It took me nearly 15 years to change careers. I read books, followed blogs, and handed out endless hearts to inspirational Instagram posts. The world assured me that following my passion would set me free—that I’d never look back.
So finally, I took the jump into a new career. Turns out, the world was right. But, it also missed a whole bunch of other stuff I wish someone would’ve told me before I ditched a successful career path for a more entry-level role in another. Now, please know that I’m not saying you shouldn’t follow your dreams. I’m just filling you in on a few things you need to know if you’re considering a complete career about-face.
If someone would’ve told me all this, I still would’ve done it—just with a little less frustration along the way.
1. You’re Going to Feel New All Over Again
If you’ve just started out in your career, this might not be as big of a deal. But after you’ve got a few years of experience under your belt, trust me, it’s going to matter.
For me, being great at my old job was a source of confidence and pride. Even if I didn’t like the work that much, my colleagues and clients respected me and listened when I spoke up.
But now I’m the new kid on the block. Even if I am nearly 20 years older than some of my colleagues, they’re the ones with “experience.” This might vary depending on how big of a change you’re making, but if it’s substantial, be prepared to be treated like you’re fresh out of college, at least for a while.
2. Your Ideas Aren’t Yours
This is sadly a common situation in many roles, but I’ve found it to be staggeringly worse after changing careers.
I know it shouldn’t matter who thought up what. If it helps your team or your company succeed it’s a win, right? Actually, not so much if you’ve just switched gears. I’ve found that because I’m the new kid and don’t technically have years of official experience on my resume, validation from my colleagues and managers is back to being a very big deal.
In the past, whenever I had a brilliant idea, my colleagues recognized me for it and we celebrated our success as a team. But now when I share a great idea, it often gets snatched up by someone more senior—and before I know it, I’m assigned to a minor role in the project’s task force.
I know it sounds petty, but the reality is your ego takes a big hit when you jump down a few rungs on the ladder. Things like this shouldn’t matter. But they do, and it surprised the heck out of me when it happened to me.
3. Your Colleagues Will Feel Threatened by You
On the opposite end of the spectrum from being the newbie, you’ll have some colleagues who recognize your past experience and feel threatened by it.
And how that manifests can be a challenge. I have a few co-workers who have a bit more experience than others, but less than me. But they know a lot about my industry and take every opportunity to remind me that I’m still learning—and ignore wisdom or insight I have based on my past experience.
Rather than dwelling on that, I quickly learned to think of my prior experience as a bonus—rather than the foundation of my professional background. Doing this helped me rely less on what I already knew, and be more open to what I wanted to learn. Suddenly, my whole perspective changed and I was able to listen to people more easily. In return, the people who once felt the need to put me in my place started to help me out. It was a win-win.
Yes, I know, these all may sound harsh and negative—but they’re honestly just things I wish someone would’ve warned me about. Again, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I still would be doing what I’m doing and loving it. I just would’ve been better prepared to hit the ground running.
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