14 Things I Wish I Knew Before Switching Careers in my 20s

The Monday morning teas ain’t what they used to be? You hate your boss? Your work just isn’t as fulfilling or exciting as it once was? Perhaps you’ve been pursuing a career which wasn’t really your own choice *coughs—Jewish parental expectations—coughs*?

At age 27, I’ve been undergoing a big shift in my professional life. I’m on the hunt for a new gig in marketing after studying and working as a teacher for 5 years, and want to share with you things that I’ve learned along the way (by no means an exhaustive list) which you can apply to changing departments in your company or your entire career direction. So, here’s what I know from day to day hustling and insights from a range of intelligent minds who I’ve had the pleasure of learning from…

Oh and while yes, I live in Australia (yes we have internet and don’t go to school/work on kangaroos… unless the traffic is really bad), these tips are universal.

1. Numero uno: Seek out a great career consultant. This may be a costly exercise, but believe me, in the long run it’s critical to be able to confidentially speak to a professional about your dissatisfaction, regrets, fears, and doubts, and channel your aspirations into actionable steps. It’s also good to get feedback and advice on whether there’s anything you can do to resolve your frustrations—perhaps changing roles within your current organization, switching to more flexible hours, or remaining in your field but moving to a different workplace. If not, it’s also a great way of getting feedback on whether what you want to do is viable or if you’re batshit crazy (or both!).

I happened to ask my auntie and she recommended that I see a friend of hers who kindly gave me a discount. So talk to people and see if they can give you a word of mouth recommendation.

2. Fuck recruiters. I’ve gone to three interviews with recruiters this past month and nada! Even though I’ve been requesting to be put forth for certain roles, it’s been a shit show. I honestly don’t know what they do all day. So, how can you get hired without having to go through annoying recruiters who are making the moolah from getting your bum on a seat in their office? Go freelance! The gig economy is becoming the new black, of the career world, if you will. Millennials want more flexibility, regardless of if we’re changing careers or if we’re seeking more work/life balance.

There are so many cool new alternatives to the classic recruiters. For example, apps like Weploy are disrupting the traditional CV and interview process you probably thought you needed to go through to find work, but nah. It’s all about yo skills which are matched with the right employer/company. Then there’s Vervoe which run simulations to help understand more about you and where you’d be a good fit. The list goes on.

3. Pack your school lunch box. Changing careers is exciting (and fucking scary at times) but a change in fields means that there’s going to be some uphill study hurdles. But you’re doing this because you actually care, so it won’t feel like a drag because you’re moving further to achieving your career goals. When I say additional study, like my careers angel told me, that doesn’t mean you need to invest a shit ton of time and money into doing another full blown degree.

Firstly there are a range of websites where you can develop bite-sized skills. Head to LYNDA (membership at my local library means I can save the 30 odd dollars and login for free, yay!), Coursera, Udemy, Treehouse, or if you have a premium LinkedIn account, you can access their online tutorials. I’m using these tools to upskill in the areas of tech (relevant to digital marketing) and career development.

For my career change, I decided to pursue a Graduate Certificate in Marketing because it’s still at a Masters level of study but it’s four condensed core subjects from it. Also I decided to choose this option as it’s 100% online. This means I can still work and earn money while stimulating my mind and feeling positive knowing that I’m still working on achieving my goals. Which brings me to my next point.

4. Schmooze: AKA network. Like they say with dating, you’ve got to put yourself out there. In this case, you have to motherfucking pimp yourself out there in the professional world. Being an online student can be isolating, so I’ve really pushed myself to get out and meet people who work for interesting companies, have cool skills, and are just fun and motivated about life. Study is one thing, but you’ve got to hustle if you want to manifest it into a job, whether that’s finding your co-founder if you want to build your own start-up or finding someone who’s looking to hire an intern.

Also, if you haven’t got a corporate outfit, go out and buy one. I bought a $30 dress that I’ve worn to two networking events this week (you meet new people so no one knows you’re an outfit repeater! Voila!). Be fresh looking and people will pick up on your sweet vibes. Wear what makes you feel fierce. A couple women I met at recent events wore a black cape-jacket-blazer with slits down the arms. It’s not for me, but listening to highly successful women tell me how the right clothes can enhance their self-perception, well, I took note! Maybe Ms. Wintour wears those shades for a reason.

5. Where are these magical networking gigs advertised you ask? While you might find them on Facebook, because God knows there’s a group/page for everything and anything, there are other websites you need to hit up. Heard of the General Assembly? Located in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, the GA offer a range of workshops, courses, and events (loads of free ones) in tech, design, business, and a range of other professional development topics like branding yourself or learning about what recruiters are looking for (I guess they’re not all bad…). Then there’s Eventbrite and Meetup.

You’ll notice that when you go to one event, you’ll meet like-minded individuals who will tell you about other cool events they’re going to. I’m getting myself into the habit of going onto the event pages a week in advance, RSVPing, and keeping track of which networking events I’m going to hit up.

6. Literally reach out to people on LinkedIn who have a job that interests you and tell them that you admire them, ask them what they did to get there, what advice they’d offer you, if they could connect you with anyone in X area who may be looking for an intern, volunteer, or entry level employee. What has been so eye opening to me is that people care about you and are willing to help you. What’s the worst that could happen? They ignore you or say no. Shock horror.

7. I also recommend approaching women’s professional organizations. I’ve never received so much support before.

8. Invest in a large pinboard, supersized post it notes, or some decent blue tack. I’m a visual person and like many other women I know, I like a good list. The wall my desk faces in my bedroom has lists. What are the ideal conditions of my future job (i.e. are there office dogs)? What career titles interest me? What skills do I need to work on? What are my short term, medium term, and long term career and personal goals (and why have I never thought about this stuff before?!)?

9. Don’t you dare sell yourself short! In the words of Phoebe Buffay who broke up with her soon-to-be partner Mike’s girlfriend who was balling her eyes out, “Have some self respect, woman!” No one is going to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. Yes, that’s super cliché stuff, but it’s true! Delete the words “just” and “only” from your lexicon. You are a complex person with complex skills. Never forget that you have a unique skill set and history of experience that no one else does. Use that to add depth and diversity to your personal brand.

Also be aware that transferable skills are highly valuable. There will be many things you did or do that you can bring to a new opportunity. If you’re unsure or need help articulating exactly what they might be, use your good ol’ friend Google to assist. I myself googled what teaching skills can be transferred to marketing. So many articles came up. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel; there are many people who have done this before you.

10. Articulate your brand. That’s you! Perhaps you’re on LinkedIn and need to tidy up what your headline and description says, or you’re speaking to new people at an event and they ask what you do, or you’re at a Shabbat dinner/obligatory family event and each family member (out of love, don’t get me wrong), takes it in turns to ask you what it is you are actually doing at the moment. It can be uncomfortable, but it’s all part of transforming your image. Don’t let people pigeonhole you into an image they’ve always associated you with; it’s important to make yourself clear and be heard confidently.

Sit down and write a list of exactly who you are, what you currently do, what your core skill set is, what is it that you want to do, who you want to work for, and if there is a need for what you do. Many questions, I know. Have I answered them all myself? No. But I’m working on it one step at a time.

11. Trends, trends, trends people. Stay on top of changes in the workforce. It’s changed so much since your school career counsellor sat your class down and talked about what work life means. Subscribe to Jacob Morgan’s podcast on “The Future of Work” and to the mailing lists of key associations in your desired field.

12. Fake it til ya make it. Tech disruptor, solopreneur, growth or happiness hacker… If you want to call yourself some fancy new title, well, you can! Of course you have to have some skills to back it up. But if you want to get clicks on your LinkedIn profile, well, there’s an idea.

13. Find a co-working space. Heard of One Roof Women? Located in Melbourne and LA (so far) it’s a space for women to work and generate ideas and action. Of course I’m sure there’ll be a bunch more waiting for you to discover.

14. Baby, you better get comfortable with failing hard. I’m the kinda person where if I fall over in public, I instantly laugh at myself. It’s like the body’s natural coping mechanism for overtly embarrassing yourself. Well, you’ve got to do the same in a way when you fuck up in a job. Yesterday I had this conversation with a group of grade 5 kids in circle time (gosh I wish adults did this) where we were talking about dreaming and goal setting and I was like, guys, everyone’s gonna fail, it’s what you do next that builds resilience and makes you a stronger person.

I’m not doing anything unheard of. I’m trying to have a strategy and at the very least give off the vibes that I have the chutzpah, that I will do whatever I physically am capable of to land an internship/traineeship/graduateship/any ship to get my foot in the door and wedge it wide open in this field.

Never shush your inner doubts. If it doesn’t feel right to you, then it probably isn’t. Whatever profession you’re exiting, you will have a wealth of experience that you can apply to a new industry. You’ve got this. Now get to work, woman!

Gabriella Oberman

Gabriella Oberman is a 20-something Jewess who holds a BA Arts (International Studies), Master of Teaching, and is currently embarking on a Post Graduate Certificate in Marketing. When she’s not writing or teaching she can be seen in her natural habitat, one of Melbourne’s hipster cafes.

Read More