Forging a New Career Path? Here's How to Do It Right
Autumn and the change of the seasons reminds us how powerful it is to release what’s no longer serving us and forge anew. For many of us, the biggest changes that we go through center around our careers. I firmly believe that what we do should reflect what we love, and if we’re miserable in our current careers, it’s going to be hard to be happy in our personal lives. The work that we do defines who we are and how we show up in this world. That truth marks the bravery of forging a new career path.
While mini shifts will happen frequently — changing roles within a company, introducing new products or pivoting on business models —- it’s the major career choices that change the game for us. Even if we’re in an industry we love, chances are, we’ll make changes, as the average person changes careers five to seven times during their life, according to Career Advice Online.
My biggest change came when I quit my job at a startup less than a year out of college to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams. I know what it feels like to stand at a fork in the road and be tasked with making a big decision, then tasked with feeling good about it for every step afterward — even if it’s terrifying. So, for anyone ready to forge a new career path, here are a few considerations that can help.
1. Lay the groundwork ahead of time
The new path you’re forging doesn’t have to be "off the beaten path." In fact, I found the most security and comfort in planning what this new path was going to look like ahead of time. This should extend beyond the products you’re ready to launch or the work you’re conceptually ready to do and include your day-to-day tasks. Spell all of it out in incredible detail. What surprised me most about forging my own new path was how confusing the days felt. Since I was my own new boss, I didn’t know how best to spend my time. I realized I had waited to put anything into real motion out of fear.
When you’re on your new path, momentum is your best friend. Momentum is what propels you past fear and insecurity. If you don’t have clarity on how you’re going to get started and get going, you’ll feel stuck right off the bat. And the more stuck you feel, the faster that fear can catch up to you. Anticipate fear and build barriers against it, whether that means you save up money ahead of time, advance-schedule calls with coaches and mentors or even get started on your new career while you’re still in your current one. It will help everything feel more seamless.
2. Don’t look at age as a hindrance
Age is actually a major reason why many choose not to forge a new career path. Since I was only 22, I wondered if I was too young to make a shift so suddenly. I battled the “just stay a little longer because you don’t know what you’re doing” thoughts. The same can be true if you feel too old to make a switch because you’ve invested a great portion of your life in your original career path. I was recently catching up with a friend of mine, Jia Wertz, who made her own drastic career shift out of a 15-year career in corporate fashion to pursue her dream of documentary filmmaking. Her first documentary, Conviction, is now available on Amazon Prime Video. We discussed the age concern and how that can feel intimidating when you’re first making the shift.
"I typically am not the type of person to worry about my age when making decisions,” Wertz said. “I think you are as young as you feel. I didn't hesitate much at all when I was contemplating going to film school because I could feel in my gut that it was the right thing to do. I was drawn to it. I often find myself looking at this scenario in reverse. And what I mean by that is, instead of thinking that 40 was too old to go into a new career in filmmaking, I thought, when I'm 50 I will have had a solid 10-year career as a filmmaker and that will be great."
Following your gut should always beat out concerns about logistics. You can handle logistics, but I believe it’s far harder to handle a gut feeling that’s continuously urging you to do something you refuse to do. And, Wertz’s advice to shift your conceptualization of age context is powerful. For me, I realized spending even another year in resistance to my bigger goals was going to set me back and make me miserable, whether I was 22 or 52. And for Wertz, she realized that time is always what you make of it.
3. Give yourself fully to your work
Once you’re ready to leap, devote yourself entirely to the new career path. It can feel safer to have one foot on the new path and another foot still dwindling behind, but the best thing you can do is be all in. Matthew McConaughey discussed in an interview how nervous he was to tell his dad that he preferred going to film school over law school. When he finally summoned the courage to ask him, his dad’s response was to the tune of, “Go for it, but don’t do it halfway.”Kicking off a new career path on the right foot sometimes means diving in with both feet and with all that you have to offer. That doesn’t make it any less scary, but I’ve learned that you can handle it, one small step at a time. It’s worth it for a life of fulfillment and commitment to what you really want to do.