Changing Careers: How to Successfully Navigate a Career Pivot at Any Age

20178074_ml-e1423739122500In part because employers and human resources professionals tend to box you into the last position you held – and question why you want to make such a large leap in job titles – making a big career change is rarely easy. 

As a former teacher, I want to shake these HR professionals up a bit and say “What exactly do you think it takes to be a successful teacher? I AM a leader, project manager, mentor… I’ve shown extreme flexibility, the ability to multi-task and emotional intelligence… I’m everything you’re looking for!”

“The job description should read: Have you ever been a teacher? Well, then you are awesome and can do anything. You’re hired!”

But they don’t… and we career changers remain frustrated.

Why do People Change Careers?

Changing careers can be traumatic, so why upset the apple cart? Why put yourself back at the starting line?

For me the why was multi-faceted. I found little job satisfaction in working retail, administrative and hospitality jobs. I wasn’t paid well enough to leave my young children in daycare all day. My unique thoughts and ideas weren’t heard or valued. There was really no upward trajectory. I then taught for several years and that felt different; it was very satisfying but extremely difficult to work with children all day and come home to my two as well.

For many reasons, I needed a change. And I think many young careerists, despite different circumstances, feel the same way.

What Do I Want to Do? And Who Needs What I Do Well?

I thought long and hard in regard to my career options.

For me, it was fairly easy to decide where I belonged: I know my mind needs something that moves fast, is ever-changing, creative both visually and mentally, incorporates storytelling, building relationships and is collaborative by nature. Plus, I like math. I like analyzing things. I like seeing tangible results for hard work.

So I asked myself: What type of opportunities, or companies, consider all those skills a high priority? Who needs me?

And those are the questions you must ask yourself: What do you do really well that also makes you happy? And who needs exactly what you do well?

Do You Have the Right Pedigree?

Once I decided what I wanted to do. I looked into the ‘How’. How do I make this happen? How do I learn the skills I need to be successful at delivering brilliant marketing strategy from creation through execution?

I looked at online marketing programs. The program that fit me the best was New Media and Internet Marketing with the University of Denver. My first course was Web Analytics 2.0. BINGO- I loved it! Originally, I was only going after a certificate, but the classes were so well done with professors who worked in the field; and the University of Denver was seamless, extremely efficient in their process that I continued onto the Master’s program and enjoyed every minute.

No matter what you think you want to do, or how good you are at your chosen profession, employers will still look at your pedigree. On paper, do you have the right skills? The right education? The right experience and contacts? Figure out which holes you have in your career profile… and fill them.

The Case for Entrepreneurial Spirit

The world no longer revolves around a traditional 9-to-5 job. And many career changers have not only accepted this fact; they’ve embraced it as a way to launch their new career.

Having a bit of entrepreneurial blood running through me, I immediately translated the skills I learned in class into a business. I started a boutique agency. I serviced many small businesses providing website creation, social media strategy, content creation, website analytics and SEO – a buffet of `a la carte digital marketing services for the small business owner.

Now, when you start out you may have to wrangle your mechanic, hair dresser and pet sitter into becoming clients. You may need to barter for free and discounted services in exchange for your expertise, but it is a starting point and a “resume builder;” soon you will be on your way to paying clients, all while amassing experience.

The moral of this story: don’t focus on just finding another job… instead, find a way to produce income that leverages your skills and niche. And know: your entrepreneurial spirit may be the way to get where you want to go.

After several years, I can honestly say that I love what I do. I have a very flexible schedule (perfect for the working mom.) Each client is special and unique and I am living the American dream running my own business. And I can say with all the self-awareness possible: I am one old dog that did learn new tricks… and my career change has been a huge success.

I wish you the same success on your journey to find fulfilling work – and a great career!


photo-96x96About the Author: Chairman holds an MPS in New Media and Internet Marketing from the University of Denver and a certificate in Web Design and Development. Coined a Purple Unicorn, being the rare and illusive Full Stack Marketer, she is the owner of Solter Consulting, a Business Development and Digital Marketing Consultancy. 



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