How and Why to Change Careers: My Story

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Like many people I’ve changed careers a few times in my life, either by choice or by necessity. I’m now blessed to be working as a career adviser while still using my skills as a writer. From time to time a past co-worker or friend will ask me how I managed my career change. This is the first blog post in a short series detailing my experiences.

How and why I moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis, how I survived being laid off from an Internet company in 2001, and how I changed careers from journalism to television production is all part of another blog for another day …

Today we’ll look at how and why I went from television production to career coaching and how you might make your own career change.

Why I Switched Careers
I was always more of a news writer than a TV production person, but there were no jobs for Web writers in 2001-2003, so I made a deliberate decision to change to a career not related to the media.

First, I thought about my other interests and if I might be drawn to any other line of work without realizing it (“If I can’t work in the media, what other type of job would I want to have?”).

After a few weeks of serious soul-searching, I realized that helping other people figure out what they want to do with their lives has always been interesting to me. Even when I was working in a newsroom I was helping the interns and entry-level employees to make career goals.

I decided I wanted to become a career counselor. If I knew then what I know now, I would have advised myself to do a bit more research into this new career field before I sent out my resume …

Making the Change
I stopped looking for the short-term TV production gigs that had sustained me the past two years. Instead, I looked for career advising positions while I lived on unemployment.  I also volunteered at two nonprofit agencies, one that helped at-risk youth with college exploration and job skills, and a large homeless shelter with an employment center.

I didn’t have much money, but I did have a lot of time on my hands. Why not use it to gain experience in my new field and add to my resume?

Talking to employers who hire career counselors was an important part of my job search. After getting a rejection letter from a company that I really wanted to work for, I called the department head to ask what they were looking for in a candidate. This is when I found out that a “real” career counselor has a master’s degree and licensed by the state. I did not have a graduate degree and couldn’t start school right away.

My dream company would not even look at the resume of any candidate without their master’s, even though the job description said it was preferred, not required. If I had not picked up the phone to do that quick informational interview, I would have wasted a lot more time applying for job for which I was not qualified. I found out which types of companies would hire a career adviser without a graduate degree and refocused my job search.

A New Beginning
After about three stressful months, the homeless shelter where I was volunteering hired me as a full-time employment associate. They paid me very, very little money, but I had my foot in the door to a new career.

I worked at the homeless shelter for a few months. As the saying goes, it was the “toughest job I’d ever love.” While there, the agency laid off several people and transferred me to another location. I was learning a lot, but barely making enough money to pay my bills and my car was about to die. I already knew that if I wanted a higher-paying job, I’d have to complete a master’s program.

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