I confess. I like Mondays.
I didn’t always. As a self-employed insurance agent, I usually felt like pulling the covers over my head on Monday morning and dreamed of liberation from my job. Now, as a hospice chaplain, I do work that fulfills me, challenges me, gives me joy, and even makes Monday a pretty good day. How did this happen? I changed careers in mid-stream. Here’s what I learned in the process of changing careers in the middle of my life.
Don’t do it on a whim. Be very, very certain of what you hope to achieve, what you need to succeed in your new career, the available options for training and employment, and the potential financial stakes. Think carefully about why you want to make this change-“To be happy” is nice, but it’s too fluffy. You need some solid reasons to uproot your life (and probably the lives of your nearest and dearest, who will take this journey with you.) You need reasons that are good enough to sustain you while you wade through the process of being an absolute beginner, when you wonder why you’re doing this, when you wake up in the middle of the night with your heart pounding in fear. In my case, I wanted to companion hurting people because of painful experiences in my own life. I wanted to work with passionate people who care deeply about what they’re doing for others. I believed deeply in the hospice philosophy of dignity and quality of life. These are core values and I wanted to live them.
Do Your Homework. Will you need additional education? Do you have contacts in this field? Are there jobs locally, or will you need to plan for relocation? How much will it cost? What about the opportunity cost-the money you aren’t making while you learn to ply your new trade? How much time will this take? Will you be missing out on your baby’s first three years as you juggle the tasks of parenting with mastering the learning curve in your new career? Think carefully about these things. Talk them over with your spouse, partner, or mentor.
Trust in the process. As you go through the steps of changing careers-getting your education, making contacts and connections in your new field, applying for jobs-things will become clearer. Right now, as you consider making the change, look at the first steps you need to take. When I started the process of becoming a chaplain, I knew my first step was to complete my Bachelor’s degree. I met with an adviser at the community college near my home. He knew the next steps. From there, I found that there was always someone who knew the next step. You need to know-and monitor-the big picture, but don’t worry if you’re not entirely sure how each little step will go just yet.
Cut yourself a slice of humble pie. Changing careers is not for sissies. You will be going from a job you could probably do with your eyes closed and one hand tied behind your back to being a complete newbie. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to have to ask for help. You’re going to see yourself in a new light, as a rookie, and that’s humbling. Don’t go in there with the attitude that you know it already or that you deserve to succeed.
Celebrate success! Don’t wait till you’re finished with your career change to celebrate. Enjoy the milestones of your progress-finishing a course, passing your licensure testing, getting your first job. You’re sculpting an entirely new life for yourself. Be kind to yourself on the journey.
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