Navigating a Career Change with Compassion

Many of us leave college with a degree, but not with a direction. In my eight years since college graduation I have worked in philanthropy, event planning, marketing, arts administration, and finally interior design. I also became a yoga teacher part-time along the way. It took me until I was almost 30 to realize that my creativity and talents were well-suited for the field of interior design. On one hand, this was an exhilarating revelation, on the other it was terrifying!

I believe when you truly discover something you’re passionate about, it will be hard to let your feelings go unnoticed, but sometimes it takes a voice other than your own to validate your intuition. I had a few important professional encounters where people told me I had an eye for design. Then I realized that everyone I admired and looked up to was a woman with her own creative business. I began to seriously consider my thoughts and feelings around becoming an interior designer. Did I have what it takes to get more training and start my own business?

This is when the hard part begins. The agonizing and planning around how to actually make a career change happen. I started to ask myself a million questions. How do you start over at 30? Have you even really begun? Some of my friends sure seemed like they were on the career fast track, and I felt behind. I’d prioritized yoga and travel over staying put and working my way up at several jobs. Did those choices make me less worthy of success? Did I really need more education? How would I afford it?

Working out the nitty-gritty details of finances, education costs, quitting my job, and taking another less stressful job to pay the bills was not a fun process. Change can be stressful and sometimes the finish line feels far away, but it was also a very exciting time. I was taking the first step towards a path that I felt called to be on. When I reflected on how hard I was working, I realized what I needed most was to give myself a break and treat myself with some compassion. Why are we always cheerleaders for everyone but ourselves?

I would love to share some of the ways I use compassion to help make this journey (that I am still on) more enjoyable. Also, I’m totally your cheerleader! GO YOU! HERE YOU GO. TAKE A RISK (I highly believe it WILL pay off).

  1.  DO YOUR RESEARCH – Interview as many people as possible, or as you feel necessary in the line of work you are interested in. Discern the education level or certification(s) you need to be successful in the field. Life and transferrable skills count for a lot when you’re transitioning and older. I was told time and again to get the minimum education (and minimum cost degree) I would need for the job or business I hoped to have.
  2. REALITY CHECK – Realize that changing careers is much more than simply changing jobs. When you get a new job it might take you six months to really get acquainted or even excel. When you transition into a new career it could take five years to really build something financially stable. Remind yourself: it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
  3. BE PATIENT – This was and still is, the hardest part of the game for me. I often feel like Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, “Daddy, I WANT IT NOW!” It’s all about small successes in the beginning, especially if you are going back to school. You have to allow yourself time to learn and grow.
  4. ENJOY THE PROCESS – Everyone is at a different place on his or her path. The people you see on Instagram with millions of followers have most likely been blogging for years, or it is their full time job. At one point, they were starting for the first time or starting over. Don’t always focus on the finish line. Live in the moment, and try to even enjoy it from time to time.
  5. GET INSPIRED – Find people that inspire you and read their blogs, hire them to help you develop your ideas, listen to their podcasts when you are stressed and feeling alone. Here are a few that I like: http://jesslively.com, http://jessicamurnane.com, http://theeverygirl.com, http://www.designsponge.com, http://uppercasemagazine.com
  6. TAKE BABY STEPS Make your own business card, start a blog, create a logo, make a website. Do little things, one step at a time, which fit your scenario and will continue to build towards success.
  7. CELEBRATE – Don’t be too hard on yourself! Celebrate the little and big gains. Make a point to do this whether it’s a just a moment’s pause of true acknowledgement, or a big celebratory night out.
  8. BREATHE – The yoga teacher in me has to vouch for meditation. It’s easy and free, plus it’s proven to reduce your stress levels. Try this quick loving kindness meditation. Remember you are on a path towards your goals, keep your head down, your feet quick, your heart open, and your mind calm and you will surely achieve your dreams!

PS. I’ve posted some pictures of my home office. If you’ve got the space I recommend creating a space that feels like an office for yourself. It will help keep you focused, organized and feeling professional. Even if it’s just adding a desk to your bedroom, you can make it work!

Photos by: Jennifer Kathryn Photography, from TheEverygirl Home Tour.

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XO – CLAIRE