What does it take to make a successful career change? Here are our insights from talking to women who’ve done it.
With a variety of options available today, it’s exciting to think about doing something completely different for a living than what you’ve been doing for a while. The possibilities are endless – one moment, you’re working a corporate job; the next moment, you’re seriously considering giving it all up to become a school teacher. A lot of us want to be able to imagine a future where we’re happier, more satisfied versions of ourselves, and the biggest factor that can make it happen is doing a job we love.
But thinking about it is often much easier than doing it.
Whether it’s family responsibilities, paying off our debts, or the fear of losing a steady income, a lot can get in our way when considering career transitions. The more invested we are in our professional and personal lives, the harder the choice is to make. Still, in some dire cases, even that can’t stop us from chasing the happiness we want from our jobs.
We spoke to two women who made successful career transitions to understand the challenges and the possibilities that lie ahead of making the big decision.
Hiranmayi Ghate started her career as a clinical psychologist – something she had decided she wanted to do since she was 13. Things took an unexpected twist, however, when she was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition – she could not complete her master’s degree in forensic psychology in the US because her insurance did not cover her medical condition. On coming back to India, her doctor advised her to pick a less stressful and fast-paced, as it was having a direct impact on her condition. Though rough at first, that’s when she decided to pursue her other passion, at the age of 29 – fashion designing. At the age of 35, she successfully runs her own studio.
Janki Lalwala moved to London after getting married and discovered her skills in makeup artistry. After working as a freelance makeup artist for 6 years, she moved back to her hometown with her child – the only problem was that she had no contacts and no way to sustain her career. Being a health food enthusiast, however, she saw an opportunity to introduce the city to healthy food, and decided to embark upon a tough but rewarding journey of opening up her own health food cafe in 2013, at the age of 28. As of 2020, she has three outlets across the city, and her makeup career is thriving.
If you’re seriously considering a change of career at 30, 40, or 50, here are some insights from our conversations with them:
“Is it ok to change my career?” Only you know the answer
Both Hiranmayi and Janki decided on career transitions mainly because of the situations they were in. While Hiranmayi’s mental and physical health were spiralling, Janki was having trouble finding work and making contacts. Before you set out to quit, think about why you want to change your career path.
Are you unhappy with the nature of your work? Are you not getting paid enough? Is your field of work getting redundant? Or is there something else you have a newfound interest in?
The first step is to analyse whether your attitude towards your work is short-term or long-term. If you’re unhappy with your field of work, make a pro-con list and try finding solutions to the cons. If you can’t seem to find any, a career switch is worth considering. However, even if you can’t find anything wrong with your job but you want to embark on a career that you’re more passionate about, take that leap, but make sure you have a plan!
“How do I make a career change?” : Start by mapping out your skills
Once you’re sure you want to switch careers, think about all the things you bring to the table. Your career choices will gradually fall in line. It’s also important to correlate your skills to the skills required in the industry you’re set out to conquer.
Hiranmayi had a long-time passion for designing, and it was also one of her favourite hobbies – it wasn’t difficult for her to decide what she wanted to pursue.
Along those lines, if there’s something you’re really passionate about, think about whether you can monetise it, and start from there.
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“How long does it take to transition to a new career?” – Map out your journey
One solid piece of career change advice: don’t skimp out on your research. Janki stresses that before you set out to start from scratch, it’s important to know what you’re getting into.
Is there someone in the industry who has a similar career trajectory as you? What is the scope of this new career path for someone with your skillset?
Do not hesitate to look at different people’s profiles and figure out what you may or may not have in common. That will give you an idea of what is in demand, and what you will need to fulfil it.
“Am I too old to start over?” : No, but do invest in career upskilling
Why should you upskill yourself? The likelihood of you having all of the skills required to switch career paths is low; it’s best to hone your skills even if you do have them. Hiranmayi had a passion for designing, but she ensured that she learnt how to stitch her own clothes and got good at it. She also invested in a diploma from a fashion institute to make sure she had all the necessary knowledge and skills to begin work as a designer. There are hundreds and thousands of online courses available at our disposal today; many from the highest-ranked institutions in the world. Consider enrolling for the ones you think would be valuable to your career transition. If you want to take it a step further, don’t hesitate to do part-time internships in places to get some basic first-hand experience in the field.
“How do I decide if a career change is right for me?” – People in the field are your silent career change advisors
When Janki was struggling to understand how to break into the market with her health food cafe idea, she found support in an old friend who was familiar with the hometown’s demographic and had relevant contacts. This friend then became the cafe’s co-owner!
It’s one thing to know what is happening in your field of interest from the perspective of an outsider (considering the many profiles you will be lightly stalking during research), but it’s a completely different ballgame to understand it from the perspective of someone who has been in the field for a while.
Whether you’re thinking of getting another job or starting your own business, it’s essential to know the workings of the field from an experienced person.
Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, several reputable companies and businesses are now organizing seminars around information in their respective fields – scout for such seminars and attend them. Also, don’t hesitate to approach people on different networking platforms and ask them for resources or help. Of course, don’t forget to be patient and respectful while you’re at it!
“ How can I make a successful career switch?” : Plan your future to successfully change careers
Switching career paths is not easy, as both Hiranmayi and Janki also reiterate. When you’re sure you have the skills, talent, and enough information regarding your field of choice, make a future plan. If you have a family to support, keep their needs in mind as well – do you have enough money to keep your family afloat for the next few months while you start your business venture? By when can you expect to turn a profit? When will you be able to make the same amount of money that you made in your previous job? Ensure that you have answers to all of these questions. Having a concrete goal will give you the confidence to move forward and make the change you’re looking to make.
“What is the easiest career to get into?” – None; developing patience is key
When Hiranmayi was first told that she would have to pick another career path, she spent the first couple of months figuring out her life, and support from her family was of monumental help to her. Janki didn’t have an easy start with her business either – not only did she have a child to raise by herself, but she also dealt with sexism at the workplace. There were several instances where her employees wouldn’t take her seriously, and it took her some time and a lot of perseverance to be taken seriously as the boss. She, also, had the emotional support of her mother during rough days – she would take care of the child while Janki worked to get her business up and running. It’s important to remember that you’re starting from scratch; patience is the most important tool you’re going to need to become successful.
Owing to the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, thousands of people are losing their jobs, and the future seems a bit unclear. If you’re planning on switching to a new career now, be prepared with anything that is thrown at you. Janki and Hiranmayi strongly recommend having a support system during this time. The process of shifting careers is a slow one; the best way to do it is to dive in with a positive state of mind.
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