BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN
I have had MANY careers in my 37 years on earth. Not just jobs, careers.
Enter freshman in college Jen. Broadcast news journalism! That’s what path I’m going into. I even had an internship that might have led to a job. But wait…I’m not loving this.
Enter sophomore in college Jen to late 20s Jen. Acting! That’s what path I’m going into, and what I got my degree in from my fancy private school with all those loans. But wait…I’m not happy also being a waitress.
Enter early 30s Jen. I’m going back to school for Art History! After a stint working in education, I’m going to work in museums as an educator! YES! But wait…this is not something that pays well or consistently.
Enter Jen now. I’m a dual business owner and a writer…and while I draw on my other careers, I am not in any of them (and am happy about it!). Because of my rapid shifts – as well as my clients’ rapid shifts – I have a five-step process for making the career path swap down pat:
Breathe. Ok, yes, you might have spent time and money on something you won’t do anymore. Isn’t it better to have excluded that potentially life-draining career path from your life versus finding out even next year? Better now than never, and better now than later. Congrats! You are ahead of a lot of people, promise. Take a deep breath, don’t panic and keep your eye on the prize – figuring out what next.
Control what you can. Do you know what you want to do next? Great! Do you need more time or help to figure it out? Also great! See step one, and proceed with your what next. Don’t worry multiple steps ahead, or what I call the what next NEXT. That what next NEXT looks like this: “What if I don’t like the new job I take in this new career? What if I get too tired for what next? What happens then?” My friend, you are still in your current position, you don’t have that next job yet, why are you worrying about it? Right now, control what you can. Don’t try to fix problems you don’t have yet.
Research and meet. Whether you know what you want to do or not, take this time to learn about options – whether they are ones you’re interested in or ones you’re looking to not include in your plans. The wide world of the internet is here for your enjoyment, yes, but also for your education! After doing some research, use LinkedIn and connect with people that are in your new field – or a field, you might be interested in – and ask for a meeting. This can be a phone meeting, coffee meeting, video chat – keep it specific and to a set amount of time. “Can we set up 30 minutes to chat about how you got to your position?” is WAY better than “Can I pick your brain?”
PIVOT! You’ve been breathing. You have your plan after controlling what you can (and breathing through what you can’t), you’ve met with people and researched…and now it’s time to make things happen! But what about all of your experience…do you lose it all? Short answer, no – but only if you’re smart about it. Look at all of your experiences and see what you can pivot to apply to your new adventure. Using my experience as a reference point, I use almost all of it in my business life today: from the content I teach (acting) to the writing I do (journalism) to the customer service and education (museums) – I spun almost everything to connect with my work today. Stuck about how to pivot? Ask a friend. When you’re stuck in the forest it’s hard to see the trees, so take some time to spin what you can.
And remember: don’t forget to breathe.