby, spouse that you could enhance through photoshop and make learning fun and enjoyable rather than stressing about learning the program for a huge document you have to create for work. It is less intimidating when you make it personal and for fun rather than a skill solely dependent for professional growth.
10. Reach out. Look for resources to help you understand your profession (pamphlets, websites, company catalogs) or resources to help you learn new software (youtube, Lynda.com, teamtreehouse, etc)
Whatever your reason for a career change, trust in yourself and go with it. You’ll eventually be happy that you did and who knows what you’ll learn about yourself in the process. Be sure to thank your husband/loved one often during this time to accompany your happy transition with a happy household. It’s a transition for them too!
What lessons have you learned during a career change?