Why does everyone seem to think someone else's job is cooler than theirs? Common sense tells us the grass isn't actually greener on the other side, and yet, it's normal to think your friends have it better.
During my former gig as a concert promoter, I was constantly being asked to grab coffee, lunch, or drinks from people who wanted to pick my brain about how to get their foot in the door.
I think these people imagined my job consisted solely of shmoozing with artists, aftershow parties, and road tripping around North America on the company dime.
Sure, my job had its perks, but most people failed to see the less glamorous parts of the job. Most of the time, I spent mundane late nights in backstage production offices daydreaming about my eventual career change.
Where To Begin
The first step is honesty. If you're unhappy in your career, are you willing to put in the work to make a change? Because no one is going to do it for you.
When you're ready to make a change you need to take a magnifying glass to your finances. Are you comfortable with your personal savings rate? How about the amount of debt you're carrying?
Taking control of your money can offer a sense of security and help you determine how much you actually need to live off of. This is especially important if you're considering a career change that may result in a pay cut.
It's not easy to decide what you'd rather be doing. That's why thorough research is so important. Even if you're considering a completely different field, chances are you have some skills that are transferable.
Tools like LinkedIn, PayScale, and Glassdoor can help you learn more about specific companies, open positions, compensation, and who works there. By browsing job descriptions, you can get a better feel for what skills are desirable.
Build Your Network
How healthy is your professional network? Hopefully, you've been consistently working at it throughout your career, but it's never too late to make it a priority.
What fields are you interested in exploring? Are there local professional organizations you can get involved with? Volunteering for leadership roles can be a fantastic way to demonstrate your talent to a new community of people.
Are there nonprofit organizations that could benefit from your expertise? An unpaid role can be a helpful way to gain real-world experience while giving back to a worthy cause.
Always look for ways to help others and your network will continue to build naturally over time. Ask for help, but be intelligent and respectful about it. Chelsea Fagan from The Financial Diet really nails it with this advice:
“Asking a vague question that demands an essay-length answer, or simply provides you with a career plan without offering anything in return, is a great way to turn someone off.”
A More Gradual Approach
Many people are looking for instant gratification, but a more gradual approach can sometimes be more practical.
Are there opportunities to gain additional experience within your current company? Many managers will encourage workers to take on additional responsibilities. And these extra duties may further qualify the employee for their future career.
If opportunities at your company are limited, have you explored the option of online or night classes to improve your skill set?
My Career Change
I was able to successfully pull off a career change through several steps.
First, I acknowledged my desire to make a change and accepted it wouldn't happen overnight. I analyzed my budget, looked for ways to save more, and established a 40-50% savings rate for at least a year.
Then, I took on additional duties at my company to gain more experience. I also took a few courses to improve my digital marketing skills and used this blog to demonstrate what I had learned.
I looked for ways to connect with the local digital marketing community and was lucky to find support from two organizations that promote women in technology.
When I had sufficiently saved and finished a couple of major projects, I left my job to recharge and plan my next move.
I picked up a part-time position with a larger tech company to gain some additional experience and supplement my savings. Then, I was hired full-time into my current role a few months later. I was referred into both jobs through friends.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received? Never blindly apply to jobs. You're always better off working through a friend or contact. You'll save yourself a lot of time and heartache.
Readers: Have You Successfully Orchestrated a Career Change?