I wanted to take time to write a brief story about my career transition and the value in it. I can tell many people are in a position where they either want to do something else with their professional life or don’t know what to do with it and I want people to know that there are answers. I’ve been exploring this area for about 9 months now and need to share some of my experience.
Let me go back to my college days because a pattern started here. When I started as a freshman in college I was a commuter student at the UW-Center in Waukesha county. As a totally mature 18 year old I felt that upon graduating high school meant that the fun times were over and it was time to buckle down and get my education and job on track. This was me being very idealistic because I had so many lessons to learn if I would pay attention!! My first semester I felt like I wanted to explore Sociology, Psychology or Chemistry. I was strong in those areas in high school and knew I had potential. I did well in all of those my first year but was particularly strong in Chemistry. I was asked to be a group study leader for intro Chemistry because of my understanding and ability to communicate. I became a chemistry major by my second year and then transferred to Carroll College in Waukesha for my third year of college. Although when I got there, things seemed to change for me.
First off, things were taught very differently at an independent liberal arts college verses a state university. I didn’t like how they did labs and how the curriculum was delivered. I didn’t feel the need to tutor or desire to help out in the department because I wasn’t happy with current situation(indicator 1). As part of my general educational requirements I needed to take a philosophy class or religion class so I took my first religious studies class. Surprisingly I liked it and excelled. I had avoided that subject but when I tried it out it really lit the fires of passion to study. There’s far more to this story but I’ll summarize by saying that I then became a double major in Chemistry and Religious Studies and then later dropped the Chemistry major all together because I wasn’t going to use it and wanted to put more time into a degree I felt passionate about. (indicator 2)
Upon graduation I needed a break from academia and decided to go into retail management for the company I worked for. I ran a Starbucks for a few years while I took time to figure out where to take my studies. Unfortunately I was beginning to get lost in the corporate environment and a new career goal of climbing the ladder began to emerge. I showed promise in my leadership ability and then took a position at Target corp. in their distribution area. With more money and promises of professional development I let go of my passion for study and tried to offer my ability and style to the corporate world. The more I did this the more lost I felt (indicator 3) and unfortunately unclear I became about what to do for the future. I knew I had to make a change but had no clue how.
After about 3 years of distribution operations I found myself at the end of my driveway with this feeling of change. I felt a necessary message come to me that said “you can change now if you want to” and after sitting in silence (nothing happens in my subdivision at 4AM mind you) I said “Alright God/universe, I’m ready for a change. I don’t know how or what it’s going to look like and I know it’s going to be painful but I’m ready, bring it on!”
6 months later I started some counseling which really helped break loose some of my inner self and then 3 months after that I did some career coaching. The career coaching consisted of self assessments (MBTI, skills and values inventories, 360 feedback profiles), research and self reflection. In all of this professional help I decided to seek out I was able to break through the veils I put on myself of what my career should look like. I was able to look at myself more authentically and understand that I was trying to fit myself into something that I wasn’t. I made the decision to leave my position with Target to pursue my career path. I had savings built up to help cushion this transition and decided to take the leap.
Now I did this in September of ’09 which is significant. First off it is the worst economy in a couple decades. Second, I had a little one on the way. Third I had no job lined up. But there was something very powerful within myself that told me to “strike” and I knew I needed to take control of my life and make a change. Since then I’ve done some work at UWM School of Continuing Education and been able to gain experience as an Intake Coordinator. I’ve met some amazing individuals who have done their own businesses and made changes of their own. I learned what a difference a work environment can make and that I am better suited in some environments rather than others. I’ve also learned I have potential in areas that I never thought about. By listening to the intuitive part of me that knew what was right, I was able to move forward to a better place in my career as well as life.
Currently I’m researching grad school possibilities which will open more doors in organizations that I would like to join. I have many opportunities unfolding that I hadn’t realized I could do, but it’s all because I took a chance to make things happen. There is a very scary part of this whole process and believe me, I went into some dark places along the way but the change is well worth it. Just to know I don’t have to be tied down in a job or company that I hate and that I can do things that make me happier and find fulfilling is enough motivation to keep trying. It also gives me trust that when I do what I am more suited to that I will be taken care of. The more you trust life, the more it takes care of you.
Here are some lessons I learned from some of my indicators:
Lesson 1. From my indicator 1 I learned that if something doesn’t feel right or makes me frustrated there is probably a reason for this. Rather than trying to just go with the flow it is much more important for me to look at this and deal with the feeling of why something isn’t right. Otherwise you just bulldoze further ahead into a problem that isn’t going to solve itself.
Lesson 2. When I’m passionate about something I will do better. In a previous blog I shared a lesson that TJ in San Diego taught me. He said, “Jason you need to do what you are passionate about because you will do well with it and people will pay you for it because you are good.” I’ve learned I have far more energy to put into something I’m excited or passionate about than forcing myself to go through burnout tasks or situations.
Lesson 3. When you are lost, you need to regain your anchor or reference. It’s easy to get lost, when I didn’t stay true to the lessons I learned in college I drifted further away from myself and had to ‘reawaken’. But if you are lost you can always come back. There will be a light house for you in the form of a mentor, teacher, helper, friend or something that comes into your life to lend a hand. Find your lighthouse when you get lost!
This is obviously a gallon into a shot glass of how my career transition has gone over the last 9 months and have a nice list of teachers and mentors that have given me an assist. If you have any questions about the details or names I’d be happy to chat and share more. But for now, please listen to yourself and know that with courage you can make the change. Life is vast and certainly not limited to a box or narrow list of options. As Lt. Worf from Star Trek TNG always says, “There are always options.”
Thanks for reading and as the Japanese say, “Ganbatte!!!”