Inertia is a compelling force, especially when it comes to careers. Spending years in the same job can yield potential benefits such as strong relationships, institutional knowledge, and an enduring sense of comfort with the familiarity of the position. However, it can be beneficial to venture out and explore new opportunities. This proposition is especially daunting for those who are typically risk-averse. But change can be good. In addition to encountering new challenges and broadening one’s network, changing careers can potentially result in financial benefits as well. For BAUCE women contemplating making a career change, it is essential to consider the following.
Maintain an Open Mind
Career paths are rarely straightforward journeys. They can twist, turn, and lead to unexpected destinations. Nicole George-Middleton, who moved from a career in entertainment law to her role as the Executive Director of the ASCAP Foundation, has pursued a pivot more than once. In this professional capacity, Nicole helps artists navigate the various facets of the entertainment industry as they hone their craft. Nicole did not walk a linear path to find this position. Instead, she has had to remain flexible in how she pursued her passions and ambitions throughout her life. In fact, Nicole’s interests shifted even during her undergraduate career. When describing her academic pursuits, Nicole shares: “I was a Psychology major and an African American studies minor. At the time, I thought I would be a child psychologist. But, as I started to take more and more courses toward the psychology requirement, they did not resonate with me as much as I thought they would…Then I started to think about law.” This interest carried Nicole through graduate school and through a career in entertainment law that lasted for eight years. When Nicole learned of an opportunity to work in a more creative role at the ASCAP Foundation, she kept an open mind and answered the call.
Check In With Yourself
Have an honest conversation with yourself before making the leap to a new industry or career. Your conviction and certainty can help pull you forward amidst difficult parts of the job search, recruitment experience and/or onboarding process. Jahleane Dolne has guided her clients through career transitions. In doing so, Jahleane has seen people stumble into certain pitfalls. She cautions: “A common mistake people make when navigating their career transition is not carefully aligning this new career with their long-term goals and their Why. If you’re embarking on a pivot, be clear about what it is you didn’t like at the previous job so that you aren’t moving into a similar environment. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself making another career transition sooner rather than later. Another way to avoid this is to have as many informational interviews as you can and really understand the ins and outs of your desired new path. Either way, ensure that you are running towards a new career rather than solely away from something else.” In order to achieve this clarity, you will need to evaluate your previous professional experiences and outline how you’d like your future to differ.
Acknowledge Your Transferable Skills
A career transition may seem more manageable when you consider how your existing skillset can translate to a new environment. Nicole applied this framework as she contemplated leaving her legal career. Describing her thought process, Nicole recalls: “As I started to consider the [ASCAP] role more and had conversations with my loved ones about the opportunity presented to me, I thought ‘Why not?’ I had the legal background to allow me to understand the copyright issues that songwriters face and understand why it’s so important. That skill set would really help in the role that I planned to take on at ASCAP. I knew I would get into the position and work really hard because that’s my nature and how I am wired.” This self-awareness and willingness to work hard will be of great use during any professional progression. Dr Ashley Adams, a career coach and professional development consultant, shares this sentiment as well. Dr Adams emphasizes: “Honestly, there is not a lot that is brand new under the sun. Most employers are looking for the same set of skills across industries, functional areas, and position titles. Skills like being able to navigate ambiguity and engage key stakeholders are transferable across healthcare, hospitality, tech, and other industries.”
Approach your Network With Intentionality
It’s difficult to find your way through uncharted territory when you are alone. This applies to your professional field of choice as well. Having a network of mentors, advisors, sponsors, and peers may lighten your load as you find your footing in a new environment. When it comes to building a network, Nicole reflects: “Who you know is equally as important as what you know. Treating networking as another part of your job may serve you well. Building connections is not easy. It takes time, investment, and diligence. For junior people who want to have a mentor: do research on the people who want to mentor or sponsor you. That allows you to have conversations with more depth.”
Embrace The Pursuit of Learning
Knowledge will be your best friend before, during, and after the career transition. Nicole has remained a student even after completing her undergraduate and graduate education. Nicole explains: “In order to be really good at what you do, you need to be a student of your craft. For me, I read a ton. It may be the lawyer in me, but I just love to read. I need to stay abreast of current trends…If you don’t continue being a student of this craft, there is somebody else behind you who will soar past you.” This continuous improvement mindset has been a major asset to Nicole as she has ascended the ASCAP Foundation’s senior leadership roles over the past 15 years.
Nicole’s experience shows that hidden gems can be found off the beaten path. A new opportunity requires patience, planning, and a whole lot of perseverance. But, in the end, your efforts can lead you to a rewarding destination.