Transitioning Careers to Work Your Passion

Photo via  Flickr

Photo via Flickr

In your quest to incorporate your passions into your life, you may realize that you’ll need to change career paths. This transition happened for myself not too long ago and I’m hoping that discussing some of my experiences might help you get a feeling about what challenges you might face and how to prepare for them.

Getting The Job (Interviews)

The first thing I noticed was that I couldn’t take for granted that the process for getting that new job was the same process as getting my first. This was especially the case for me in moving from engineering to strategy consulting. The interview process for engineering was pretty straightforward. There were a few “fit” interviews, in which members of the team talked to me about my previous experiences, got to know me and how I might fit into the team. There were also a few technical interviews, to gauge how well my previous technical experience lined up with the job description.

For consulting, it was a bit different. There were one or two fit interviews, but it was primarily based around case interviews. I won’t go into too much detail as there are entire books written on the subject, but the main difference was this was geared towards trying to solve a mock consulting case. There’s a particular process to this that I had to spend time learning in order to be competitive with other candidates.

Other careers have their own versions of interviews to help companies find future employees, so it’s important to learn what’s needed.

Change in Scenery (Moving)

Another often overlooked detail is the general location of the companies in your new career. Going back to the example of my change, many engineering firms are located outside of major cities, as they often require large amounts of dedicated lab space, which is expensive within city limits. On the flip side, consulting firms are often located directly in major cities, both to be in close proximity to clients and airports, as well as to attract (often young) talent that wish to remain in urban settings.

In this case, it isn’t a huge difference, but some careers are much more restricted and will almost require moving to certain areas (for example Washington DC for federal jobs, NYC for finance jobs, etc.)

Getting Up to Speed (Learning)

Once you’ve secured a job and get going, it may take a few months to get up to speed with everyone else. It’s one thing when you are moving from one company to another and need to learn new systems, but a whole different thing when you’re learning new skills, terms/jargon, methods of accomplishing tasks, hierarchies, etc. In some cases, there’s almost nothing the same as your previous job, and it can be frustrating to have to start fresh. 

Taking the time to master the basics will help in solidifying your understanding of the new material and help minimize mistakes.

Messing Up Again and Again (Making Mistakes)

While learning, you’ll be making plenty of mistakes and spending time correcting them. This is natural as you learn a new set of skills, but it’s not always expected. Personally, I expected to come in and learn what I needed to know in a few weeks, and then be on my way to success. Instead, a few months later, I’m just starting to see some progress. It will take time, and depending on where you’re coming from, you may not be used to making mistakes. Also, depending on your environment, your new employer may expect a certain level of work from you, which can add additional levels of stress. 

But don’t give up. Before you know it, you’ll start to catch your mistakes before others do. And soon you’ll start to make fewer mistakes altogether.

There are plenty of other smaller things that might make your transition a little different (change in schedule, change in types/age of coworkers, etc.) but I think this covers some of the major changes I’ve noticed.

One thing to keep in mind is that there are always people in your life that will be there to support you in your transition, though they might not be the ones you’d think. I was fortunate in having an incredible team of family and friends to help me, but even just one person is enough to aid you through a potentially difficult point in your life. Don’t underestimate them!

What are some of the changes that you notice when you transitioned careers? Are you thinking about making a change? What are you worried about?

Leave comments and questions below.

- Ryan