Is this your year to make a career change? If you are currently stuck in a career rut, I’m here to tell you that you DO NOT have to stay stuck. I was stuck not too long ago as well and it felt sort of hopeless, like there was nothing to really look forward to except the weekend. I went from wanting to escape my work life (through travel and epic weekend plans) to feeling completely excited for my future (with my new career transition). I hope that by sharing my story, these lessons that I learned can help you so you can evaluate what your career goals may be and how to move forward.
I left my full-time job to go back to school in October 2019. I had never felt so nervous, yet excited to start learning again. I finally felt like I had a direction even though I only knew my future up until the program’s end. But I felt positive that this was the path I wanted to take.
It was not an easy decision to quit my job. I was leaving a full-time, permanent position with a good salary and benefits. I had an amazingly supportive team and colleagues who wanted nothing more than my success and happiness. I was leaving six years that I invested into a career path that I once had high hopes and desires to climb the corporate ladder.
But I could not see myself advancing further. I also lost my desire to move up the ladder. I worked in human resources for six years and I have a lot of respect for human resources professionals and how they handle the various challenges we encounter in our day-to-day. There are still many aspects of human resources that I do enjoy, especially in the area of training and development, but for the most part, I lost my motivation to continue on in the career. I determined that a break was necessary… even just to see if there was another career path that was better suited for me.
And now, fast forward to February 2020, where I completed my program at Simon Fraser University, I am so happy I took that chance for myself. I graduated my program with an A average. I am working a dream job as a Career Counsellor and Career Exploration Coach. And all of my experience in human resources and my passion for developing people has come together to create this dream job I’m excited about every single day.
Getting here was not easy. Here are three lessons I learned from my own successful career transition and 3 actions for you to take control of your own career situation.
LESSON 1: TO UNDERSTAND WHAT I WOULD ENJOY DOING IN THE FUTURE, I NEEDED TO UNDERSTAND WHAT I LIKED AND DID NOT LIKE ABOUT MY CURRENT WORK SITUATION.
I truly believe that I was fortunate in that I did like my job and most of the tasks I did on the day-to-day. I had a trusting relationship with my managers — they never micromanaged me and I was accountable for completing my tasks. I liked the rapport that I had built with my clients and I enjoyed supporting them. I had friends at work that made the office life more lively. I enjoyed the personal connections I was able to make with new employees, especially newcomers to Canada, where I could provide them with advice to support their success. In its essence, I was thrilled to be an expert that contributed to the success of the company and its employees.
However, I was hesitant to grow in my career. I was given opportunities to do more challenging work but my excitement for the project did not hold for more than a day. I watched and admired the challenges that my managers and directors faced, but I could not see myself wanting to handle the same challenges. I struggled with terminations, disciplinary conversations, and sympathized with the people on the receiving end of the conversations. These were essential skills that I needed if I wanted to move up into human resources management. Even though I knew how important it was to overcome my anxiety to handle these situations, I felt like I could not get over it. Trust me, I tried.
There were other aspects as well that I had trouble with accepting as my daily routine. I had a 30 to 40 minute slow drive commute into the city. I would get home exhausted and not have energy for much else. I lived for the weekends in order to refresh for my next week. It was never enough and eventually, my energy became more drained. It was only evident to me that I was exhausted once I stopped working and what proceeded after was three weeks of sleep.
When I put everything together, I could tell that I enjoyed working with people and supporting people. It gave me energy to know that I was making a positive impact on people’s lives. What I struggled with was situations of conflict and being the bearer of bad news. I also learned that I really did not like wasting 70 to 80 minutes a day sitting in a car, especially during rush hour. And now, in my current role, I have minimized the parts I do not enjoy and I have so much energy for everything else that I am aligned with.
Takeaway Action: If you are currently struggling in your day job, reflect on what you enjoy and don’t enjoy in your work. This will make it easier to determine the requirements for the next position you may want to apply for. I do believe it is hard to avoid everything we do not like, but it’s a good starting point.
LESSON 2: TO UNDERSTAND WHY I WAS FEELING UNFULFILLED IN MY CAREER, I NEEDED TO UNDERSTAND MY STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES AND PERSONALITY TRAITS MORE.
I believe that you can become more confident in your abilities with practice, but some skills come more naturally than others. For the entire time that I worked in human resources, I knew I needed to practice difficult conversations and disassociate myself from my people-pleasing tendencies. I even spoke to many leaders in the human resources space about this issue, and everyone admitted that the difficult conversations were tough, but necessary. No one liked doing them but eventually, with practice and some mindset shifts, they accepted that it was a necessary part of the job.
I had trouble getting to that point. I tried and each time, it still gave me anxiety and drained my energy. Then my mentor recommended to me that I take the StrengthsFinder assessment and review my results. My first strength was Harmony, which illustrated to me that I sought consensus and agreement in conflict situations. Now it made sense why these work situations caused so much anxiety — because it was likely that there could not be agreement on both sides in those scenarios. Another one of my top strengths was Empathy, which was my ability to sense other people’s feelings by imagining myself in their situation. Coupled together, it was hard for me to remove my feelings from the conflict situation.
Another discovery I made was about my Myers-Briggs personality type. I am an INFJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging). Most INFJ personality types prefer a work environment that is harmonious and committed to positive change. The ideal job for them is generally a Counsellor, which allows them to use their creativity in an independent, organized environment in order to develop and implement a vision that is consistent with their personal values. You can see why I love being a Career Counsellor, right? It fits my personality type!
Takeaway Action: There are many paid and free assessments that can help you understand your unique traits and strengths. StrengthsFinder and MBTI are paid assessments. At Crossroads, we use the TypeFocus which analyzes your traits, interests, and values, in order to determine your best-fit career options.
LESSON 3: IT TOOK A LONG TIME TO MAKE MY CAREER TRANSITION, AND I COULD HAVE ACCOMPLISHED IT MUCH SOONER WITH HELP.
It took me over two years to decide to change. I was comfortable with my situation. I was not ecstatic about work, but I was not miserable either. Every few months, I would wonder what else was out there. I looked at job postings, school programs, and other possible work-from-home careers, but once I overwhelmed myself about the possibilities, I was content again. I am actually surprised it only took me two years to realize it was time for a change… and I think two years is a long time!
Since I have left my job, and I am now surrounded by many amazing coaches, I now understand the value of great coaching. When I was in my school program, I paid for my first career coaching session. The questions the coach asked me were powerful and thought-provoking. I had wanted to venture into self-employment, but I did not know if I would be successful. We were able to dive deep into what made me a great coach and how my experiences and education made me an expert. I was able to explore my limiting beliefs and shift my mindset to become more confident. If I knew I could achieve so much in one hour, I would have booked a session sooner! In fact, I would probably be two years ahead of where I am now if I took action sooner and met with a career professional. I now understand that getting support from a qualified professional is an investment into myself and the clarity you can obtain really empowers you to take action.
Takeaway Action: Getting professional support is an option to change your situation more quickly. Finding a qualified Career Counsellor (like me) is an investment into yourself, and there is honestly no better investment than investing in yourself.
I hope you enjoyed reading these lessons I learned in order to make a successful career transition. As a quick recap, here are my three top tips for a successful career transition:
- Be clear on what you enjoy and don’t enjoy about your current work.
- Be clear on your strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits.
- It’s okay to get professional support from a qualified career professional. In fact, it will probably expedite your journey.
If you’re looking to get clarity on your own potential career change, check out my free email course to audit your career.