Have you ever felt “stuck”? Whether you’ve lost your passion for your job or just feel like you’re generally in a rut, feeling like you’ve plateaued is never fun. When that happens, rather than suppressing or avoiding it, you need to address the situation head-on.
Basically, your heart is telling you to explore something new, so you should listen.
But how should you go about addressing it? The first question is usually: “Am I too old or too late to make a career change?”
Is it too late to change careers after 10 years into the job?
It depends. If you switch from finance and accounting to project management, that’s not a big change. Many hiring managers would give you a shot since similar skills apply.
If you are an investment banker and want to be a fiction writer, however, that’s a major shift. Amor Towles, author of A Gentleman in Moscow (great book, highly recommend it), made the transition from an investment professional to a full-time writer.
To figure out how big a change it will be for you, buckle down, write, and rewrite the factors you need to consider. Then, figure out the steps you’ll need to take along the way.
I took a marketing job after more than ten years in finance/accounting, operations, product development, and even supply chain management.
It was a tough transition since I knew nothing (and I mean nothing) about creative development, copywriting, campaigns, not mentioning personas, SEO, social media, or martech.
And yet, here I am. It’s been a long road.
When I say “it depends,” it depends on if you’re willing to commit.
You need to commit.
Here is rule number one for any career development
Do great work on every job you possess. In case your managers move up the ladder, they will think of you and bring you along. Opportunities like that can give you a big boost in your career. It’s happened to me several times.
That was how I got my first marketing break. One of my past managers took on a leadership role in events marketing. I was hired to manage events operations. Since I’d done operations in the past, it should have been an easy transition, right?
Not really. Events operations were not the typical internal organizational operations that I did in the past. Building on-site experiences for attendees such as the space planning for keynotes, sessions tracks, and sponsorships and back-end technology integrations on registration, as well as barcode scanning with mobile apps, and more, proved a steep learning curve completely different from the types of “operations” I was used to.
I didn’t know what I was doing the first year. It was a hot mess. Many people helped me along the way. This is a thing: even though you do horribly the first time, it shall pass. The next time, you’ll be able to do better.
The second year onwards was a huge improvement. I learned so much about sponsorships, keynote productions, and session track planning.
Rule number two
Always maintain a desire and passion to learn. This is super-important in the digital world when technology advances so quickly.
For me to be a marketer, reading blogs, attending webinars, or listening to podcasts is a great way to learn, but the best way is to get down in the trenches and get your hands dirty in order to truly “do” or “experiment with” marketing.
A great example is ChatGPT. You’ve likely been hearing about ChatGPT, which can write codes, draft blog posts, and summarize content. If you haven’t already, go try it out and have some fun. See what it can do for you.
You don’t need to be an expert in everything, but you need to know enough to be “dangerous” in your sector. The best way to do it is to get your hands dirty.
Just go for it.
Rule number three
Many skills are transferable from one field to another. You need to know which of your skill sets are transferable and then utilize them as much as possible.
Once I got marketing down, I realized that I possessed many valuable skills that other marketers may not have.
What I learned in finance accounting gave me a huge leg up when I put a $20M B2B marketing budget together with solid KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).
When I was doing project-managed product development with an engineering team, I attained the skills of “herding cats”, as well as the ability to lead well-run meetings with a clear agenda to prevent going down a rabbit hole.
That helped tremendously in implementing marketing campaigns with an omnichannel experience.
Rule number four
Everything (and I mean everything) is connected. We often look back on our lives and see specific threads of events that are somehow related to each other. This becomes especially apparent when technologies integrate our many digital footprints.
I am in the process of writing a fictional novel. What I learned in buyers’ personas in B2B marketing helped me with character development. My experience in product launches gave me a great sense of book launch planning. Everything is connected.
Technology makes “connecting the dots” even more prominent. Have you noticed that when you’ve been searching for travel destinations or outfits, you start to see travel ads or similar outfits to the ones you searched popping up on your screens? Again, everything is connected.
If you pay close attention, everything you do can be used for something else somewhere, sometime.
When you are looking for a completely different job than your current field, your challenge is to convince others that your seemingly unrelated experiences can benefit the job you’d like to get. Help them understand that everything is connected.
Lastly, rule number five
Enjoy the journey while you make the transition. It’s often lonely and full of heartbreaks and failures.
In many cases, you may also do two full-time jobs for a while. Keep your current job to pay the bills, and make time to hone in your skills for your next gig. That was exactly what I did: I wrote my first book during nights while I was still in the corporate world.
During your transition journey, you may stay awake numerous nights and wonder if it is even the right thing to do. I questioned my decision to leave the corporate world when my income was in decline for months on end. But those are the ups and downs of self-employment. Again, something I know it too well.
At this point, I am making a transition again – from a B2B marketing consultant to a fictional writer. I call that Pam Didner 3.0. I’d be doing two full-time jobs again – I continue to take on B2B consulting and speaking gigs to pay the bills while I write my novels.
Being through massive career transitions, I know that sleepless nights won’t ever go away. The self-doubt will always be there. Plenty of suffering, pain, and heartbreaks.
But, a lot of rewards, too. Speaking from experience, it always gets better.
Would I do anything differently? Well, just one thing – enjoy the journey.
Be sure to stay in the moment so when you look back on it all one day, you’ll be able to feel even prouder of the results.