Relationships

How to Navigate a Career Change

Julia Child

Do you like your job? We all go through times when we feel restless in our careers. Many people fantasize about going back to school, living off the land or doing something completely different. But how do you actually make the switch? I talked to 10 people who changed careers to see how it’s done…

My dad worked at the same company for 35 years, which now sounds archaic, but many people stick to the same career path even if their minds are wandering. A study in 2008 found that 80% of people over 45 years old consider changing careers, but only 6% actually take the leap.

Still, switching paths is becoming more and more common. “As a generation X-er, I grew up assuming whatever field I started in, I would retire in,” says Cheryl Wischhover, who was a pediatric nurse practitioner for 15 years before she became a beauty editor. “But I realized it’s okay to have two or three careers in your working life — it’s even a positive. More life experience makes you more well-rounded.”

After all, Julia Child was an advertising manager and a spy (!) before she became the cook we know and love. So, over the last few weeks, I spoke to 10 people who went through major career changes. Not just switching jobs, but complete 180s — from an investment banker to a wedding planner, from a magazine editor to a psychologist, from an accessories designer to a nurse, and more. Here’s what I learned:

You Can Love Your Career and Want Something New

Lina Perl did marketing and editing for magazines from the age of 21 to 33, then she decided to become a psychologist. “My editing career was exciting. I loved brainstorming ideas, researching and writing, but I always wondered about the path not taken. I had been a psych major in college and even as a kid I used to tell people ‘I want to be a psychologist who writes books!’ As I grew older, got married, and had my first kid, I thought about that childhood dream more and more. But I was afraid to tell anyone because I thought people would think I was nuts. I had a good job that paid well, I was heading into my mid-30s with a family — why would I go back to school for five years? But when my second daughter was born, I suddenly knew I couldn’t spend the rest of my life wondering what if.”

Cheryl was a pediatric nurse practitioner for 15 years before she became a beauty editor. “I loved working in the pediatric oncology department. It was high-tech, so you had to know a lot of science, but it was also personal. Many families were there for a few years getting treatment, so you really got to know them. But when I had my own kids, I just couldn’t function the same way. The parents going through all this horrible stuff were suddenly my peers. I would see these sweet bald children, and I would start crying and have to run into the office.”

Burnout is Real

Sarah Walzer managed art galleries in Los Angeles, Berlin and New York for 10 years, now she owns a farm-to-table restaurant in rural Pennsylvania. “I loved my job for a long time, but after a decade, I got burned out on the art world and city life. I wanted to be outside. There’s something to be said for needing to get back to the land and environment.”

Siobhan Quinlan worked in production for TV commercials for five years before she decided to go to beauty school to become a hairstylist. “The TV industry was amazing, but it had crazy hours and could be very high stress. People older than me were always talking about their exit plans and how to get out of the lifestyle. It was hard to have a life outside work.”

Difficult Times Can Bring Welcome Change

Amisha Patel was a lawyer for four years and is now a children’s clothing designer and entrepreneur. “While I enjoyed the law, I’d always wanted to create and build things. Litigation felt like just the opposite, and it had begun to wear on me. Then, in 2008, the economy crashed, and my five-year-old nephew was diagnosed with leukemia. This gave me a much greater sense of urgency to pursue my passions and to embrace the uncertainty inherent in that pursuit, so I began to plot my exit.”

Nadia Kaufhold worked in finance for 10 years before she became an interior designer. “After my husband passed away from a long illness, I couldn’t spend another day at my finance job. It was suddenly clear I had to start expressing myself. It was like a compulsion.”

Both Tocha Albert‘s parents were artists, so he went to an art high school and college and ended up becoming a licensed accessories designer. But after 10 years in the industry, he decided to go back to school to become a nurse. “I was unhappy for a long time in my field — sitting at a computer all day designing backpacks and things for brands like Walmart, but I didn’t know what else I could do. Then in 2010, my dad died from cancer. He mentioned he had a nurse that he really liked and that he was a man. My dad was a hard guy to please on most days, but especially toward the end, so this meant a lot. It made me think start thinking that I could be a nurse, too.”

The First Step is the Hardest

Meg Dinga worked in the film industry for seven years, her last three as a talent agent, before switching to graphic design. “The period between realizing you don’t feel fulfilled and starting the career change was very stressful. For a while I was straddling two jobs — working full time as an agent, while also attending classes and producing design work. It was intense, but my overall trepidation and uncertainty made the transition even more stressful.”

Lina: “The year leading to my career switch was not happy. It was very hard for me to admit to myself that I needed to make a change. In fact, I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself not to take a risk. But when I was 33, I took the GRE. I figured if I did badly, I wouldn’t apply to schools. But I did well, so I figured I’d apply and if I didn’t get in, it wasn’t meant to be. But I got into a great Ph.D. program. Once I decided to take those first steps, doors started opening. Getting your doctorate while being a mom to young children is not easy. There are many challenges — financial, marital, not enough hours in the day — but these have been four of the happiest years of my life.”

It May Sound Cliché, But You Can Do What You Love

Tzo Ai Ang worked as an investment banker for seven years, then became a wedding planner. “Before getting married, I never thought about how I wanted my wedding to feel, but I loved every minute of planning it. I found myself reading the wedding blog Style Me Pretty every day, and I realized wedding planning was what I really wanted to do. So, I started researching industry events and networking at anything I could get myself into. I created a website; studied SEO, social media and marketing; and figured out where successful planners got published. My first client was through a friend of a friend, and I worked for basically nothing. I was lucky because the wedding got published on Once Wed. Looking back, I can’t believe I managed that wedding myself with no assistants — now I have two!”

Cheryl: “I had always loved fashion — the business, the personalities, the designers. I started blogging about style while I was nursing and really enjoyed it, so I decided to take some writing classes at NYU. I saw that the fashion website Fashionista was looking for an unpaid intern. I told my husband I was going to apply, and he said, ‘Are you crazy? Do you know what interns do? They get coffee.’ At this point, I was a 37-year-old nurse and mother of two. But I sent them a long and (I thought) funny email saying if I could handle toddlers’ tantrums and a bunch of doctors, I could handle the fashion world. I got the internship and was hired as an editor a year later.”

Siobhan: “Working in production, I always secretly wished I could hang out with the hair people on set instead of sitting at my computer. My whole life, I had been interested in hair, but I never thought of it as a job possibility. Once I moved to NYC and saw stylists with amazing careers, I thought more and more, ‘Why can’t I do that?’ Then during a slow time for production when I was watching lots of Tabatha’s Salon Takeover, I finally thought, I can do this. I gave myself six months to save money and then went to beauty school. I loved learning about hair and still do. I’m now the creative director of my own salon.”

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Shannon Rodriguez was a flight attendant for three years, then in advertising for 16, and now she owns three juice bars. “About five years ago, I walked into a Nekter Juice Bar and I knew they were onto something. I wanted to be a part of it. Nekter wasn’t franchising at the time, but for a year and a half I kept sending them emails saying I was interested and eventually I got my first store. There have been lots of tears, lots of hours, lots of hard work, but with passion and perseverance I have gotten through it. I love being my boss on being able to reinvent myself. I just got rid of all my suits, now it’s yoga pants and Free People.

Sarah: “My husband always said the Indian restaurant in our small Pennsylvania town was the perfect restaurant location. It wasn’t for rent, but one day I went in for lunch and asked the owner if they’d ever be interested in renting the space. He and his wife had run the restaurant for 15 years, and it turned out they had been thinking of retiring. I had recently moved from New York to rural Pennsylvania to be with my husband — but I didn’t want to continue my art career there, and he was working as a chef in mediocre restaurants. We thought, this is our shot. We were both very interested in food and were already raising chickens and growing a garden at home, so we decided to open a farm-to-table restaurant. It was huge challenge and risk, but it was our chance to create something together.”

Being Older Can Be To Your Advantage

Lina: “I used to wish I had gone to grad school at 21. For a while, I considered all my years as an editor a long wrong turn in life, but now I see that they were incredibly valuable. I learned a ton, and I hope to come back to writing in my new career, just in a new form. I’m also at a huge advantage because I know how to pitch myself as a psychologist and market myself to get clients.”

Cheryl: “My bosses at Fashionista were 23 and 24, while I was 37. When I started, I was so nervous. Can I actually do this? Am I going to make a complete ass out of myself? I wasn’t trained as a writer; I didn’t go to journalism school; I came from a place where I was a mentor and now my bosses were millennials. But later they told me they saw me being older as a positive. So many interns are 19 and 20, they said — they can be flaky, they don’t know how to act in an office, maybe they don’t have that work ethic down yet. I probably made too many jokes about my age, but I came to realize that it was a plus. I could remember trends and brands that the 21-year-olds didn’t even know existed, and when I wrote about beauty, my science background was really helpful.”

Tzo Ai: “Since I had worked at a bank, the organization of wedding planning came very naturally to me. On a trading floor, you get used to working with very difficult personalities, and that groomed me well for dealing with difficult wedding vendors.”

Check Out the Field First

Tocha: “While I was taking my nursing pre-requisite classes and still working, I decided to volunteer at a hospital. I told the director that I was trying out a career change and didn’t know anything. ‘I haven’t even taking anatomy and physiology,’ I said, ‘I just want to see if this is right for me.’ She said, ‘I know the place for you,’ and put me directly in the intensive care unit. Right away, I was assisting the nurses in some very outrageous situations. I found that I had the stomach for it and I got along well with the patients. I finally felt comfortable to give this nursing thing a real shot.” 

Sarah: “Don’t be afraid to take a risk on something that sounds completely insane. If you have an interest in beekeeping, figure out a way to get an internship and learn more. Be courageous! It’s okay if you make the wrong decision; it’s worth trying things out.”

Learning Something New Feels Good

Cheryl: “Writing and meeting people in the beauty industry has given me new life. When you have two little kids you’re run ragged, and sometimes you lose sense of who you are. I can’t say enough about learning something new later in life. And you should never discount learning from people that are younger than you.”

Nadia: “After my husband died, I contemplated many different avenues. Should I go into political writing, academia, photography, healing modalities? Ultimately, I embarked on a gut renovation of my apartment and decided to go to school for interior design. My three-year-old twins and I moved into a small studio during the renovation. I would study by lamplight while they slept in a bunkbed a few feet away. That period of grieving which mobilized me was crystalline: I was focused, efficient and absorbed information like a sponge.”

You Will Probably Make Less Money at First

Siobhan: “One of the hardest parts was going from a well-paying job to having almost no income in beauty school and as an apprentice. But don’t let money hold you back; if you want it enough, the money will figure itself out.” 

Cheryl: “You’re going to have to start lower on the hierarchy, so it’s important to save money and be financially ready. There was a significant time where I was not making any money; none of this would have been possible without my supportive spouse.” 

Amisha: “Going from the top of the legal industry to the bottom was an adjustment. Foregoing a salary, benefits and free office supplies was also rough.”

But You Won’t Regret It

Tocha: “If you put one foot in front of the other, you’ll eventually get wherever you need to be. And if you get there and it’s not quite right, you can always take a few steps to the left. Am I 100% happy as a nurse all the time? No. But now I have a whole other field ahead of me with options. I’m also very proud to be a pediatric nurse. I leave work every day exhausted, but fulfilled by the work I’ve done. I’ve been able to make a difference in these kids’ lives, even if only for a moment.”

Lina: “The most rewarding part part has been finding a career I love and being able to share that with my kids. Although I’m super busy, I genuinely love working with patients, and I think my kids see that. I’m showing them that work can be wonderful. I’m intellectually challenged, and I’m happy to be making a difference in the world by helping others.”

Sarah: “We just celebrated the Blind Pig Kitchen’s second anniversary. It’s been hard, stressful, fun, extremely rewarding, a big learning experience, a test of our relationship — it’s been everything. But even when we’re super overwhelmed by running a restaurant, it’s our restaurant. I still get excited when I think about the change that I made. You get a little spark: this actually happened.”

Are you thinking about changing careers? What would you most want to do, in your heart of hearts? Let us know — we are rooting for you!!!

P.S. Career tips from smart women, and the best work advice.

  1. Emma says...

    I feel like you are speaking to me! Yesterday I spent all day at work looking at teaching programs after realizing how excited I got at the prospect of coming in to a friends day care to have a “french culture class”. I miss living in France, speaking French, and I love how children exude joy, delight and whimsy in learning new things. The joy of being in HR is sometimes hard to find (for me, at least) so maybe instead of managing workers I can spread my love of French to children!

  2. It is uncanny of the timing of this post and fascinating everyone mentioning that- thank you Jo. The comments, successes and stories of hope everyone is bravely sharing, has inspired me to DO THIS- something. I have been feeling stuck for two years now. I graduated with a BA in Art History during the financial crisis and none of my attempts to break into the art world in NY panned out. I ended up taking an EA role at a great company, getting comfortable, moving to Asia, traveling the world, but always coming back to the EA role because it was what my work experience qualified me for. Now i have practically 10 years of being an EA on paper and I am so unfilled. I clock in and out. Since marrying my husband who looves his job and deeply knows his calling and having a baby girl , I am even more driven to change careers. I am deeply creative and i know I want to make something or be part of something meaningful in the hours i spend away from my growing daughter but i havent found that vocation calling- besides wanting to be a mother. I have wanted to be a mom my whole life, and now that i am, i know even more i have to show her you can do something you love for work. I just wish i knew what my job was, id love to just be able to be her mom.

    • Allison says...

      I recently watched a talk that suggested asking yourself what you can do for work that is valuable (rather than what you love or will make a lot of money)… maybe that is an easier question to answer? The idea being that fulfillment will come from knowing your work is valuable.

  3. Lindsey Petersen says...

    At 30 I decided to go back to nursing school (already having two previous degrees) and now I’m almost done! It felt very crazy at the time and I am legit in classes with 20 year olds but I think I’m on track for a job and lifestyle I’ll really enjoy.

  4. Adrien says...

    When I saw this post I audibly said “oh thank god!”. This is so timely for me – I’ve been considering a career change and my partner is also looking for new work. I haven’t been doubting that I need to do it, but I have been dithering in the details of how to approach things and catching myself on looking for a playbook of how this all works instead of just diving in. Thank you Cup of Jo for this little push. Its so great to see all the comments here knowing that so many others are going through the same thing.

  5. Last year I changed careers. From a stationery designer and letterpress printer to a blogger (writer, photographer, stylist). Stationery felt too limiting to me creatively and I wanted to express myself and my personality in so many more ways than just a print on a piece of paper or someone’s wedding invitation. I had been thinking about the change for years, but it took me a while to take the leap despite no one but myself standing in my way. I have not looked back once on that decision and only wish I had made the change sooner! It’s never too late to listen to yourself. I still sell my greeting cards on Etsy, but I’m not longer actively managing or building new inventory, and I use all the design skills I learned and apply them to my new work.

    One thing would be helpful to share would be to talk a little more about the process of making the change – i.e. how to talk to loved ones or partners about your new goals, how to trust yourself, how to make a plan for the switch, etc. A lot of people fear these situations because they can’t breakdown how they’ll actually go about doing it – but then again, ignorance can also be bliss at the start of a new endeavor!

    http://www.shessobright.com

  6. Lauren E. says...

    I recently decided to take my hobby of “writing stories” and put some effort behind it and hopefully get a romance novel published. I realized my own insecurities and doubts were holding me back so I sent my first manuscript to a friend and she wrote back gushing – it gave me all the confidence in the world. When I sat back at my current job and realized how much I hated it and how much I’d rather be writing, I had to go for it. Here’s hoping.

    • Good luck Lauren! Nora is my fav! ;)

  7. I currently work in property management but have always dreamed of working as an interior designer. I studied Communications for four years at University and so wish I had delved into the design world head on. Now, recently married, and beginning the house hunt, it feels like it would be irresponsible to make a career change. I truly want to find a job that allows for more creative fulfillment, so I hope I’ll have the guts to just make the leap one day! I’m confident I have the talent, and I’m always complimented on my eye for desin – I just need to figure out all the little steps in between now and that dream…

  8. MK says...

    Is it a thing to just cold call people in a profession you are interested in, and ask them if they’ll talk to you about it?

    • Lauren E. says...

      I’m sure it depends on the profession, but I have a friend who works in academia but has always wanted to be a comedy writer. So she reached out to every female staff writer and all the late night comedy shows, and asked them if they’d be interested in mentoring her. Some ignored her completely, some politely declined, and some told her to send them her stuff. You never know!

    • Gen says...

      It’s a thing! It’s called an “informational interview.”

  9. Perfect timing! I’m in the process of pursuing a different career path myself and even though it’s not such a big leap from what I’m currently doing, I’ll still be giving up a few things like a regular salary, prime business location and the (daily) company of my awesome office friends. I’ve already tendered my resignation, but I found myself tempted to take it back so many times this week. Ultimately, I know that I should do it; this article confirmed it. Loved every piece of advice. Bookmarking this as a reminder as I step closer to that new chapter of my life!

  10. Sophia says...

    This resonates with what I’m going through right now. I’m doing admin/marketing/project management in a telecommunications organization that isn’t doing too well right so I’m contemplating switching gears to something else–marketing in tech, culinary school, or some kind of career that will bring more satisfaction and challenge me. The whole process has been difficult, and it’s so helpful to read that I’m not alone.

    • Melody says...

      Sophia, I’m in your shoes too. I do admin/marketing/project management as well, and I’ve found it to be a good starting place, but I’m so ready to move on! It can be a tough process, but there’s something out there for you!

  11. Amy says...

    This article almost made me cry (though that could be because I’m 9 months pregnant). Thank you for sharing this with us, it was just the encouragement I needed to keep going. I just finished my first semester of grad school while pregnant and working a 40 hour a week job with an international NGO. I have been exhausted, but as soon as I found out I was pregnant I knew I needed to finally do what I had always told myself to do: go to grad school and get a job I actually love. So I’m doing it. I need my daughter to see that hard work pays off and working a job you’re passionate about isn’t just a pipe dream, it’s something to pursue.

    • Valerie says...

      I love that Amy! You sound like a very strong woman – keep going!

    • Melissa W. says...

      WOW! Go get em, Amy!!!!

    • so incredible Amy! I feel the same why now having a baby girl, although i didnt start grad school yet. good for you! how did you know what you wanted to do?

    • Maria says...

      That is amazing and very inspiring! I’m in grad school now and we’re also trying to start a family (I’m 34), so it’s awesome to hear about other women taking the same path.

  12. Gretchen says...

    I was an attorney in the HR/EEO field for years and hated it. I am now a school librarian and I not only love my work, I love my life.

    • Emma says...

      Hi Gretchen! I am interested in becoming a school librarian and have some questions. Did you have to get a masters in library science? I’d love to hear how you got the job!

  13. Gretchen says...

    I was an attorney in the HR/EEO field for several years and hated it. I became a school librarian and I love not only my job now, but my life as well.

  14. This is soooo timely for both my husband and myself. My husband quit his job as a director in sales about 6 months ago to try something on his own. He wasn’t sure what but I (taps self on back) was very supportive and we luckily had a nest egg to lean on for a while. He started one company from scratch in what he felt he should do – going from credit card processing to expense management consulting – but had a pet project idea “Sales in Cinema” (basically video essays analyzing sales tactics). He has made two youtube videos that have already had great success, and he has decided to pivot again and try his hand at branding himself as a sales training consultant, something he feels much more passionate about. Meanwhile, after 12 years in tax, I find myself trying to figure out if I can switch to academia…I’m not sure I’ll make the move just yet (I think we need one successful career change at a time in our household!) but it’s cathartic to think about it and do my due diligence.

  15. This is exactly what I needed! After 7 years of teaching, I’ve taken the plunge and decided to stay at home with my baby daughter next year and work on my fiction writing while she’s in daycare two days a week. I’ve written the entire time I’ve been teaching (and finished a novel that’s on submission!), but I never felt like I had enough time to really focus on writing the way I wanted to. Add a new baby, and the idea of having time to write is laughable. It was really scary to give notice at my school, and I love it there, but I realized I’d always wonder what could have been if I didn’t take this opportunity to focus on my daughter and my writing. Thank you for the timely and encouraging post!

  16. Jami says...

    The number of times it feels like COJ is reading my mind…y’all are too good! :)

  17. Mary says...

    After 30 years in administration, I went back to school and got an MS in Nutrition and Integrative Health. I wasn’t able to complete the hours to become licensed–an internship + full-time job was too much. It didn’t bother me because I discovered that I really don’t like working one-on-one with clients. Just two weeks ago my company asked who would want to be a part-time health representative to develop and organize wellness programs. I was able to jump on the opportunity and I have a network of wellness practitioners to reach out to. It may take time for all the pieces to fall into place.

    • That is so neat! I hope it works out well for you.

  18. Mouse says...

    I’ve been thinking lately about the difference between a job and a profession, or vocation. Perhaps it would be helpful to think about that difference when contemplating a change? I don’t find the language of “following your dream” realistic or particularly inspiring, although I suppose many people would look at what I did for years (I was an opera/classical singer) and think that that was what I was doing. It didn’t seem that way to me–I worked insanely hard to be a working, successful musician which to me was/is a PROFESSION. I wanted to go deep and support myself doing it, which I did. I never made a huge amount of money but I did what I wanted to artistically and professionally.

    Now in my late 50s, I wonder if I’d rather have a JOB–something that allows me to take care of my garden, my friends, family, house, cat. It’s an interesting difference, and backwards to what many of you are talking about doing.

    • Kari T says...

      I hear you!! I am a geologist right now (12 years now, what?!) and feel I’ve peeked at the level of responsibility I’m willing to take on. Filling out a 5 year goal was so difficult for me, I don’t want a promotion, I’d almost prefer a demotion honestly. The idea of doing my JOB and then just being done with it for the day is what appeals to me the most. I do not want to be answering emails on the weekend or working late during the week….maybe I’m just lazy!

  19. Mrun says...

    I think about this so much. I am a software engineer, working in IT and IT has been unsteady for a few years in India. It depends a lot on world and American politics, since most of the IT service industry depends on outsourcing; which is dying slowly.
    So I want to be prepared with an alternate career. The problem is, I am interested in a LOT of things, passionately even. But I never seem to rest on one thing to make sense as a job.
    A well written and researched article, I enjoyed it very much!

  20. Emily says...

    This is a wonderful post. I’ve been in the corporate accounting world for almost 6 years now (how time flies!) and have been debating for at least 3 years whether to change career paths. Part of it was driven by my jobs at the time, but I truly don’t think I love accounting. My true passion lies in corporate environmental sustainability. I’ve always felt strongly about treating the Earth as best we can so we can sustain its beauty and leave it to inspire for countless generations to come. It makes me sad to see so much waste in the corporate world driven by profit. I would love to one day get involved in operational implementation of sustainable activities, or something along those lines. There is also a new masters program offered by a school in my area which gives the graduate a “Masters in Business Sustainability” and I’ve been toying with the thought of applying for 2 years now. Every year the deadline comes and goes and I can’t make the plunge, but I think in a year or two I’ll just apply to see if I get accepted and go from there. The program is online over only a year so it doesn’t put me back too far and I can keep working while I take my courses!

  21. I loved this post! I massively believe in people having totally different careers in their lifetime. My mum was a cook for 13 years, then a stay-at-home Mum, now a teaching assistant. My dad worked for years at a graphic design firm, and then retrained to work in operating theatres in a hospital in his early forties. They both love their jobs.

    I am feeling restless with what I am doing at the moment and listened to a podcast called ‘Unstuck’ by The Hidden Brain yesterday which talked about people stressing about knowing ‘THE’ right choice to make in life. Instead it suggests trying to realise that we do all have multiple options and there is not necessarily one right one. Instead of trying to make huge life choices and getting them right the first time, we need to prototype our choices. Not sure if I explained it very well but it was a REALLY good podcast!

    Also doing the 16 personalities test (mine was SPOT on) and then reading the Career section helped me learn a couple of things about myself and what might make me happy.

  22. Maria says...

    I just went back to school to become a librarian after six years in public media. Not a huge left turn, but going from a good salary and lots of responsibility at work to having part time jobs and internships at age 34 has been an adjustment. I’m so glad I made the leap, and as stated in the article, having the work ethic and experience of a 30-something has helped me immensely!

  23. Thanks for sharing this post that rings so true to me! After trying my hands at a photography business for the past 6 years or so, I realised I was losing my passion for the photography I love, the act of just grabbing my camera for personal projects or some that were closer to my heart. I was still putting a lot of care in the work I was doing (for very happy clients) but there was something missing, and it was starting to affect my mental health. I decided to put an end to the business itself and it felt like heartbreak. On those sad days I had, my husband told me something that really helped: ” you may have broken up with this career, but it doesn’t mean you can’t remain good friends!”. This was I needed to hear.
    Now, I work for a company we created together last year (data analysis, so really different from that creative world I was working in but something I enjoy working at) some of the days and still work on personal photo projects (without the business side of it), my blog etc. on the other days.
    I know it’s not easy for everybody to make those decisions but in my case, it was essential.

  24. It’s amazing how Cup of Jo posts seem to resonate with so many people who identify with the topic at that exact moment in their lives! For me, I’m currently work for a bank where I spend half the day dreaming of becoming a freelance writer. Being Irish I feel like I am a natural story teller and want to really stretch these creative legs I’ve never allowed myself to use. I just have no idea how to do it!! Looking forward to the rest of this series to help give me the courage to make the move in to a whole new chapter :)

    • Donna says...

      Start a blog. Moonlight for a bit pitching articles for community blogs or publications in your area. Surely your bank has internal employee communications you could assist in writing or editing which you could use to build up your portfolio/clips?

  25. Oh my god, thank you for posting this, it’s just what I needed to read.

    I have been working in advertising for the past 4 and a half years, but I’m not fulfilled. For the past couple of months I’ve been thinking about going back to uni to study marine biology, a path so different to what I ever saw myself doing. But the thought of it makes me feel so passionate, and passion is something I have long lost in my current career.

    I think I’m going to do it.

  26. Nina says...

    Until very recently, I worked as a lawyer and, while I received good feedback (including from Judges) about my work, I did not enjoy my work (90% of the time). I did not look forward to going to work and felt very stressed almost all the time. So, I decided to apply for a policy role in a government department and everything fell into place really quickly. I have been in my new role for a month. I had to relocate and move away from family but I feel like I am doing what I always wanted to do. It’s not perfect – I am still navigating my way through forming bonds with new workmates – but I feel happier and excited about my work. I can use my existing skills in a big picture role.

  27. I think it is important to recognize signs.
    I am currently completing my PhD in law and waiting for the results of my bar exam. Meanwhile, I am doing more and more hours of yoga, both as a student and as a teacher. In order to become a yoga teacher, I have to do a two-year course with several trips abroad: this means a lot of efforts and sacrifices. But I really want it.
    Since I chose the yoga route, I am receiving a lot of opportunities from the law sector. I think it is a test: life is testing me, in order to see if I am strong enough to pursue my passion. You have to recognize the signs.

  28. Lo says...

    THIS IS SO INSPIRING! I fell into my career because I was too ill to go to university at the time. I completed a workplace apprenticeship and gained the skills to get me a position I really love. It’s been five years of hard work, but I love my career.

    However, I don’t see myself doing this forever. Whilst I’m not sure what I will be doing, I’m pretty sure it’s not this…

    Lo
    http://www.themixtures.com

  29. Danielle says...

    I was really glad to see this post. I’m currently in the midst of trying to make a career change while not knowing what exactly my next step should be. I’m 28 and have my masters degree in social work. About 3 years ago I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. The combination of dealing with my diagnosis and the job I was in lead to burnout. As much as I love helping people I’ve since realized that I need to learn how to care for myself first. So as much as I’ve struggled to keep up, about 6 months ago I quit my job and relocated. I’m now considering a variety of jobs in hopes that I’ll find a new and fulfilling path. This post is inspiring and helpful in my journey. Thank you for sharing.

  30. Katie says...

    What a thought provoking article – thank you Megan, and kudos.

    Along similar lines (and also jumping on the back of some of your fabulous recent posts putting a question out to the CoJ community like “how old are you?”)…I would LOVE to know how much money people are currently making in their careers. I know it’s impolite and we aren’t supposed to ask (or care?) in “real life,” but it’s absolutely critical that women understand their worth in the workplace…..and a lot of that comes down to knowing what peers are making.

    Plus, if we are talking about wanting to change occupations, compensation can be a real factor. Yes, money is not everything. But do you like to travel? Would you like to live in a desirable city or part of town? Plan on having children? All of these things are much more feasible with a certain amount of $$$.

    I’d be so interested to know what salaries we are all earning and I wonder if others might feel the same interest, and be open to sharing. Thanks!

    • Jo says...

      Ask a Manager has 2 posts about this! There are hundreds if not thousands of responses in every possible job description you can imagine.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      for sure!!! love this idea, and we’ve been working on something very similar. please stay tuned!

  31. Greta says...

    I wake up from yet another rotten night of anxiety and restlessness caused by the fact that I feel misplaced and unfulfilled in my very prestigious highly paying job as a lawyer and I see this post!!! I take it as a sign that the career change I need may be in the cards for me!!! I have been contemplating a change for more than five years now but I’m too scared, too uncertain, too insecure to take steps in that direction. But most of all, I have no role models, no one who I could go to for advice on the practical issues. This post is gold for me, it puts into concrete suggestions things that I have intuitively known but for some reason was unable to bring out to conscious level – find a way to get to know the field you are interested in, take classes, mingle with people from the world you are looking to jump in, intern. Probably the most important take away from this eye-opening, hope-spreading post is to just put one foot in front of the other in the new direction. I don’t need to have all the answers when I start and I don’t have to be fixated on a particular career path before I start. I must make those little steps one foot at a time and hopefully the farther I get the clearer things will become. Thank you, Joanna and co! You’ve made my day!

    • jess says...

      I feel exactly the same. I don’t have any solid mentors and I don’t really know to go about finding one. How do you approach someone and ask them to be your mentor? I would be very interested in Cup of Jo doing a post on finding a career mentor. A mentor can be a huge source of support!

  32. Marie Lamensch says...

    My brother quit the fancy world of management and financial consulting to become…a baker! At 29, his is now just starting baking school. It’s a passion he developped years ago and basically taught himself. I can’t tell you how proud of him I am considering how drastic this career change is. But he is happier baking bread for people then taking care of the portofolios of rich people who are never happy about their 3 house or their first boat

  33. Evel says...

    I am currently on my 35th year in the tourism industry – started to be a frontliner assigned at the airport, then transferred to marketing & sales and now in the corporate planning department. While employed in the same company, i was able to teach college part time every saturday, and occasionally, a wedding planner.
    I want further studies and looking forward to be a fashion consultant, too.
    But i cannot change career as it is my bread and butter, plus I get to travel abroad for free.

  34. I am a school psychologist, and will be retiring in a couple of years. I need to keep working after that, and want to keep working, so I’ve been exploring different options. I very seriously considered nursing as I like helping others, want a fast-paced job, and want to be able finish a shift and not have ongoing work to complete later. I like that you can work three 12-hour shifts a week, and make decent money. There seems to be flexibility—you could work as a traveling nurse, even in your home town. However, I just don’t have the energy to go to school full-time and work a stressful full-time job, so my search continues.

    I recently read a book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, that refutes the-do-what-you-love-for-work premise. He talks about the importance of ‘career capital’ so that you gain more control over you career which is one of the keys of being happy at work.

    Also, I came across this career website where people anonymously share what they do, what part of the country they live in, and their salaries, which is rather eye-opening: http://www.askamanager.org/2017/01/how-much-money-do-you-make-2.html

    Based on one of my dear friend’s careers, I hope that some of you consider engineering and other STEM careers. My friend has had a very rewarding career as an engineer and because her company is so large, she has held different positions which has kept things interesting.

    Happy soul searching and job hunting everyone!

    • grace says...

      I saw that book recently at the library but didn’t get it. Now I think I will! Thanks for the recommendation! And best of luck. I’m also a fan of Ask a Manager so I’ll definitely get sucked into that post and many more over there…

  35. After a 15 year career as an Occupational Therapist which I loved I took 8 years out to focus on being a stay at home Mum to my three kids. I have loved having this time with them but it’s time to re establish myself in some way outside of my role as a Mum. I have started a small online business selling Vintage interior pieces. This is totally out of my comfort zone professionally but somehow feels like the most authentic thing I’ve ever done other than being a Mum. It still remains to be seen for me if my passion will pay any bills (!) or lead me where I want to go but it felt essential to try.

  36. Sierra says...

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as well.
    I’m 39 with 2 little kids and have been an accountant for 20 years (!!!). I still enjoy some parts of it, but my company has gotten so big my job feels pointless and I’m ready for a change.

    I’m obsessed with interiors, my ultimate dream would be to interior decorating, own a homewares store or even renovate houses. Every night I’m on Pinterest, going through interior blogs etc! BUT, a couple of years ago I enrolled in a course in interior decorating, it started off with colour theory and the first month involved writing about colour theory and also painting a million little paint swatches in varying shades. I found this sooo boring and dropped out. Which made me think obviously I didn’t want it badly enough. I would much rather learn on the job, or just by studying what I think works in other people’s projects.
    Now I don’t know, does this mean it is not the path for me, or is there another way to get there…?

  37. Jenny says...

    This is so interesting! My experience is a bit different, as I’ve always seen my career path as more fluid (It’s also important to note that I do not have a family to support at this time, so I feel less financial pressure). I was an elementary school teacher for several years, which I loved and found to feel natural and meaningful. I worked on a masters in school and mental health counseling while I worked (some larger colleges have supportive, smaller weekend programs geared towards adult learners!) and I now work as a counselor for children and adolescents with anxiety and OCD. I imagine that this too will shift as I gain more knowledge and experience! Above all else, I hope to always work with fresh eyes and a sense of gratitude for the people I’m hoping to help.

    A note to those making a big switch:

    Value the knowledge and experiences you have gained thus far, and appreciate the way that these contribute to your understanding of yourself and your world. Starting in a new field requires patience, resilience, and an ability to tolerate uncertainty. (Parents- what important traits to model for your children!) If you feel passionate about what you’re doing, and feel that you’re somehow making a difference that matters to you, the work is inherently important. If not you, who??

  38. Michelle A says...

    Thank you so much for this post!

  39. Emily says...

    This is so fascinating! I love my chosen career and I’ve followed my passion to it, so I expect to be in the field for my working life– but I do intend to go back to do a graduate degree in a few years, and to work up in the field after. My parents went through a few different careers when they were young before finally settling into being a lawyer and professor, so I definitely grew up knowing that careers can be malleable.

  40. My husband and I traded successful careers in NYC to start a business in Kerala, India! We’ve done a 180 from what our lives used to be like and then some… We now own a gym unlike any other in the region – we have coed classes, a fun, intense program and an amazing group of people – and a health food cafe. We push the boundaries of what is considered normal and even ( especially) challenge existing flawed ideas about health and wellness. Particularly when it comes to women. I would never in a million years have thought of doing this. Before moving, my husband was a Management consultant and I was an interior designer. Those skills came in handy for both of us in our reinvention!

    http://www.facebook.com/kromecalicut/
    http://www.instagram.com/kromecalicut/

  41. Amanda says...

    Loved this post but I kept reading hoping to find just one about a woman that went from a “paying” career to a career solely at home raising children. All mothers are raising their children but the choice to go from working outside the home to a “stay at home mom” is an interesting career change as well.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      we have a larger post coming up on JUST that topic! stay-at-home moms to the workforce, and vice versa. please stay tuned! :)

    • Molly says...

      YES!

    • Liz C says...

      Yes, please! I’ve been at stay at home mom for almost a year to my two children. So many emotions go into ‘giving up’ a career for your children, but it’s not permanent, and the days are precious. So interested to learn more about fellow moms in this scenario!

    • Malia says...

      Yes, this! I gave up an unfulfilling career (job?) in administration to be a stay-at-home mom and it’s time to get back to work doing something new. My problem now is figuring out which path to try out–there are too many options!

  42. DL says...

    I find myself thinking about making a career move when I feel like my manager doesn’t have my back or when there are a lot of changes happening in the organization that disrupts the culture. Of course there are plenty of other reasons why, but I feel more compelled to make the change when I feel like I’m not thriving in my current job.

  43. Jessica Payne says...

    I just barely began the transition from working in politics to becoming a doctor. A few people say I’m too old, I’m thirty next month and it will take me three years before I can start, but I haven’t felt more at peace about something in a long time. I also believe we can have two simultaneous careers. I want to be a surgeon but I can also work on my writing and cooking book at the same time. Getting away from black and white thinking has been good thing for me.

    • G says...

      The oldest women in my med school class started at 40, and she graduated top of class. Ignore the nay-Sayers- you can do this! We need more awesome lady surgeons around.
      The road is long and hard, but it’s so worth it.

  44. Jessica Payne says...

    I just barely began the transition from working in politics to becoming a doctor. A few people say I’m too old, I’m thirty next month and it will take me three years before I can start, but I haven’t felt more at piece about something in a long time. I also believe we can have two simultaneous careers. I want to be a surgeon but I can also work on my writing and cooking book at the same time. Getting away from black and white thinking has been good thing for me. :)

  45. This is a fun article but it does not talk about HOW.

    And that is what I (and I believe, every single person who would read this article) really wants to know.

    – when is the right moment to quit the job that is making you weep with boredom/anxiety/stress ?
    – what do you tell your family, word-for-word? and how do you get them to back you up when the going gets rough?
    – how do you write that email to the person you want to work for?
    – without a spouse or parents to fund your transition, how do you fund it yourself? Any transition takes at least 3 years to become solid, stable, and generate regular, reliable income. so do you fund it with savings, a scholarship, a grant, or by WWOOFing?
    – how do you navigate a moment in your new job/vocation without money/clients when you’re sure you made a mistake?

    thank you for this article Megan… it’s enjoyable and full of inspirational quotes along the lines of “you can do it”. However, I’d love to see something that actually answers the question of “how”.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for this feedback, malaika! this is the first in a series of career change posts, and we’d love to address more of these (great) questions. thank you!

    • Hey Malaika, (and CupofJo team, please do remove this if it’s not appropriate): I write (and coach, and lead courses) a lot on exactly these topics at Careershifters (www.careershifters.org). You might find our articles (and our Success Stories) useful.

  46. Amanda says...

    My Therapist was a Dental Hygienist for years. She was only getting every six month snippets of her patient’s lives. Now she works comfortably from her home, and hears the full story. She even has a cat that sits on the sofa next to you and reacts to your stories during therapy sessions like ” Bitch Please! He did NOT say that to you?!”!! Every time the cat dramatically reacts it reminds me not to take life so seriously! It’s like a Saturday Night Live skit, but the topic is your life!!

    • Love this! So funny :-)

    • Joy says...

      This is too awesome for words.

  47. anne says...

    echoing everyone’s sentiments here- what a timely post! i’m a primary care physician, and while i genuinely love what i do and feel incredibly fulfilled after a good day at work- the business of medicine and “cover-your-a$$” culture that has permeated healthcare has taken a toll on me. it has come to a point where i really dread going to work and have fallen ill several times due to stress.. i’ve always loved writing/ drawing/ creating, and hope to find a “slash career” in the creative field that i’ll enjoy and transition to part-time or maybe even full-time. Thanks for the helpful and realistic post and all the inspiring comments. This certainly makes me feel like I’m not alone, that one’s dreams and priorities CAN change, and that it’s never too late to live the life that you would be excited to wake up in the morning for.

    • M says...

      Oh man, as a second year resident, it’s a bummer to hear this, but if I’m being honest I’m not surprised. So much less of the job is about taking care of patients- and that’s the part

    • M says...

      …typing on my iPhone in the middle of the night in my call room. LOL. Anyways. You’re right, theres so much nonsense in medicine these days- and it’s often a more thankless job than I expected. But I have to say, as a pediatrician the sweet kids and families make it so worth it!

  48. db says...

    oh my goodness! it is like you read my mind today – I LITERALLY thought of Julia Child this morning for this very reason; she has been my inspiration since my first career change at 36 and now even more on my second at 46. I keep reminding myself that Julia was 49 when The Art of French Cooking happened…I still have time.

    Career 1: I worked at art museums, in the middle of which I obtained an MA in Art History and then moved to San Francisco for a museum job (my third). But after a few years in SF, I started to feel bad that the lack of pay in my check was holding us back there and we moved to Minnesota. Time to be responsible adults financially…
    Career 2: I wanted better pay, and was fortunate to be given an opportunity to work in a for-profit career in retail that allowed my income to quickly double my arts career pay, and surpass that. I enjoyed this transition for nearly 10 years, but I got frustrated as my most recent employer was burning me out and I got tired of being everyone’s mother (project management).
    Career 3: I left my job this year in hopes of making a transition to something I am passionate about. Last year when I was super frustrated at work, a friend sent me this: https://markmanson.net/passion. It is so true, and I decided to take the advice. But it is HARD and after interviewing at some of the places in my new chosen passion path, I am becoming disenchanted. However, I think the male dominated industry I am researching and trying to be involved in just pushes me more to do what I want in it as a woman, than trying to be part of how it is now. But it seems daunting. I am also struggling with the ‘what do you do?’ question American’s always ask when they meet us so they can immediately define us, because right now technically I do nothing. But I am doing a LOT of thinking and searching and networking and having way more silence this go around than I wanted or anticipated. This is really hard at 46 and I am wondering often if I just made a big mistake or will ever find my way. But I have been teaching myself to slow down, not worry so much about the future outcome, to let my path lead itself to where it needs to be (of course with me driving it there), and to take time to explore. I am lucky that my husband is supportive and can support me financially. He is the one who told me finally just to quit as he knows I will land in a better place and hopefully he can join me there.

    I tell myself I have had a much richer life making these changes in my life, but when you interview at jobs and talk with people who have been doing the same thing their entire career and are seemingly ‘on top’ it is hard to tell yourself what you are doing is okay because very few people are comfortable leaving their comfort zone. Yay me for being the ‘brave’ small percentage, that is my path, but darn some days I wish I was like everyone else.

    I needed this today. Thank you.

  49. Dawn says...

    These posts remind me that I am not alone in making these big life decisions. I have been a nanny for 8 years. I never invested time/education into a career because I always planned on being a stay-at-home mom when the time was right. I’ve now found out that it is unlikely that I can bear my own children. This has been devastating on many levels but it’s left me with a feeling of now what? The skills I’ve developed over the years are homemaking and child rearing so I’m not sure how to transition those into another job. I have to choose a career because I can’t be a nanny forever-even though it’s been a great way to spend my 20’s. My friends are all building careers and/or creating families and I feel like I am starting from scratch. It’s so inspiring to read about so many others who are taking giant leaps. I am drawing courage and wisdom from all of these comments! Xo.

    • Jo says...

      If you are passionate about child care, may be get into education? Or even start your own child care business..

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for sharing, dawn. i’m so sorry to hear that you may not be able to bear your own children — i’m sending a hug and i know there are many paths and a full, happy life ahead of you. you sound like a wonderful person!

  50. Jessica says...

    Thank you for this inspiring post!
    I’m in the middle of a career change at 35 and like any major life change, hearing others’ insights and experiences helps SO much. Life’s too short right? I am burnt out and no longer inspired working in film production. And having had my second child, priorities have shifted. Staying positive to start my own business and see where it goes!

  51. Anne says...

    It seems like a lot of us are struggling! I’m about halfway through my PhD and in the Swamps of Sadness (https://thesiswhisperer.com/2016/10/05/the-swamp-of-sadness/). I don’t necessarily know that I want to be an engineer for the rest of my life…is this worth it? Just taking it one day at a time for now

  52. DC says...

    Thank you for this post. I have been contemplating my career and happiness a lot recently and how a change might make that balance more even. Its almost like this is giving us readers permission to look into other careers!

    Also, thank you for talking to such a cross section, when I was in grad school the most interesting people were always those who were coming from a completely different field.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      wow that’s amazing!!

  53. Hope says...

    Here’s my story. I contracted a virus that landed me in a nursing home unable to walk. My employer of 20+ years terminated me so I could go on disability. We did not part on good terms. It has been 5 years and I am doing much better physically. I need to return to work to replenish my savings and pay bills that continue to mount. I have a few limitations and would need some flexibility for days when I am struggling. I liked the travel aspect of my former job. I did the drive to airport, catch a plane, train and water taxi all in a day. I love meeting people and seeing new cities. How do I re-enter the workforce and explain my lapse in employment? I am considering obtaining my Master’s but simply do not know where to begin to make a late 40’s corporate woman marketable.

    • It’s tough but I think the right place will understand the gap. It happens. A good friend of mine has been battling cancer for 4 1/2 years. He had to leave his job early on and then he had some time of good health and was able to find a new job. When he relapsed his employer was really understanding and flexible. Have faith. Those employers do exist and a gap in employment doesn’t mean that you aren’t bringing plenty to the table. It’s a bit of a cliche but life experience counts and managing and recovering from a serious illness reveals resilience and adaptability.

  54. This was just the post I needed to see today! (CoJ, how *do* you manage to time these so well?!)

    I’m mid-transition: I left the entertainment industry after almost 7 years of TV development and talent representation (and having my degree in film and media studies) and realizing that I loved parts of it, but it wasn’t what I hoped it would be. Near the end of my last job, I had coffee with the boss’s wife – hoping I’d get some sort of girl power-y pep talk, but she said to me, “If there is anything else in this world that interests you, go do it.” Turns out, that was just what I needed to hear.

    Fast-forward two years and I’m working another admin/operations job at a very small company in the mental health space, and while their mission is a positive one, the work is still stressful and admin is not my end-game…but I’m definitely feeling a little stuck as I try to decipher all of my work experience thus far and spin/translate that into a role I can grow with, like communications or marketing. Ideally, I’ll go into nonprofit, but I’m also trying to find places I can volunteer on weekends – and it’s hard when most of the shifts and lectures and ways to get involved are midday, midweek. I wish I could take a leap of faith like some of these brave people! But I’m a singleton in LA and it’s just not financially possible right now. Still, making baby steps towards my goal!

    • Jess says...

      Jess! I am in a similiar position. I produce commercials but also volunteer at a youth organisation. I am interested in making a move over into youth/mental health work using my skills (producer = project management). If you are interested, can we be career pen-buddies?

  55. Jill says...

    Love this post and the conversation that is following – it’s so nice to see such strength and support from fellow readers who are sharing their stories and struggles. We’re not alone!

    I, too, am at a fork in my career. After university I took my dream job as an archaeologist in Alaska and have loved developing my professional skills and knowledge in the field for the past four years. In that time I’ve grown into my job, engaged meaningfully in my community, developed friendships, and met my fiance – with whom I work! However, I never intended to have just one ‘forever’ job. I thrive in new environments and love to study culture, which is one reason why I love Cup of Jo – the modern anthropologist! I’ve recently been offered a teaching position in Japan (and have studied Japanese for many years) and am torn between this exciting opportunity and the job I love and have worked hard for in Alaska. I have a supportive fiance and community and am up to the social and relationship challenges that an international move will bring, but am struggling to make a decision career-wise. Advice is most welcome!

    • Meghan says...

      Hi Jill. My advice is to ask yourself what you may regret in the future. I have moved abroad multiple times and never regretted it, and I bet that is how you will feel about Japan. Go for it! Things work out, and life should be treated as an adventure.

    • Alexis says...

      Just want to echo what Meghan said. You won’t regret going abroad, promise. I’m not saying it will be perfect or easy, and yes, the transition back to “real” life and a career after living abroad can be more difficult than if you’d just stayed in your current job… but what an adventure it would be :)

      I also started off in archaeology and after a career switch (or two), I moved to Thailand to teach English, stayed abroad for two years, and visited over 30 countries before turning 30. People always ask me how I travel so much, and here’s my secret: I just do it! It really can be that simple :)

  56. Diana says...

    I got back yesterday from a two week trip in Italy. I have already fallen deep into the post-vacation blues. The first thing I did at work today was to look into night classes to continue learning Spanish (I loved Italian but I already know a lot more Spanish). I am feeling deeply unsatisfied at my current job, which makes me feel really guilty because I manage an art gallery, which was a childhood dream for me and I know a lot of people who would kill for my job. I have been in the industry for over 7 years but I am starting to feel that it’s more administrative than I had initially hoped. I feel a need to look for something new but I am so scared. :/ I don’t know what to do. I just want to leave the country again.

    • Brianna says...

      Managing an art gallery sounds like it would be fascinating. I would love to do fundraising in the art/libraries world, too, someday, in addition to what I posted below.

    • SN says...

      I am seriously in the same boat… I just got back from a trip to S America and coming back was h-a-r-d. I spent two hours googling new jobs and careers. After 7 years in PR (which, for me too, was a ‘dream job’) it’s not as intellectually fulfilling as I would hope and I just run around putting fires out all day.

      That said — I try to tell myself ‘work to live’ — it’s the job that pays for the travel….

    • Jo says...

      If you are taking Spanish lessons and you feel you have a good grasp of the language, maybe you could look into becoming a translator and/or Interpreter. And the fact you already have years of experience in the art world means you don’t even need to spend a lot of time thinking about specializations; you already have a niche market. NYU and Hunter College have certificate programs that are short and not that expensive. I myself became a Healthcare Interpreter not that long ago and I absolutely love it! Just a thought! Good luck in your search for a new path!

  57. This is great post and I love the topics/aspects you covered. I would have liked to see each arc self-contained though. I kept scrolling up and down to be like, “was she the one who left nursing or law?! What did this person do before?” and it was kind of confusing. I would also like to hear how long each person’s transition took. And to hear about their lowest point on the “journey” for lack of a better word. These types of success stories always sound so linear and logical in retrospect. Hearing more about the tangled bits would be helpful. :) But I really did enjoy it. Thanks for this!! So inspiring.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, many more career posts like this coming up! we’d love to talk more about each part of the process — thanks so much for the feedback!

    • RKBC says...

      I recently returned to the workforce after taking time off to start a family (5 years)! I would love to share my story and advice about returning to work after a hiatus. I have been back to work for 2 years now and am very happy. I feel super lucky to have been able to both stay home and still have a career now (not that it was easy!).

    • B Cres says...

      RKBC – Your situation sounds very similar to where I find myself currently. I would LOVE to hear your story and perspective.

    • B says...

      RKBC – I would LOVE to hear your story! I’m a stay at home mum and have been for 4.5 years… in that time I’ve had three kids, but my youngest (and last!) baby is 8 months old and I’m thinking ‘what on earth do I go on to next??’ and how?! I’m so tired! So so tired! ?
      I didn’t enjoy the work I did pre-baby so I’d be looking for something completely new…. but what? Oh gosh. Perhaps now is not quite the right time and that’s why the next step seems so unknown but still….. I’d love a crystal ball to tell me the future and that’s it’s all gonna be okay :)

      In any case – LOVING this new series CoJ team!! Can’t wait to read more!

  58. Figuring out what you actually want to do is half the challenge too. You can know you’re unhappy and want a change, but to what? Tips on understanding what career is going to truly suit you and make you happy would be awesome :-)

    • Tess says...

      Agreed!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      great idea!

    • Sarah says...

      I second (triple?) that. I wish there was a genetic test to know exactly what you’re meant to do!

    • SFord says...

      I agree too

    • Thank you!!! That is exactly where I am. I know I am Creative but I have no idea how to monetize my talents. I’ve been stuck in admin for years, love help on step 1

  59. I needed this so desperately right now, thank you. I’ve been feeling so stuck, it’s a good reminder to be told that sometimes you just have to jump!

  60. Ally says...

    The timing of this post couldn’t have been better. My last day working in higher education was yesterday, and I’m currently sitting on a plane, headed to Melbourne, Australia where I’m going to be giving urban agriculture a shot! I have a feeling I’ll be revisiting this post a lot in the months to come! Thank you, thank you, so very much, for this post.

    • Alexis says...

      Wow! What an adventure!

    • Sadia says...

      The best thing I ever did was move to Sydney, Australia for my Masters. Congrats on the move. You’ll learn a million things in an amazing country! I miss it every day.

  61. Rebekah says...

    Such a great post! I am in the middle of a career change that is so daunting and scary, but I just know it’s the right thing. Like Tocha in the article, I have worked in marketing for 12+ years and my dad died suddenly last year…the nurses who took care of him were fantastic, and I realized nursing is my calling. The pre-req classes take forever, and it’s hard to work full-time, go to school, and be a mom to a 1.5 year old, but I have my eye on the prize and just keep plugging away. It might take me 5 years to get there, and I’m almost 35, but I just can’t imagine my life if I stayed in my current career. One thing I struggle with is staying positive and not going crazy from being so busy. It helps to read articles like this, and hearing about other people who are in the same boat!

    • Brianna says...

      It may take five years, but you’re going to be five years older anyway, so you might as well be five years older doing something you love.

    • Em says...

      Literally how do you do this?? I would like to go back to school for nursing, but I also work full-time and have a 15 month old. It seems unfathomable to add nursing school to the plate. Kudos to you, Rebekah..good luck! And so very sorry for the loss of your father xoxo

  62. I loved this post, and the comments nearly just as much! I’m a researcher/writer for a political publication and a full-time PhD student studying local government. While I do enjoy it, now that my husband and I are expecting our first child this summer, I’m thinking more and more about a job that will allow me more flexibility. I can’t shake the feeling that I should be pursuing freelance writing. It seems like a waste to invest so many years into completing my doctorate and not pursue a position in academia or research, but I remind myself that I have so many transferable skills that would lend themselves so well to freelance writing – it’s not a waste, simply a change in direction.

    I read a great post on another blog a few weeks ago about making a career change, even when it’s leaving a job that you love. It resonated with me so much because my current job(s) was, for many years, my dream job. But, as the poster pointed out: “It’s OK to have new dreams.”

    • Jill says...

      Hi Brittany, I’d love to read the post you referenced – do you mind sharing the link? I have my dream job but just got an offer for a potentially dreamier one abroad – I need as much advice as I can get!

      There’s definitely something to be said for gut instincts – best of luck as you navigate your next move!!

  63. Elizabeth says...

    This post seriously couldn’t have come at a better time. I graduated from college eight years ago with degrees in Marketing and International Business, worked as a Marketing Director of a non-profit for a year, and quit my job to pursue wedding photography. I’ve been an entrepreneur for more than six years with a successful career, but having just turned 30 in January, I find myself at a crossroads. Just last week, I told my husband that I’d like to go back to school for my Master’s in Counseling/Psychology. I’m reluctant because I’ve been out of school for so long and we now have an 18 month old son whom I’ve stayed home with since he was born, but I long for the challenge of academia and the fulfillment of this new career path.

    • Claudia says...

      Elizabeth–
      You can do it! I’m 46 and just started a masters program in January. I had the same reservation about being out of school for so long (20 years) but you manage to figure it out. The brain just needs a little dusting off but once you find your groove it all starts clicking. You should totally go for it!!
      Claudia

  64. Great post! I love how everyone has decided if this is your one life you have to make the most of it. Im changing careers from what was my dream job – a camera operator into draughting. Im lucky I still can work part-time sometimes in my old job, because the hardest thing I have found is I miss all the old people I worked with the most. I probably saw them more than my family! It was incredibly scary deciding to change, I felt Id been so lucky to do what I did and the opportunities I had, I didn’t feel I had the right to quit. Going back to school is hard at times, I learn quite differently from the 17 year olds today who take photos of the whiteboard and are on facebook instead of taking notes. But somehow I know it will work out and I have to follow my gut. Congrats to everyone on their bravery!

  65. Brianna says...

    I went to school to be a teacher and didn’t teach a single day. I graduated from college at the height of the recession and floundered for a long time. I fell into fundraising by accident and love it. I do higher ed fundraising, but would like to transition into fundraising for Parkinson’s disease, as my grandfather just passed away from that. I’d like to work for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. I’ll be vested for retirement with the state of Nevada on March 1, 2021 so I can’t do much until then and I’ll be almost 40 by then, but after reading all these comments and seeing people in their 50s and 60s who are transitioning, I’m realizing that’s not going to matter. What’s going to matter is what positions are available and where, and what experience/qualifications/abilities/education I have.

  66. Cool article! Thanks for the financial reality piece. I think that people often forget to mention that and their amazing lives just seem magical. I like to tell people that dream jobs are oftentimes a very “rice and beans” kind of life and not what you see on Instagram. It’s helpful to hear that so that you can imagine yourself taking a leap of faith even if you don’t have a spouse to support you or a previously well paying job or a wealthy family. Regular people can do it too, and ya know what, rice and beans are pretty tasty. : )

    • This question just occurred to me: What kind of resources exist for women who want to start their own small businesses? It seems like money is one of the biggest hurtles women face. Anyone have thoughts? This could be a nice article too.

  67. Katie says...

    Love the idea here, but I find myself wishing for more stories of women in science or tech. Women featured on this blog are almost never in those fields.

    • Elise says...

      Anyone wants to start a blog-forum-networking site for girls in STEM ourselves? I studied actuarial science in university and currently in pension actuarial consulting. Email me if interested: elise@marlolo.com

  68. Rebecca says...

    I was an English teacher for 6 years, then decided to go to culinary school, then had 2 kids, and now am working garde manger & patisserie in a professional kitchen in Montreal and freelancing as a food writer at Clean Eating Magazine. Love the post!

    • Rachel Stapp says...

      Rebecca, that sounds like a dream! How did you get into freelance writing?!

  69. Laura says...

    The majority of the people in this piece went from a high paying job (where they were presumably able to save up) to a less traditional/lower-paying job. But going the other way is nearly impossible- to break into a new field you usually have to start as an unpaid or very low paid intern or go back to school (and accrue debt). If you don’t have support or savings to fall back on then switching jobs can financially ruin you, especially if you have health issues or children to take care of.

    • Sarah says...

      This is so true. I’m a single mom and an oncology nurse. My work is extremely rewarding, but it has taken an enormous toll on my mental and physical health. If I could, I would love to work for a slow, ethical fashion company, but it is just not possible for me financially. I am lucky that my field allows me to move within it to avoid complete burnout, but leaving altogether is simply too expensive,

    • SG says...

      Yes. I went to law school and racked up six figures in debt to do what I thought was my calling in public interest law. I don’t think law is my calling anymore, but I owe too much money already to go back to school for something else. I’ve been home with my kids for the last 5 years so the resume gap seems like a good reason to change directions, but again, not sure how I could do it financially. Even if I go back to public interest law, I won’t be making enough to save up for something else. I’m 34 and I feel like it’s either now or never so… I’m still brainstorming.

    • Good point. Making a big transition in mid-life is so financially risky. Delaying retirement planning, taking on further debt and so on is a big gamble. :(

    • EN says...

      agree with you, for the most part 100% totally and fully — but i worked at a retail job in an industry i loved for 8 years after college and then became a corporate recruiter in a totally different industry in my 30s. :) i make 4x what i used to now and it’s been less than 5 years. i did it by working for free on my off days for a mentor to learn and build my resume and then taking a contract job at a great company where i was an entry level coordinator earning my stripes (and older than everyone). i worked my way up to full time recruiter within a bit over a year. i was extraordinarily lucky, and worked extraordinarily hard. i still do, but i love it. it is rare to go from low to high paying job without getting another degree but it can be done, depending on what field you want to get into and your determination to double down in your free time. i had literally zero to lose.

  70. Kara says...

    I am a 54 year old accountant and constantly think about my Second Act! I’m not sure I can continue to do my current job for another 10-15 years without going completely insane. But the idea of going back to school doesn’t sound too appealing nor does taking a pay cut. The struggle!!

  71. I just shut down my marketing business and now I’m opening an interior decorating business in Austin. It’s nowhere near as lucrative now (or maybe ever) but there’s so much more to life than money.

  72. Olivia says...

    I was a teacher for three years, spent a bit in educational research, and have been working for a wellness brand doing what feels like all the things for the last year and a half. Last fall I made the jump to try to go to business school. Studying for the GMAT was intense after being out of school for 5 years and I was really worried I’d get in, but I’m heading to a top business school and really thrilled about the opportunity and the program I’m starting. I’m wanting to do brand management or brand marketing after, and have really had to dig deep into transferrable skills. Teaching was not a good fit for me, and I used to be really bummed I spent time doing something I didn’t love. But now I see how valuable that experience is and am glad I stuck it out for three years. It doesn’t seem like long, but I promise it’s an eternity in a difficult classroom!

  73. Christina says...

    What apt timing!
    I listened to the “getting unstuck” podcast you’d posted a while back, and it has prompted a change in thinking.
    I’m now transitioning from my role as a clinical neurologist into more medicolegal work, in hopes of affording me more time to be with my family and doing some of the other things I love that I’ve neglected for so long. It’s terrifying. And so, so exciting.

  74. Tyler says...

    its so hard but so rewarding. i quit my corporate job five years ago, and it was the best thing i ever did. i went to work next at a nonprofit. that wasn’t quite right, but it was a good start in a better direction for me personally. i got involved civically, and started to advocate publicly for things i cared about, and now I’m back in school getting my masters in public policy!

  75. Jennifer Smith says...

    Oh man. I was nodding at all of these responses. I recently left a somewhat stressful design job after being there for 11 years (in my field of interior design) for a new company (same field, different type of job) where the work would be less stressful, better pay, yada yada. It’s been a year and I’m still weighing the pros and cons – in other words, this job is not a good fit for me but it’s hard to downplay the perks of having a flexible well-paying job with good benefits and basically zero stress. My husband thought I was crazy at first for not liking it but now after a year of pouting I think he sees how bored and uninspired I am. I see blogs of designers who have gone out on their own and I waver between being completely inspired to completely intimidated. I’m a qualified and licensed designer but my inner critic says that I could never go out on my own, that I’m not creative enough, etc.

    Since all I’ve known is working at a design firm, the idea of striking it out on my own and trying to get clients is mind-boggling, not to mention just the basics of every day office functioning – the logistics of getting my own equipment, design software, materials library, etc., etc. I get so wrapped up in the details of how that would pan out that I rarely let myself consider it a possibility.

    So now I’m super torn about what to do. I feel like I ripped off the band-aid of leaving a company that I basically grew up with (it was my first job out of college!), so I suppose I’ve made the first step in making a change and at least finding out what I don’t want to do! Thanks for the post. It’s been fun and refreshing reading all of the responses.

    • Laura says...

      Hi Jennifer – I don’t know you but I’d be willing to bet you’re creative enough, etc. If you can do that part for someone else you are definitely good enough to do it on your own. I’m a graphic designer and have the same desire to someday strike out on my own but have the same intimidations (getting clients, equipment, etc) because those things are taken care of for me at my job.

    • Sarah says...

      I’m in the same boat as an ID. I would recommend taking on a few projects for fun and see if you would like doing it full time. There are always people that need help from picking out furniture, to figuring out layout, or even house shopping to see if they can do a fixer upper. If you want something more structured, you could see if you can freelance on Thumbtack or Homepolish.

    • Donna says...

      Just start somewhere. You don’t have to do it all at once. And don’t compare yourself to anyone else, they all started from the same place, the beginning.

    • Alex says...

      I’m in the architecture/design field – worked at a small firm for 7 years after graduate school. I left after having my kid and when she was 10 months old launched my own studio with one of grad school classmates. It’s been almost a year and so far we’re a success! The projects aren’t the most amazing yet but we’re getting steady work and we’re loving being our own bosses! My advice is – find a partner who can offer some of the skills that you think you may be lacking. And even before that – ask your current boss to give you more responsibility at your current job so that you can practice some of these things before you head out on your own. You should sit in on marketing meetings, write proposals, and understand billing procedures. And if you can find a good accountant they can help you with all the legal and financial stuff like setting up an LLC, etc. good luck!

  76. Sharon in Scotland says...

    I’m 53, a paediatric speech and language pathologist for the last 20 years. The work has slowly changed over the last few years. I no longer work for the NHS, I see less children and my caseload is very large. I don’t really enjoy it as much as I used to, but I want to be organised and manage because everybody else is.
    I saw a programme a few years ago about the registrar service in Westminster, (births, deaths and marriages, not medical) and I was intrigued. I’ve done some research and I could do it, but the entry level pay is exactly half of my current salary. I have a mortgage and an old house that would be difficult to sell and is expensive to renovate. I know that if I really wanted it, all of this shouldn’t be a problem, (well, not insurmountable), but I don’t have a partner for emotional or financial support and getting back on the housing ladder in my late 50’s/early 60’s would be well nigh impossible. So, at the moment I’m working on making my job as enjoyable as possible and getting myself as organised as possible, so I can cope with the job that I have.

    • I’m rooting for you!

    • Elephants says...

      I’m also a Speech Language Pathologist. I constantly think about a career change. The field has changed so much. I love working with the kids but the paperwork is overwhelming! Good luck to you.

  77. Carolina montenegro says...

    The first step is the hardest but I do believe growth comes from change. If you are able to make a change, you will get new challenges, face new situations, and grow.. I believe growth is very important in one’s life. I am an engineer manager and recently changed my role to a completely different team, skill, everything. I decided if I was going to work, instead of staying at home with my daughter who is now 4 years old, my career must be satisfying to me. In my previous job of 8 years I could do it all without much effort and it felt I was wasting my potential and I wasn’t happy because I wasn’t growing and learning. So I decided to talk to talk to a VP from another org, told him about my aspirations and the fact that I need something more challenging if I were to continue working. He gave me this brand new job in a team, he trusted that I can grow and do it. I am working way harder now that I did my last 4 years but everyday I learn something new, I am also making new network (which is really important in a large corporation), and I am happier overall. Don’t be afraid, take on the challenge!

  78. Stasha says...

    My friend Lucy in London has started an amazing program for this very thing! http://www.viewvo.com or viewvo.uk on Instagram.

  79. This article has come at just the right time! Funny how that happens. I’ve been considering making a change from marketing to web development. I think I’m going to go for it, just gotta save up the money first!

  80. Sophia F. says...

    I so needed this today. I graduated college with a 4.0 double major in economics and sociology in the midst of the financial crisis, and took the job I could get, which was in non-profit fundraising for something I didn’t care about. A few years later, I got married to the Army officer I’d been with for six years, and a year and a half later, we had our first daughter. We’ve now been married for five years, lived in three states, have two daughters, and are finally getting out of the Army to settle in Seattle. He has just started a fantastic job with smart, interesting people, and I’m trying to figure out when and how to transition of of stay-at-home parenthood (which is almost impossible to avoid with a spouse who’s a military officer). I’ve been getting down about what to do, about starting from scratch with a bunch of twenty-year-olds, and this is incredibly, incredibly reassuring. So thank you :)

    • Becca Lynn says...

      Hello from Seattle! I hope you’ll love it here :) I feel like this city is so accepting of everyone’s different paths and I hope doors will open wide for you!

    • B Cres says...

      I am in a very similar boat (graduated height of recession, married a soldier, had kids, moved around a ton and am now looking to re-enter the workforce). I don’t have any advice just wanted you to know you’re not alone!

  81. Maggie says...

    Gah. I just poured over all of these comments. Like a lot of other people have said I am in the exact same boat and this post could not have come at a better time! I have been in the commercial interior design business for the past 8 years- mostly designing healthcare facilities. *Completely* not what i dreamed my creative path would be when graduating from a top art school. I am SO ready for a change, a new path with less demanding clients and more creative freedom.
    The problem that I am up against is that I have no idea what that next step should be. I know whats not working, but i’m stuck on how to figure out what will work. I’ve always done freelance art and illustration on the side but the idea of not having any stability is terrifying!

    • Natalie says...

      I am in the same boat, but on the opposite end of the spectrum! I am in the luxury retail design world in NYC. I’ve been doing this for five years, since graduating, and absolutely do not feel inspired or connected to the global or local community. My boyfriend and I have dreams of opening our own restaurant (he manages a place now) but it’s just hard to find the courage to actually DO IT! He would drop everything tomorrow to pursue it, that’s just the kind of guy he is, but I’m much more analytical and don’t know if the dissatisfaction I have with my work is with this avenue of design or design in general.

  82. kate says...

    I spent 4 years in veterinary school and graduated with $350,000 of debt. I’ve only been out for 2 years and I can’t say that I’m the happiest in this field of work. Instead of bailing out completely I’m hoping to switch line of care from emergency to general practice next spring a few months after our baby is born. I wish I had the guts to switch into something completely different but I can’t stomach adding more debt to that amount.

    • MH says...

      I bailed out completely (after my internship) and haven’t looked back. I work in human clinical research now, so I feel like I’m still using my medical knowledge and making a difference, but I am soooo much happier. It’s such a bummer to leave behind a career you thought you would love (and four years of school, and all that tuition money), but for me it was the right decision. Best of luck!

  83. Sam H. says...

    Love reading through the comments on this post. I work as a Systems Analyst at a hospital and like the work (and more so, the people) but I want to spend my leisure time in a more meaningful way. I have been contemplating taking courses to become a Registered Dietitian because I like spending time meal planning, cooking, reading recipes (and cookbooks), and reading up on nutrition news. Definitely feeling a boost in motivation after reading through this article — thanks CoJ team!

  84. Emma says...

    If I wasn’t so scared of being broke I would LOVE to be an event planner, interior designer, or college professor. Instead I’ll be a corporate attorney for now.

    Also, for myself, and others too scared to jump, may I suggest slash careers — doing two jobs? Being an attorney/blogger has been such a joy. Financial security plus creative outlet. I will say, after having a child it’s more challenging to find the time for slash careers.

    • Sara says...

      I’ve been reading through all the comments and enjoying hearing about everyone’s perspectives on this topic. I’ve changed career paths quite a bit since graduating from college 12 years ago. I graduated with a Psychology and Women’s Studies double major from a libreral arts college and now I’m a Technical Product Manager for a major bank. I love it! And, I never would have predicted this would be the path I would take :) It took me a little while to figure out what I wanted to do and sometimes it makes me sad that I didn’t start down this path right out of college because I know I could be a lot further in my career. However, I’m grateful I made a few strategic changes in my career along the way so I could ultimately find the “right” path for me, even though that meant doing some lateral moves to learn new skills vs. simply moving up along the corporate ladder. I think something that’s really important is to try to determine what success looks like for you and do your best to achieve that. I still have to remind myself of this a lot because I work with a lot of young, very successful people and went to a top high school and college where many people are doing really amazing things. It’s tough sometimes, but it’s important to try and look out for yourself instead of conforming to what someone else’s picture of success looks like.

  85. Sara D says...

    This was perfect timing! I’m right in the middle of making my big change, I’ve decided that it’s time to leave my job working from home and taking care of my two kids full time. In August I’ll be starting law school at a school that I couldn’t have even dreamed of attending a year ago, and I’m moving my whole family across the country to do so! While it’s nerve wracking and seems crazy sometimes, everything is falling into place so nicely, and it’s finally starting to feel real. My husband has a job and soon we’ll sign a lease and off we’ll go!

  86. Jamie White-Farnham says...

    Great post, and I agree with all the challenges and benefits. My husband just graduated this week as a brand-new Physical Therapy Assistant after a 19-year career as a bank manager. He made the choice after breaking his ankle badly while running. He had a transformative experience while undergoing physical therapy and was inspired to change careers. It took 3 years of schooling and one-income living for our family of four, but he is now on the job market and excited about his new venture. He felt funny going back to school with all 20-year-olds at age 43, but he had an awesome experience. So much better than a midlife crisis!

  87. Victoria Robertson says...

    What perfect timing. It isn’t quite the same, but I recently quit my job as a server in a local Mexican restaurant. I worked there for three years; I’m rooming with two members of the kitchen staff and dating the head cook. I was very invested in what was suppose to be a temporary job. Finally, I quit this week due to being burnout for about a year.

    Right now I am trying to make my resume. I’m hoping for a job as a receptionist, but I think I’ll have to go to retail instead. After I’m steady with a new job, it’s time to finally start some sort of school (I’m almost 22! It feels so late…). I still have no idea what I want to do (funeral director keeps coming to mind, oddly enough) but I’m finally ready to *do something*, you know?

    • Emma says...

      Congrats, the world lays ahead for you. Find a community organization to help you in your journey. I know the Jewish Community Center in my city offers free resume and interview assistance. Ask some people with good jobs to help with your resume! Also, try to land a job in a field you may be interested in. Lots of people serve or work retail while they try to figure something else out. It’s hard to know if you like a career without trying it out, so where you can, try something out. See if you can be a receptionist at a funeral home, or something related like an assistant event planner at a hotel. Best of luck.

    • L says...

      Have you read Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlyn Doughty? It’s about her time working in a crematory, and if you are considering becoming a funeral director you would love it.

  88. Kay says...

    I love this post – and the comments! :-) so many fascinating perspectives.

    After college, i was a bartender and then bar manager for a number of years, and it was a lot of fun. When I met my now-spouse who was working a 9-5, I decided to give up the nightlife. I decided to pursue finance, and it was not easy to get a foot in the door, to say the least. Also, having to start again at the very bottom in my late twenties was a bit of a mood killer. However I now oversee the operations team at a trading house and am really happy in my career (and dealing with drink/difficult customers in bars certainly helped me work around trader’s egos)

  89. Scarlett says...

    I’m a medical technologist (I test blood and other gross bodily things), and it’s something I just kind of fell into in college. I’ve been working for 5 years, since the moment I graduated, and as I build my life with my fiance, the more I find that it does not suit me. The more research I do about the effects of the standard American Diet and sedentary lifestyle, the more it makes the tiny fire in my belly burn. I’d love to study functional medicine or nutrition and “spread the gospel” about how a healthy lifestyle and choosing real food over what we’re pandered in every day life can end up saving lives down the road. I’m also an artist and I’d love to be a children’s book illustrator. Or I’d love to combine my love for creativity and real food and turn our tiny homestead into a full-fledged hobby farm and supply food and fun for the community. But where do you start???!?

  90. Denise says...

    This is timely for me as well. I’ve been working on my resume today in fact, but it’s for a job in my current field and I’m torn between wanting the new position, advancement, increase in salary, and benefits stability and knowing in my heart that I’m totally burned out in my field. I should apply for the better position but what I really want is to jump ship. So I’m compromising and applying for the better position so I can save up to jump ship. I have no fall-back financial plan at the moment and I need one before I can leap. Thanks for these thoughts!

    O, and my dream career is in environmental conservation, preferably genetics specifically. Just saying it out loud so I don’t forget what I’m actually doing.

  91. Taylor says...

    Once again a CupofJo story lines up perfectly with my life. I accepted a position today in a new field and new state! Now, that I’ve said yes I’m feeling all the feels and getting excited for this new adventure… though also totally freaking out! I’m a couple hours out from telling my current boss that I’ll be leaving but anticipate she will be supportive! This post is very inspirational on trusting my choice. And knowing I’m not alone.

  92. Good timing on the article. This past year of political turmoil in the U.S. has really made me pause and think about my career. I want to do something with politics – work on a campaign, work for an organization that helps shape policy, work for a senator or representative, or work for a news organization like NPR. I have no idea how I’ll get there from where I am now, and I really want to get my graduate degree and am not certain I’ll have the financial aid to do it, but I just keep putting that hope out into the universe and then researching like crazy. It’ll happen, someday. Thanks for the encouragement.

  93. May says...

    I love these stories.
    I followed a ‘traditional’ corporate background – banks, consultancy, MBA but left to start my own business a year ago (after a year of hustling on the side). Almost every day I wonder if I’ve done the stupidest thing ever, but it’s also easier than I thought. In my first year of business, I made the same money than I did before – exceeding my expectations. If you treat people fairly and kindly and do good work, the work will come!

    • Way to go! First few years in a new business are the toughest!!

  94. Jonesie says...

    Love this. I’m 28 and currently looking for something new. It’s intimidating to start fresh while my friends are building lives, getting married, and buying homes. It’s comforting to hear from women of all ages. (I’m not behind!)

    • Tricia says...

      Same, Jonesie! I’m 27 and keep telling my bf I feel like I’m taking a step back if I start over! That said, I’m not even sure what I want to start over doing! Like a lot of people said, I’m sure what I don’t want but I’m unsure of what I do want! It’s frustrating for sure.

    • Jonesie says...

      @Tricia

      I think we’ve been sold a lie about having our lives “together”. I have no idea what I want to do for a living, but I know what I value, how I want to feel and who I want in my life. The times I feel like I’m floundering the most are the moments when I get caught comparing or feel like I need to justify my choices (to people who never even asked in the first place haha!). I’m usually the hardest on myself and want to feel like I did things right and responsibly.

      It’s pretty freeing to realize that we’re all just making it up as we go!

    • So well said @ Jonesie! exactly what i feel about not knowing. i have to stop being mad at myself for not making a change sooner and see the benefits of the choices i did make. This will help inspiration for the change to come. i am hopeful.

  95. Meredith says...

    I would love to change career paths, into something more creative, but I just can’t make that leap. How do people let go of security? I would be content in making less, but my husband would never allow it. And while that makes me angry, if the tables were turned, and he was like “I need to express myself” and take some low paying job because it fulfills him, I would be like “ummm, no, benefits, disability, 401k etc…….do you want to retire or not?” I’m 47. I want to retire at 60. We are on that path. If one of us diverged from that path ‘for fulfillment’ it would seriously change our financial outlook. And would that even be responsible? But then I will struggle to get out of bed for the next 13 years because I hate the company I work for (and most of them are pretty much the same in the engineering industry).

    • These are my issues EXACTLY. I’m 34, so while retirement is definitely on the agenda, my current concerns are paying for childcare, healthcare, and possibly moving to a better school district or paying private school tuition. It sounds so romantic to follow your bliss and express yourself, but it feels really irresponsible and selfish to do that when people are depending on you for financial security. My husband won’t flat out tell me not to do it, but he REALLY doesn’t want me to quit working or change careers because my job is important to our bottom line, and he’s made that position pretty clear. Like you said, I don’t want him to give up his stable career either!

      And thank you for mentioning benefits…people don’t consider them enough. I have comprehensive health, dental, vision, disability, and life insurance through my company (complete with HSA contributions), and retirement benefits with a fairly competitive 401(k) match. Not to mention other financial incentives that are the perks that come with soul-crushing corporate America. Those benefits are just as important as my salary.

    • Emma says...

      I find it kind of amazing to think of retirement as anything other than a complete fantasy. I’m 24, and I’ve done paid work since I was 7 (not just babysitting–I used to make flow charts and other visual diagrams for my dad when he was starting his company and I was learning Microsoft Office Suite, did website design for people who didn’t know I hadn’t even hit puberty, and then managed a summer camp horse barn before I had my driver’s license) .

      Work has always been the source of my identity, and I’m really struggling with not being on a clear career path and also not feeling a lot of possibility in a lot of what I’m doing. I recently quit my job as a cook at a restaurant to figure things out, and I haven’t had a shortage of work–I’ve been doing landscaping and odd jobs, working a farmer’s market stand, and helping my parents as they prepare to move. I’m trying to keep my income below the automatic limit for Medicaid so that I can be insured, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to afford health insurance (which I want/need since I do physical labor). Most jobs in fields that interest me pay significantly below a living wage, even with experience and education.

    • Veronica says...

      I am 27 and work in engineering right now, and so much of what you said resonated with me. While my husband isn’t completely against me changing career paths, it’s a huge source of guilt because I feel like me making less money or needing to go back to school isn’t what he “signed up for.” (We’ve been married about three years). I realistically know that I need to do something different since I’m looking at 35 or so working years (minimum, and with our current trajectory, who knows) ahead of me, but I am crippled by fear and guilt and have no idea what to do. I hope you are able to strike a balance, because 13 years of just getting by sounds awful :(

  96. Meghan says...

    I was just having a conversation yesterday with the support worker for a group of disabled men who came to a program I was putting on. She was telling me that she had plans a couple of years back to pursue a career change through a Master’s Degree in Psychology. Her male colleague who was in the same position as her went through with it, she didn’t. He had two kids, so did she, but his wife was able to support the children during that time of transition and she didn’t have that support. Broke my heart. Kudos to all of the amazing women making it work and going after their dreams!! I want to throw a congratulations party for each and every one of you!!!!

    PS: More career posts please :)

  97. Shauna says...

    I am working in finance now in the Silicon Valley, but would LOVE to know how to land a job at a blog. Any tips? I’m starved for creativity, and have a degree in Communication Design, but have no clue where to begin!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      good question! i would suggest starting a site of your own — even if it’s just to show your writing style and general ideas/aesthetic, and then you can use that to help pitch yourself to sites. good luck!!!

    • Faith says...

      Hi Shauna, I read your comment and laughed out loud because I would LOVE to land a gig doing finance in Silicon Valley! I currently work in finance in NYC, but I’m in CA for work all the time and have fallen totally in love with that part of the world. Would you have any pointers for me? I do business development for alternatives.

    • Olivia says...

      I work for a blog currently and I agree with Joanna – just start your own :)

  98. Meredith says...

    This is such a struggle for me. I’m currently working at a job that I don’t love. I’m not passionate about it. I keep considering going back to school, but there is so much else to consider. I’m making decent money right now and I can’t really afford to sacrifice that and pay for grad school for 2-4 years. I’m also raising a toddler and baby– it’s not just about me.

    On top of that- although I don’t love my job, I love the flexibility. I keep thinking I’ll go back to school for a medical career. But I know once I get out, my life will be so different. I won’t be able to take my kids to appointments or flex my schedule, like I can now.

    So, I’m making some career sacrifices so that I can have a happy home life. Right now, I can get home by 5 every night to have dinner with my family. For the most part, I can put aside work when I get home. No, I don’t love my 9-5, but it’s not my whole life. I guess I’m just going to focus on my family right now. Maybe that second career will come in my late 40s.

    • Kate says...

      Meredith, I am in what sounds like the exact same situation as you (good paying job that I don’t love but provides plenty of flexibility). I also have two little ones at home and a third on the way, and keep telling myself that I will make a change in the next few years, once everything settles down at home and the kids are all in school. I figure, even if I go back to school in my early 40’s, I’ll still have more working years in whatever the second career ends up being than in the one I have been in since college (finance). Anyway, it’s comforting to know that I am not the only one in this position, and that maybe I might even have a few classmates my age when I do finally decide to make a change. Good luck!

    • Em says...

      I am with you heregarding (somewhat). I’ve managed a coffee shop for 9 years and have always dreamt of more for my career. These dreams have only escalated since having my son, and I’ve considered going back to school..but that means less time with my son and I just don’t want to give that up!! I keep telling myself that this phase of my life is for time with Sam, but maybe once he’s in school I can consider something else. It’s tough to make these choices! Also, I’m home by 130 everyday, and if I can’t be a stay at home mom then that’s about as good as it gets.

  99. Rachel S. says...

    This is wonderful, thank you! I’m in the middle of this battle right now. The problem is, I haven’t figured out what I’d like to do yet… but I know it isn’t what I’m doing now. I have many of the same thoughts as these ladies, so it’s very encouraging to hear their whole journeys.

    I hope to figure out soon what change I want to make so I can begin!

  100. SN says...

    SUCH perfect timing. I have been spending a lot of time recently thinking about this. Sometimes I wish you could go to college for two years, work for a few and THEN decide what you want to get your degree.

    I’ve been working in PR for 7+ years… what I wish I had stuck with math and science and done something in STEM. ‘Creative’ jobs have their perks, but sometimes I feel my brain going to mush….

  101. Veronica says...

    This couldn’t have been more a more timely post for me. I just got an offer TODAY from a company outside my field and I was feeling extreme anxiety about it. Should I take the leap?! Just read the part about Siobhan working in production for TV commercials. That’s exactly what I do! The long hours, high stress, and extreme deadlines are just burning me out. TV is all I’ve ever known… for 10 years! If she can make the move, I can too.

    • Kelly says...

      GOOD LUCK, Veronica!

  102. I love this post!! I’ve been teaching advanced writing classes at the university level for the last twelve years, and it’s not anything I ever planned to do–just sort of fell into it after I finished my MA and we moved 2000 miles–I figured I’d teach one class as sort of a farewell transition to academia. Now I’m at the point where I’m so sick of teaching, and passionate about so many different things that were never on the horizon when I was 18 and starting college. What I’d really love to do is combine my love of running with my love of writing, but I have no clue how to break in to that!! (Thanks to six kids, I’m not exactly an elite racer with great stories to tell, although I can talk a lot about running and racing while pregnant!)

    • Tricia says...

      Running and six kids?! You’re a warrior! What about a fitness blog for soon to be mamas or new mamas? Or guest posting on mom blogs about the topic? Good luck!

    • Dominique says...

      I would definitely read a book about how to continue running throughout pregnancy and with young kids. I was running regularly before each of my two pregnancies but once I didn’t feel good and needed more sleep, it was the first “extra” to go. Also, my husband has read tons of running book by men (Scott Jurek and Dean Karnazes, etc.) but there are not equivalent books for women.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i would love to read a beginner’s guide to running with smart tips, motivational stories, etc. – definitely a blog about it or even a book.

    • Donna says...

      Pitch a story to a running mag or site.

  103. riye says...

    I originally planned to work in advertising and did it for a year–until I got laid off (learned that I really hated advertising). At my next job, my boss found out I was good at proofreading so I was promoted to work with our project editor. I’ve been an editor for 20+ years and still really enjoy it. I work mainly with scientists and feel like I’m learning new things all the time. I also work part-time as an artist. Even though I love art, I prefer to keep it part-time. My day job gives me the option to say “no” to projects I don’t want to do. Plus the health insurance and retirement benefits are important to me as I get closer to retirement.

  104. Kate says...

    I’ve been working for the federal government for years and years and am leaving my job in two months to move and start a new career with the local and regional parks system! I’ve always dreamed of being a park/forest ranger and Leslie Knope is my spirit animal. I can’t wait! Also, the comments on this piece are incredible, as always. I’m feeling so invigorated and energized!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      so glad to hear that, kate!

    • Scarlett says...

      I love this!! Good luck!!

  105. Anon says...

    Not 100% on topic but I’m looking for a new job while 2 months pregnant and it is so intimidating. Anyone else been there?

    • Ashley says...

      My friend just landed a great new job 4.5 months pregnant (she started interviewing around 1-2 months along). She told HR when accepting, and they said it would not be a problem at all. I’ve also known people who really struggled to go back to work after having their baby because they already were unhappy in their position (myself included, though I found my way). Having an exciting new job can actually make that process easier. Good luck!

    • Amy says...

      Yes! I got one job when I was 2 months pregnant and didn’t share that with my prospective employers until I was hired. I got another job when I was 8 months pregnant, and, well, there was no hiding that one. I got great advice from mentor: when someone hires you, they’re investing in you. If you take maternity leave early in your tenure somewhere but have a great few years there- whether that’s 4 years or 15 years or whatever- that is great for them and for you. The right place will be supportive.

      When I took the job 8 months pregnant I told them exactly when I would like to start (when my son would be 4 months) and I stuck to it. Financially we didn’t have a choice but I was ready to work. Good luck!

    • Amy says...

      Clarifying the above- I didn’t share the pregnancy until I was hired and about 4 months along. Also, the stories above were two different pregnancies! :)

  106. BrittM says...

    Inspiring! Thanks for sharing another lovely piece.

  107. K says...

    Good article. Thanks. As a stay at home mom, I often daydream of what I can do when I return to work. The thought of going back to school can feel selfish or crazy to do when you’re older. But I guess I just need to take a leap and try something new!

  108. Amanda says...

    Thank you for this post! I worked SO hard to get into Clinical Psychology PhD programs in my early twenties, and only after being accepted I had an epiphany that it wasn’t for me. To the chagrin of my colleagues (and friends who weren’t accepted), I took a basic job across the country, where I’ve been for the last three years. I’m at the point now of needing a change, and I just found out this past Friday that I was accepted into an MBA program starting in the fall. I’m excited but nervous to see where this new path takes me!

  109. Ashley says...

    Thank you for this timely and lovely post. I’ve shared it with a few of my close friends going through this. It is always so comforting to feel less alone.

  110. Lisa says...

    I’m also in a career change at the moment! After working in IT for my whole life, I quit, left the country and moved back to my parents (!) to catch my breath and save money. Now I’m in retail while waiting to find out if I got accepted to uni in fall – in a completely different field. Exciting stuff! (Oh and I’m 29 with no kids)

  111. Stephanie says...

    Timely and insightful as ever, CoJ! Amazing. I’m a career changer too. In my late twenties, after years as a secondary school teacher in England, I burnt out. I thought I’d be in this career until retirement (and heck, I might always return in my 40s or something?) but for now I am DONE. I’m looking for admin/recruitment work at universities. I love education so much, I couldn’t leave it, but I need a change! Somewhere in the back of my brain, a postgrad degree also seems to be calling my name… I’m so afraid of what’s around the corner for me, but so curious too!

  112. Erin says...

    i kind of fell into a career change. I LOVED being a graphic designer and had been in the field for 15 years, but i was really unhappy. Burned out, bored, just didn’t want to do it anymore! My boss saw that — but it also didn’t help that, she was a terrible boss — not a bad person, but I really felt like we clashed a LOT. So basically she, and my current boss came together and basically came up with a new position for me.

    I’m now in the digital asset management field, and i just attended a conference about this field. I’m excited about the field, even though i’m still straddling the line between this new career path and being a graphic designer (they’re always short on designers). I was really disappointed to find that there aren’t really any courses or classes that I can take in the DAM industry. so it’s really learn as I go. but i know this switch was the best thing for me because i’m not as stressed anymore, I don’t clash with my then boss, even though we are still in the same department. I’m MUCH happier.

    My husband is trying to make a career switch, but his requires going back to school, and that’s a challenge for us, figuring out the money thing because we really don’t want any loans.

  113. Nectar says...

    I’ve just moved careers from film and video to ux/ui design. Such great advice. Hoping this pays off for me!

  114. I so wish I could “like” these comments! I have been contemplating a career change after six years as a classroom teacher. I just had an interview this morning!

    • Stephanie says...

      I’ve just left teaching as well! A heartbreaking decision, but ultimately the right one. My first interview is on Monday. Best wishes to us both!

    • Kate says...

      Best of luck, Lexie!! How exciting! I agree, I wish I could “like” these comments too :)

  115. This is a great post, and something I have struggled with for 12 years! I work at a job I really dislike in an industry that I abhor. I took a job right out of college working in this industry so I could make some money while I pursued a creative career…and then that career never happened. Deep down I knew I wanted to do something in the medical field and was preparing to go to med school when I discovered anaplastology and it was a punch in the gut. It was EXACTLY what I had been looking for. Then I accidentally got pregnant and was so overwhelmed with motherhood I put a career change on the back burner. Now I’m really itching to change, but I have no idea what to do! The “problem” with my job is that it pays really really well. It’s hard to give up a high paying job when you have three kids! I’m also not even sure what I want to do, but it’s definitely not this! A lot of my mom guilt comes not from working, but from being away from my kids to work at something soul-sucking. Hopefully I’ll settle on something soon!

  116. Jessica says...

    This post made me emotional, so relevant! Thank you for sharing thoughts from a range of people, offering support and inspiration to continue pursuing a career change. It seems more doable some days than others. I am 34 with a baby at home and 10 yrs of advertising experience. Looking to shift to freelance for more time at home, and in anticipation of growing our family. But man is it scary! Considering financial and healthcare impacts, uncertainty of client retention, and just the confidence of putting yourself out there. But once you feel the pull, it’s hard not to follow through! Nice to hear from people who’ve done it successfully :)

  117. This is so incredibly timely for me as I’ve been struggling with this and really thinking about how to get out of my current career. I can’t tell you how much I needed to read this today for inspiration!

  118. Kirsten says...

    I so enjoyed this post, and can completely relate. I worked in refugee services for years while getting my ESL teaching degree to do another version of the same work, then realized teaching wasn’t my strong suit. After 15 years, I am back to school for Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs to hopefully work with the same population and veterans when I am done. I’ve known since I was little that I was on a humanitarian path, but how that manifested as an adult, for me has gone from the spectrum of aid worker to teacher to healer. I think being a single mother for 10 years also contributed to my work. I think it’s wonderful to be able to evolve with life circumstances..it’s a lot of hard work, but rewarding for you and everyone around you – that energy swirls around. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to change paths. If anyone is questioning it, I say go for it! It seems insane at the time, but you somehow make it work.

  119. Kim says...

    I have a huge exam in a few weeks that I’ve been preparing for and have been feeling a bit drained lately. This post really gave me some perspective. I’m in my mid thirties (with two little girls 1 & 3 years old) and am hopefully going to make a successful transition from attorney to dentist. The past two years of taking core-science pre-reqs while at the same time taking care of my family (and pup) has been a challenge. I barely sleep and my house is a mess, but I can say that I’m happy. Although I wish I had found my interest in teeth :) much earlier in life, I do not regret my legal career as it has taught me how to learn and how much I can accomplish.

    Thank you for this post in reminding me that we can change our minds in the middle of our lives and with the love and support of friends and family, accomplish what we set out to do. I truly couldn’t do this without my husband, my little girls, and my pup.

  120. Natalie says...

    Loved this post (I was a little distracted by all the typos, but great content nonetheless) and it is so welcome at this time in my life as I gear up for a career change next month. Scary stuff is usually the most worthwhile, eh?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oops, sorry about that, natalie! we always try to catch them all but with long pieces like this, we sometimes miss a few! we’ll read really closely a few more times. thanks again xo

  121. My husband and I have been self-employed small business owners for almost 10 years. We both graduated college in the middle of the recession and there were no good jobs available where we lived, so, long story short, we made our own. We LOVED the flexibility and autonomy that came with self-employment, but last year when we had our first baby, it became clear that flexibility and freedom were not as important in our lives anymore and instead we needed consistency and routine.

    So we made the VERY tough decision for my husband to take a full-time offer from one of our clients, and for me to be home with the baby. It was extremely tough to walk away from a business that had been so good to us and worked so well for us, and that we built ourselves, but the trade-off is a consistent pay-check we can budget around, a consistent and predictable schedule, vacation time we can count on and plan around, and our evenings and weekends are OURS (rather than fielding calls and emails from clients all hours of the day and night, every day). We’re realizing how much stress we carried around constantly before. It is really incredible to have my husband clock-out at the end of the day, come home and be able to be really present with us.

  122. lida says...

    Wow, I am literally in the midst of applying to a job in a new field after 9 years working as an accountant. I have been doing years and years of soul searching and reading career self-help books to try to figure out something else that’s more meaningful to me. Finally, in the past 2 months I’ve made the decision to go for something different. I’ve had feelings of stage fright and tons of back and forth thoughts (the huge paycut is hard to swallow), but Iife’s too short to trade hours for a paycheck doing something you hate. Thanks for this post — it feels as if it’s a sign that I’m doing the right thing! <3

    • SN says...

      What are you going to do?

    • lida says...

      SN — so I’m aiming to become a personal financial planner and help people get their finances in order! I want to help people see that true wealth looks different for everyone, but money IS a big factor in reaching those life goals / dreams. I want to help them figure out how to get there, plan for their families (saving for college, life insurance, retirement, etc. etc.), help them be steady through big life changes (deaths, divorce, etc). I think there’s a big need here in our society and it’s so hard to find someone who has your best interest at heart. Wish me luck!! :)

  123. Logan G says...

    While I don’t think I’ve ever referred to my time as a healthcare receptionist as my “career,” I am in the process of carving a new career path. I tossed around the idea of pursuing teaching for years, but the time and financial sacrifices it would take to get there always seemed like too much. This past summer something changed…I had to take either take that scary leap or just give up the dream. Working a full time job and going to grad school full time has not been easy, but I have wonderfully supportive friends and family. I’m about to enter what will likely be the busiest season of my grad school career, and this post is such an encouragement to stick with it! I’m focusing on looking for joy and growth opportunities within the challenges (James 1).

  124. This is so great. I really hope we can expand each of these folks’ narratives into a full post for each person! I found myself so curious about the rest of their stories as I read through these sections. I would love to read about their motivations, triggers, and more of a detailed how-to on what the transition was like – I think everyone with a career would be interested in this?!

    • M says...

      Yes! So curious of their process. Great post!

  125. Jess says...

    This is such a brilliant post – great idea, beautifully executed. Cup of Jo is just the best – so creative and always interesting. Love it. Thanks guys.

  126. Joy says...

    I worked in quality assurance for a software company before I went back to school to become a doctor. It was 7 years of additional school and residency, and over $200,000 in debt, long hours, and missed holidays, but it is such a fulfilling career. It’s a calling! I am helping people every day, and it’s wonderful to see all that hard work transformed into literally making a difference in people’s lives.

    • Jenny says...

      As someone just starting this path, I’m inspired by how happy you sound further along! Congratulations and thank you for sharing!

    • Joy says...

      Thanks Jenny! Very best of luck to you, and congratulations as well! It’s a long road, but I love my work and I hope that you’ll find being a physician enormously fulfilling as well :)

    • viv says...

      Joy, thank you for this comment! I’m on the same path as well. I’m finishing up my premed requirements and take the MCAT later this year, and I’m 30. I went to grad school and was among the youngest I’m my class–now I’m among the oldest in my postbacc class. Do you have any thoughts for us who are older medical students?

    • M says...

      Great to hear from happy docs as a resident halfway through training :) now, how to pay if that huge loan…

      To Viv: I think the older students in my class often worked the hardest and wanted to be successful the most. The oldest woman in my class was about 40, and she graduated with a gold humanism award headed to her top choice program. They matched in every specialty from geriatrics to neurosurgery. Best of luck, I hope you do awesome. The kids make it so worth it for me (I’m in pediatrics)

    • Joy says...

      Hi Viv!
      I was 28 when I started med school. My best advice is to resist the thought that you are “behind” everyone else. You may be starting school later, but you’re not behind in life – you’ve had enough experience to feel confident that this is what you want, or you’ve already found your life partner, or already had kids, or already made peace with your hair – whatever it is, those men and women sitting around you in class are going to lift up their heads from their textbooks eventually when you are all through training and start looking around for those things you are already “winning” at.

      M,
      Make those IBR payments as a resident as much as you can, and look into refinancing your loans with an independent company to half the rate or better as soon as you get an attending job. Get your own-occupation disability insurance before you graduate residency. There is a ton of financial advice on White Coat Investor for people in our position, on a wide range of topics specifically geared toward doctors’ financial situation.

      Very best to both of you! It makes me so happy to meet other docs on CoJ :)

    • viv says...

      Joy and M and Jenny, thanks for the warm thoughts and words of encouragement. It really is hard to get beyond the feeling of being behind. I’ve had a chance to work in finance for years before this, and I know that despite all of the studying (allll of the studying), this is really what I want from my life. I hope you see this comment–I wish you all well too.

  127. Rachel says...

    I’m a professor, and currently beginning the career switch process (something I had thought of for a while, but was prompted by a move to NY for my partner’s job). I think one thing that wasn’t touched on as much here but that is a huge barrier for people in jobs where they had to do a lot of education to get there is the idea that that education was somehow “wasted” (and I’ve heard people in my field say this explicitly!). It’s taken me a while to be comfortable with the idea that this was something that was an incredible experience that I got a lot of amazing skills and knowledge from, but that isn’t what I want anymore, and that’s ok. Now if only Cup of Jo needed an intern…

    • You’re so right. I got my PhD and then didn’t end up using it directly. So many people have commented “oh, but what a waste of all that academic potential” as if all my degree taught me were the specific skills for being in that environment. It made me doubt my own decisions for years. It’s only now that I can realise that the skills I learnt and honed as an academic are those that have made me excel in my new career too. I just wish sometimes other people realise that!

    • Rachel says...

      Great point! We seem to now see an education as only a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. I’m so curious, what’s your next move? I’m also a professor (also named Rachel!) and am always dreaming of other paths. Whatever you do, congrats on being brave enough to try something new. I hope it works out beautifully.

    • Rachel says...

      Glad to hear your new career is going well, Rebecca! Another crappy narrative around this is also the idea that people who don’t go into academia after a PhD only do so because they can’t. This isn’t just offensive to those who choose another path, but I think also contributes to a lot of people who do get into academia pursuing it even when it doesn’t make them happy (because they were one of the “lucky” ones who managed to get a coveted academic position in a super tough market). Ugh!

    • Rachel says...

      Hi fellow Rachel! I’m still working on my next move, but have been looking at roles in Tech as I feel like the culture will be an easier adjustment coming from academia, while still being different in some of the ways that academia is not a great fit for me. But don’t give me too much credit for bravery, as if I’m totally honest I have always dreamed of doing something creative (I always wanted to be a photographer) and/or related to my passion for travel and design…so we’ll see, maybe after the switch from academia I’ll have some space to try those out on the side!

  128. Lo says...

    Are you inside my head, COJ? I just left my post-grad school job of two years because it was turning me into a miserable shell of a person. And even though the organization was truly a hot mess and I dreamed of leaving almost every day for those two years, it’s still really difficult to move on and carve out a new space for myself as a professional. My spouse and I recently came up with a concept for a (very) small food business, and we are also in the middle of a home purchase in a small town just outside of where we’ve been living for the past 3 years. I’m hopeful that all the significant life changes happening at once will create sort of the perfect storm for my career change. Thanks for the little boost; I needed it!

  129. Kate says...

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this! I was laid off on Monday from a job I have held for the past 12.5 years and as I am contemplating what’s next, I am think more and more about a change of career. I am finding these stories so inspirational! It’s hard to have a change thrust upon you rather than choosing it, but I am seeking silver linings and bright spots and this post was perfectly timed. I’ll be mining the comments for more!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you have an amazing future ahead of you, kate! transition periods are always SO scary and overwhelming, but once you get through it, it’s AMAZING. as lina said in the post, if you take one step at a time, doors will just start opening. good luck, kate!!! xoxo

    • stephanie says...

      Kate, I was laid off too, on my maternity leave no less, it was rough for awhile, but now a year later I have successfully made a career change and am the happiest I have ever been at a job. Hang in there! It truly does get better. Good luck!

    • Kate says...

      Joanna & Stephanie
      Thank you both for your words of encouragement. I am excited about what the future holds!

  130. Amy says...

    To Laura above, I hope this is helpful: I am responsible for screening resumes and hiring for my department, and I use the cover letter to assess writing ability (which is not discernible in most resume formats) and to learn what parts of a candidate’s experience they are most passionate about. A past project might warrant just one bulletpoint on a resume, but if it’s something an applicant is passionate about, it can become a paragraph in a cover letter. Cover letters are also useful for explicitly naming ways in which you could be a good fit for that particular job/company (since you wouldn’t be able to make all of those connections in a resume) and to show that you are knowledgeable about the place to which you are applying. Personally, I find cover letters much more revealing than resumes for these reasons. Good luck!

    • Auste says...

      Amy, as someone who looks at resumes, what would you say to someone who doesn’t have one? As a stay at home mom, who last worked 6+ years ago (and by work, I mean retail job), how do I go about being taken seriously? Can a cover letter suffice? That seems ludicrous. I wouldn’t take me seriously even though I know I’m VERY capable and hard working and awesome. Thoughts? Thanks!

    • Amy says...

      Auste (I’m having trouble with the “reply” feauture working from my phone; I hope you see this), that’s a tough one but I would definitely still craft a resume. Include educational background, any skills/proficiencies, and a section at the top with your desired position. If work experience is sparse, bulk up the resume with skills and coursework, plus any volunteer work or committees/associations you’ve been a part of while not working. Definitely include the retail experience; even if it’s not relevant to your desired position, any job you hold for a while will show that you are responsible and have developed skills working with people. Some people might advise differently, but I would state in the cover letter that you have taken time from the workforce to raise your kids and then talk about why the position you are seeking makes you so excited to re-enter. Finally, don’t worry too much about being relatively new to the workforce and how it will appear. People who screen resumes will see the situation for what it is- someone who is new to the field and looking for an entry-level or comparable position- and there are lots of jobs perfect for someone like that who is smart and engaged and willing to work hard! Good luck.

    • Auste says...

      Thank you so much! Reading this, and all the other comments on this post have been so inspiring.

  131. Jenny says...

    I’m 28 and going to start medical school in August! I used to make and market boutique letterpress stationery for a small company specializing in wedding invitations. When I took care of my grandmother while she was dying in a rural town without adequate medical care, I couldn’t spend one more day of my life in a job I knew was ending up in people’s garbage cans. When the people I loved went without critical medical care because of where they lived and how much money they had, other people were ordering $40,000 wedding paper suites. I took pre-med classes with 19-year-olds and worked in a sexual and reproductive health clinic and applied. Proud and healthily terrified of starting Stanford Med in three months!

    • Meredith says...

      Just—congratulations! That’s a huge step to take, but those are often the best ones. :)

    • Ana says...

      That is so inspiring, Jenny! It’s interesting how some people leave the corporate world for more creative fields and how others leave creative fields for more fulfilling fields. I’m with you on the latter…I want to go to law school, but I’m still in the process of studying and won’t be applying for a little bit. Cheering you on from afar as you begin med school!

    • Amy says...

      Woo hoo! Congrats. I don’t know you and yet I’m so excited for you! :)

    • Giulia says...

      Well done you, this is so inspiring! Cheering you from the other side of the Atlantic!

    • M says...

      Congratulations! There’s a lot of negative aspects to the job (more and more paperwork, more student debt, less time with patients, less reimbursement) but it’s the patients that make it worth it. It’s funny, I read this post curious to hear if there were any doctors that left their medical careers (I am mid-residency and pretty burned out,) but instead I’ve been so inspired by you nontraditional up and comers. Like you said, I think about doing any other job and it seems so meaningless knowing what I know now. Best of luck to you, and welcome to the start of a great career.

    • viv says...

      Congratulations, Jenny, you’re just at the beginning of the journey, yet you’re at the end goal for the “pre” part of the trip. I’m also a nontraditional premed student, and it’s really the injustice I saw in my everyday SF life that jolted me out of my corporate holding pattern life.

  132. Catie says...

    These are such inspiring stories! I am currently burning out of a Ph.D. program and thinking about quitting (but wrestling with feelings of seeing it as a failure, wasted time, etc.). It is so nice and refreshing to hear from strong women who have been able switch careers while drawing on their previous experiences to enrich their lives doing what they’re passionate about. I keep trying to tell myself that life is not all about career, and that I should make sure to do something I enjoy (more than what I’m doing now) because life is also short!

    xo

    • Tiffany says...

      I just finished PhD program in April, graduated May 7! I’m 44 and took 8 years to finish while working full-time, caring for my daughter, caring for my other family, and life happenings. I almost quit three times and took several breaks. Ask yourself why you want to finish and why you want to quit. Write these reasons down and then decide. I’m glad I finished, I did have to change advisors after candidacy and change dissertation topics.

      I left my corporate career of 20 years and I know I made the right choice. Trust your gut. You only answer to yourself.

    • Louise says...

      Ask for help! If your advisor isn’t helpful, ask another professor you work with or one of your committee members for advice. Even a postdoc could help you put into perspective how your work relates to an eventual thesis. They’ve all been there! I felt like grad school was like being in a tunnel – at some point, you can’t see the light ahead or behind you. That said, if your work is totally not interesting and you’re looking for an escape hatch (to continue that goofy metaphor, ha), it’s ok to look around!

  133. One of my favorite things about teaching at a community college is getting to work with older students during mid-life career changes. Helping to boost their confidence — and seeing what younger, straight-out-of-high-school students can learn from them — is so rewarding. Good luck and courage to those in these comments on that path. :)

    (Imagine “COURAGE!” said in a Stanley Tucci voice.)

  134. Cynthia says...

    I’m retiring in a year, but if I were younger, I leave the education field and go into technology. I used to love teaching, but in recent years students have gotten lazier, they’re entitled and spoiled, and they all think they are going to college even if they aren’t college material. I’m in a decent school, but it gets harder every year.

  135. Katie says...

    In my previous life I was a merchandise planner in NYC. I’m currently with my three little guys – 6,4, and almost 2. I’ve been itching and itching to go back to school to become a nurse. Something deep inside me is screaming, “you will forever regret this if you don’t go for it!” Now…I just need to pull the trigger and figure out the logistics ?

    • Jenny says...

      Nurses are so needed and so important! Start today because your future patients need you already!

    • I am in the EXACT same boat!! My little girls are 5, 3 and 6 months. I have a degree in finance but currently blog from home and stay with the kids. I feel a calling to go back to school for nursing! I finally decided I’m going to wait about two years and then go for it! I don’t want my youngest in daycare right now, so two years it is! I’m happy with this decision :) Best of luck to you!!

      -Sarah

  136. Cait says...

    How timely. I’ve been applying for a lot of new jobs (I’m a recent University grad, worked the same job for 3 years [an executive assistant to an awesome powerful woman in a major finance company], but I’m starting to get a little bored). I’m passionate about human rights, non profit companies, working within diversity and inclusion, and I think I may get a job offer next week. It’s risky to me because it’s a term, less money than I make right now, would be a huge change and learning curve for me. How do you know when you’re ready for this? It’s also a bit risky because my husband I just bought our first house!! But if not now, when, right? I don’t want to get stuck, but I would be giving a lot up.

  137. Sheila says...

    I’m a career changer too! I spent 8 years as an accountant. I loved my job, but it just wasn’t fulfilling anymore and I didn’t feel like I was making an impact in the world. I quit to go back to school and got my Master’s degree in social work. I got my degrees 10 years apart to the day. I’m now an adoption social worker, and I could never imagine going back to the corporate world. I love working with people, especially the kids, and I like that I’m not doing the same thing every day. My job now is way more stressful but so much more rewarding, and I’m so glad I took that huge leap of faith!

    • Jenny says...

      Thank you for doing that difficult, critical, important, underpaid work!!!!

  138. What a fantastic and motivational post. I switched paths two years ago and whilst it’s been a real challenge I am so much happier now that I’ve ever been. I ditched a high-powered sales position to take my wine exams and get into the wine industry. I work more hours and earn less than I ever have, but come home in the evenings gushing about my day and excited about the next. It took me years of being better off but being miserable to take the leap but I’m so glad I did!

  139. this has given me such a boost and hope this morning! my husband just quit his audio engineering career after 10 years in the field, and i recently quit my dull data entry job too. we’ve moved out to the country where we’re farming organic cut flowers, veggies, and free range eggs. we needed to get out of the city, and 2 months in, we are so happy and refreshed out here! i’m finally able to focus on my floral design & photography side job, and his band is releasing their record in september. the first step is the hardest (and scariest!), and we’re definitely struggling for money, but we know that it will be so worth it in the end.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      wow, aelish, that’s amazing!

    • June says...

      Aelish, are you me in the future? My audio engineer husband and I are in the process of saving up and looking at property to buy for the life and career move of starting our farm (I grew up on one and am aching to get back), working on our photography studio, and for my husband’s band to have space and time to work on their album. I would love to pick your brain about your life change if you’d be open to sharing any contact information!

    • june, that is crazy! feel free to contact me at aelishlascoe at gmail :)

  140. Mariana says...

    Thank you so much for this post! I have been in he same job for 8 years and been thinking about changing to something more creative for a LONG time. This was such an inspiration! I’m 33 and pregnant with my second child and can totally relate to what Lina said: I can’t spend the rest of my life wondering “what if”!

  141. Kathy says...

    Perfect timing! I’m mulling making a career change and one of my options is just staying at home for a few years with my young children. I’d love to hear some perspectives of professional women who have made the transition to a stay at home mom.

    • Ashley says...

      Hi Kathy,
      I was on the Man Repeller blog earlier and they have a recent piece on becoming a stay at home mum (I think it’s possibly the first in a series). Worth checking out!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! we actually have a piece coming up about transitioning from outside-the-home job to being a stay-at-home mom, and also from transitioning from being a stay-at-home mom back to the work force. please stay tuned! :)

    • Capucine says...

      Me. I did this. Am doing it.

      I was a technical writer in the software industry, and I had an agent who lined me up contracts one after one. Often I stayed with a client for a couple years, and after my first child I could ask her to find me contracts for fifteen or twenty hours a week mostly from home. I was very proud of the money I made and that I was still with my daughter a lot, although she had daycare during my working hours. It was fun being the hotshot expert walking in in great clothes, getting to know interesting new people and challenging software. Ultimately, the emotional cost of daycare is what I couldn’t do with my second – he was less stoic, I was more aware, I just couldn’t do it again. So…I let my work go. I was clear about that choice, but it was hard to do.

      A year in to being a full-time mom, I woke with tears on my cheeks from a dream of standing beside my husband at a company party and one of his peers asking me ‘What do you do?’ and having no reply, and the guy turning away. Not earning money ran very deep for me, because our society pivots around earning in a way I wasn’t aware of. There was also several years of an unspoken shift toward me doing all the housekeeping and child rearing that happened unconsciously and created a vague sense of being marginalized I was only half aware of – resentment and anger boiling up randomly eventually led me to the cause, and once I understood that I started feeling better. It changed the unspoken ‘deal’ of our couplehood; that we both worked and were both parents so housekeeping and child rearing was on both of us.

      The biggest challenge for me is that I’m not domestic; I come from a long line of poor housekeepers. So I don’t manage our home the way I think I should, have no pride in that, and never have any sense of accomplishment – raisings kids and laundry don’t have a end date like projects, nor a way to judge if I did well, like big product launches. I have mother friends who largely do well at home life, the majority even, but my own weaknesses are exactly where I knew they were. I am without kids one morning per week, on Saturday. I have a class with adults after bedtime one evening per week. That means I am interrupted in what I do all the rest of the time. There were twenty hours a week of time without children when I earned money – by far the easiest hours of my week. I see the cost of not having one parent home in other families, and also that the mothers are generally better dressed, fitter, and more cheerful than full time parents – it’s generally kids who take the hit for working parents, not mom. I couldn’t accept that cost when my kids are babies, but now I might.

      My kids are now five and nine. I won’t return to my career unless my husband is laid off, because it does not feed my soul. I do, however, feel myself opening to being ready to find a new personal calling.

      The positives are that I have not missed any of my children’s lives, and I have almost no regrets when it comes to their lives. There is a flowing openness between us that comes from hours together, and when I worked that felt clunky – the reconnecting, that sense of ‘wait, what?’ or boredom when trying to understand my kid’s day. I never have that out of sync feeling now. I see it in my husband and I understand that I intuit things like lurking germs or friend trouble out of thin air because I’m with them constantly. They almost never need to gather their forces and steel up to be their biggest selves as they march out to a long day, they are in the shelter of my love all their hours. (They’re in a public school that is three days a week, with me in the class one of the three, because they are less drained and happier in that rhythm.) I drive other kids a lot, in my mom car, and they generally need to dig up the energy for another after school class until their parents are done working, then will eat and go to bed a bit later than mine do. The kids are just more ragged and burnt, and able to remember and share less, with long days like that – but not less loved or cared for. Often more articulate about their needs and more self-sufficient than mine, too.

      So that’s my truth.
      And if I’m being honest…when my second child was born my kidneys never bounced back, so deep down I chose to be with them as much as I can while I’m at my healthiest. My agent calls every six months and I feel a tug every time; I could just say yes…it’s great knowing, in simple reality, the costs and benefits of both ways of mothering. I know what I’m choosing and losing.

    • It’s a hard transition–and I’ve still got one foot in the working world (after my third was born, I switched to an adjunct faculty position teaching online courses at my Big 10 university). For me what helped the most was thinking about motherhood as a career and tackling it with the same kind of attitude I would have brought to my previous job. Planning, lists, research, etc. I figure if I’m going to be a SAHM I’m going to be the best damn SAHM I can be, truckloads of college degrees and all. ? The thing I have struggled with most is missing out on people affirming the caliber of my work–no promotions, no 100% test scores, etc. I took up running marathons to help with that, actually–it gave me a hobby and measurable goals. I still haven’t figured out where the line is on viewing my kids’ achievements as my own victories (for all that I try to tell myself not to live through my kids, it’s hard to not be like GUESS WHAT EVERYONE MY KID DID THIS AMAZING THING THEREFORE I AM ALSO AMAZING). But so far I haven’t blabbed to Facebook that my 7-yr-old was placed in gifted 4th-grade math (does saying it here count bc I’m totally bursting with pride!!).

    • Ann says...

      YES!! Me too. I want the transition from work to stay at home – and not stay at home, but I have a blog (where I get some money). Or stay at home, but I sell a product through Instagram. I would love to hear from a woman with a fact-paced job, on the way up, could easily continue on but made the choice to fill her time with caring for her children (the job she currently outsources). Thank you!

    • Claire says...

      I remember reading an article a few years back about ultra wealthy stay at home moms whose husbands give them a cut of their work bonus based on how well they do that year as a mom. As a woman I felt completely appalled reading the article, but as a stay at home mom, I totally understood the desire for some kind of metric!

  142. Celeste says...

    Thank you for this! I moved from journalism to marketing a year and a half ago, and it was such a difficult decision even though they are *very* similar fields. I’ve been thinking what I want next and it’s hard to see myself in marketing forever. Reading pieces like this makes me feel like I could make an even bigger leap and land on my feet.

  143. Stacy says...

    This is such a timely post. I’m 31, and I’ve been working as an administrator (in various capacities for various types of businesses) since I was 18! I studied writing and English in college, and I’ve always wanted to make the switch to being a full-time EDITOR. Honestly, I would edit pretty much anything! I’ve realized that I’ve turned nearly every job I’ve ever had into one that contains editing, quality, and formatting work… the kinds of things I absolutely LOVE to do, and some of the few things in my work life with which I find joy. It’s only recently I’ve had a “WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?!” epiphany that I am wasting my time not pursuing exactly what I love to do. Just last week I started a serious search for the right place to start out and I’m excited about the prospect of starting over! :)

    Thank you for passing along this wonderful and inspiring advice!

  144. I abandoned my stable academic administration career to go to culinary school and retrain as a chef. Now that I’ve qualified, I am still in the ‘oh god, what have I done? I will never have a salary again’, stage of fear, so it’s good to read these accounts and think that maybe there may be a light at the end of the tunnel!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so exciting, hannah!!!

  145. Tracy says...

    I am currently working as an editor for a marketing firm, which is something I love but there is definitely a desire to create something tangible (my father is a builder). I find that my happiest moments have often been at a potter’s wheel – oh how I would love to turn that into a career!

    • Celeste says...

      Tracy! You sound like me (content marketing, father is a builder), except I want to take after my dad and be a contractor like he is. How funny!

    • Laura says...

      ah! I also work in marketing, and was raised by a dad who was a builder/contractor! I’m relatively new to the workforce, but I always notice how a weird hobby of mine is looking at floorpans & imagining the space hahaha

    • shannon says...

      Tracy, I wonder if opening an Etsy shop might be a good outlet for you? I love sewing and opened my shop five years ago. It started as the perfect excuse to sit at the sewing machine, but it turned into quite the little source of income. You control the pace to some extent by listing more or fewer items – and if it gets to be too much, you can put the shop on vacation and take a break for awhile. If you find it taking more and more time, then you have a good segue into making it more of a full-time job. It’s very flexible, and I’d totally recommend it!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      an etsy shop is an awesome idea — so many incredible makers out there. tracy, if you do open one, please let us know! :)

  146. Rebecca says...

    I recently quit my production planning job at a meat manufacturing plant to become a teacher. I can relate to this topic completely. It’s quite a change from buying meat in a male dominated environment to working in a classroom with young kids. Although I loved my coworkers and it was a fast paced challenging position it was literally sucking the life out of me. After months of depression and long work hours I finally said ‘I’m done.’ Literally walked into my boss’ office and said just that. It was not like me to walk away so abruptly but I couldn’t take it anymore. Teaching has always been in the back of my mind and I’ve finally decided to go for it. Fingers crossed it works out! Life is too short to not love what you do!

  147. jd says...

    geez, are you people clairvoyant? I’m writing a cover letter right now. not a dramatic shift — same company, but new nonetheless. I have been avoiding (afraid) to even apply for something for about a year now — but realizing how bored I am and realizing that I’m wasting MY time in this job I don’t love anymore, I’m going for it. Isn’t it weird how initiating change ourselves is so hard?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      inertia is a powerful thing! that’s amazing that you’re writing a cover letter — sending you so many great vibes and good luck! xoxoxo

    • Laura says...

      sorry if this sounds boring, but is it possible to have a post that covers resumes and cover letters? I know there’s a ton of stuff on it on google but I always value this blog’s perspective (on everything, btw). I feel like I’m decent at resume building, but cover letters are a huge puzzle for me.

    • BMP says...

      I am also working on a cover letter/resume for a job within my current company. And I can echo your exact sentiments. A new line of work, new challenge, but not a bold shift. It’s amazing how many readers said this article was “timely”! I couldn’t agree more!

  148. Interestingly, most of those you interviewed moved on to more creative kinds of careers — design, beauty, food. Good for them!

    • Sarah King says...

      funny, i actually thought the reverse — it was nice to also hear from people going from creative fields to less creative fields. there’s the magazine editor to psychologist – the accessories designer to nurse – the art gallerist to restaurant owner. thanks for the great post, Cup of Jo!

  149. grace says...

    what a great post! thanks for sharing. i recently quit my finance/legal job of 12 years without anything lined up due to burnout and general dislike of the profession and environment and have been thinking about what to do next. this post was definitely the kind of inspiration i needed!

    • Kara says...

      I’m in the exact same boat! Literally turned in my two weeks last Wednesday, with no real new career lined up, and now counting down my remaining week of work. Everyone asks me what I’m going to do next and my response basically boils down to, “Not this!” I’m excited for the chance to pursue other ideas that have been in my mind or on the periphery for a long time and to see where this change takes me. All I know is that I’m already happier and it’s not even my last day yet! Way to go (again) with the timely post, Cup of Jo and good luck to everyone else considering or making a similar change!