On the one year anniversary of my first ever blog post (linked here for your reading pleasure), I thought it was only fitting for this next one to be a sort of “update” or “Part Two” of that story…my story.
As I detail in that post, this time last year I was in a bit of a self-evaluation phase in my career. I was feeling creatively unfulfilled, and a little lost about what my professional future holds. I knew that my current job description wasn’t where I saw myself long-term, but I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do next. So I had to really dig deep (like way down in the depths of my soul) and listen to my passions—the things that fulfilled me most in my personal life. What did I love to do on the side when I wasn’t working? What sparked joy for me when I did them just for fun? And when I answered that question, I finally felt like I had some direction.
Which leads us to today—one year later—and making progress, but still hitting some inevitable roadblocks.
So what were my answers to that question of passion, you ask? Let me give you the lowdown. If we are strictly talking about tangible hobbies, there are a handful of things in this life that spark joy for me: eating food, buying clothes, writing, planning and eating dessert (yes, it absolutely deserves its own category). Now realistically, only two things on that list would make logical sense for me to build a career off of (key word being logically).
So then I had to ask myself if I could really find happiness exploring opportunities in writing? I knew it was something I’ve always been good at and have loved to do, but would I want for it to be the sole focus of my career, or just one of the responsibilities in my career? And I landed on the latter. What about event planning? I love to make itineraries for friends’ birthday weekends or bachelorettes, and I thrive off of being the family travel agent. And let’s not forget that my first professional job was working in event marketing—traveling the country, setting up large trade shows and conferences, being constantly on the move and networking with hundreds of people. I got a true sense of what events are all about, and after reflecting back on my few years at that job, I knew I wanted to get back to that type of work…but this time be in the planning seat, running the show from beginning to end.
Okay, so we’ve figured out what career opportunities to pursue next…should be easy from here on out right?…HA, that’s what you think.
You see, the thing that nobody tells you about changing your career, is that the hiring process in the corporate workforce was not built for career changers. The way the system operates is that you need exact experience of X amount of years in a very specific industry in order for your résumé to be taken seriously. What some people don’t know is that in today’s job market, at least for mid to large level companies, all candidate résumés are first reviewed electronically through a recruiting or applicant tracking system. Which basically means that a machine is reading through each document to identify keywords that match the job requirements or description, producing a data result with the top-ranked candidates who scored the highest…(because even after graduating from school, life is all still one big aptitude test).
This is where career changers can get stuck. For example, what do you think happens if someone (let’s call her “a friend of a friend”) has worked in marketing for five+ years, and qualifies for a manager level position for roles in that industry, but she wants to pivot her career to event planning? The catch is, she technically doesn’t have the exact right amount of experience to qualify her for the same level positions in that industry, especially when “transferrable skills” doesn’t exactly compute easily. Well, the basic answer is that her application for manager level roles in event planning won’t produce a high enough score in the system, and therefore she may be passed over for such opportunities that she knows she can succeed in. So what does she do? She applies to lower level positions and hopes that when she gets her foot in the door, she can prove herself and her abilities. And then, at the right company, maybe she can quickly work her way up from there by doing what she loves…and doing it well.
It took me a few months of this process to realize that a diverse background isn’t always encouraged in the workforce, at least not as much as it should be. In order to continuously advance in our careers, we are expected to have worked in very similar roles for an extended period of time, doing the same exact things year after year. What I don’t understand is why it’s not more encouraged to work in multiple fields or industries, where you can gain a variety of skills, all of which can be carried over in some way to a different role. A role where you are doing something new and unfamiliar, further expanding your portfolio of knowledge and challenging yourself. That to me is the ultimate goal: to constantly keep learning and growing, pushing yourself to always do better and to know more. This is what I strive for and why I am here.
For all of us going through a career change, it is important to remember why you are doing it. How brave it is to step out of your comfort zone—go against everything you’ve ever known—and embark on this brand new journey to better yourself and your future. It’s true what they say: life is way too short to be doing anything other than what you love. So for anyone contemplating the risk, my advice is to take the plunge and make the change. Always follow your heart, because I truly believe it will lead us to wonderful places.