Thinking of making a career change? Some lessons from someone who’s done it.
By Veronica Merry
Ten years ago, I made two very important decisions. One was easy and one was not so easy.
- Marry my husband (easy decision cause he’s awesome)
- Change careers (not so easy decision).
At the time, I was running a successful start-up music business. I performed as a professional singer, I taught singing and directed choirs. It was fantastic! I mean what was not to love? I loved working with children and performing on stage. Not to mention I was my own boss and made my own hours.
However, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something just didn’t feel right. I had passions for so many other things and I wanted to see what else I could do. But I felt scared to change because I had invested so much:
- money in studying music to achieve my Bachelor of Music with Honours (Classical) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Music Performance (Jazz).
- time in developing my craft – years and years of training to become a specialist teacher that could cover off on classical, jazz, pop, musical theatre – you name it – I could teach it
- effort - including the sacrifices my mum and dad made to pay for lessons throughout school and university study.
Not to mention the fact that I was at that point in my career where I was being headhunted. The year I decided to make a career change, I was approached by eight different schools to work in their music programs. It would have been so easy to just keep on going on the path I had set for myself.
But I decided to see what else was out there.
A friend recommended that I read 'What colour is your parachute' by Robert N. Bolle, which helped me identify my strengths and suggested job types that would suit those strengths. I discovered that one of my key passions was growth – i.e., developing others and managing projects. I was definitely doing those things in my current business but I wanted to see how else I could apply these skills and I wanted to hone them. It felt right and at the time project managers were becoming more and more needed. So I decided to study a Business Diploma in Project Management which took one year to complete.
In the mean time, I kept my business going and applied what I learned from the Diploma back into the business. I volunteered for organisations so I could get some more varied project management experience. I applied my new project management skills to the planning of our wedding. The more I learned, the more I loved it and was excited about the different pathways this qualification could take me.
Around the time I was finishing the Diploma, I noticed a job in learning and development (aka adult education in the workplace). So I applied and I got it. I was very lucky because that first job set me on my new path which I absolutely love. I work as a coach and consultant to help people realise their potential and become life-long learners. And I haven’t looked back. I still perform professionally as a musician and teach students singing occasionally but it’s certainly more for the fun of it – not for the extra income.
My advice? Career change is hard – don’t let anyone tell you any different. But if it’s going to make you happier and more fulfilled and you are determined to do it – you will. It’s that simple. Here are my top 5 tips to help you achieve your career transition:
- Research and reflect. Identify what your passions are and the types of jobs that might match those passions. I recommend reading:
- ‘What colour is your parachute’ by Richard N. Bolles.
- ‘What’s next? Follow your Passion and Find Your Dream Job’ by Kerry Hannon.
- Create a plan to develop the skills, knowledge and capabilities you need. Whether that be getting a qualification in the field you want to work, gaining experience through volunteering, or finding a mentor.
- Stick to the plan but be flexible. I say this because you need to be determined to achieve your goals but don’t forget to be open to engaging in opportunities that come your way. You never know when your dream job might be just around the corner.
Veronica Merry (MerryCoach) is passionate about helping people and organisations learn, adapt and evolve to achieve their vision. Veronica has over 17 years’ experience in designing and delivering learning programs across a broad range of disciplines including organisation development, change management, leadership and performance development, mentoring and coaching. Contact Veronica to help you design and deliver your next organisational development program.