Beautiful people, I have struggled with this career issue for years. When I was younger, my mom asked me what I wanted to become, I told her Janet Jackson’s backup dancer. After she stared at me for a few minutes, she told me, “I didn’t come all the way from Nigeria for my child to aspire to dance behind someone, you don’t even want to dance in front of the person, you want to dance behind.” It was at that moment that my interest in entertainment appeared bleak. So when I entered high school and started seriously looking into my career path, I started to focus on Nigerian approved careers. The ones that Nigerian parents strongly encourage their children to become: doctor, lawyer, pharmacist, engineer, nurse, accountant and any variation of such. These are the quintessential careers that allow our parents to brag and believe that their migration to the States was worth it just because of the “Title.” I wanted a career I could grow to “like,” while also pleasing my parents. I finally decided on Law, after Advertising was shut down too.
However, times are changing. Values are shifting and professional school loans can be drowning. These days there are more options and need I say better options for career choices that would not only pay us a higher salary (hello Chief Technology Officer at a Startup), but also have potential to be more fulfilling.
Some of us, like myself, pursued these traditional Nigerian new money careers expecting to be set for life while pleasing the parents, only to discover that you had a burning desire to explore more creative, untraditional fields to get a taste of the other side. But often times, transitioning out of a career into another can be a challenge. Especially, when you lack the necessary skills and confidence. I was able to transition into working in the wedding industry as a Creative Assistant, Wedding Blogger, Event Designer and a Marketing Manager. Although my exploration led me right back to law, I still appreciate my creative experiences. Because I have a better perspective on what I am called to do. Here are ways you can explore to discover what career path you are truly meant to follow.
1. Take Side Courses
As you side hustle for your next move, take side courses in the process. While I was still working my 9-5, I took an evening course on Graphic Design at General Assembly and signed up for online tutorials at Lynda.com to enhance my skills. I also enrolled in a six-week Digital Marketing class on Coursera to increase my Marketing knowledge. There are so many ways to improve the skills you need to transition into another field. You can enroll in online classes, community college classes, get a second Masters and so forth to build the skills and the confidence you need to interview for another position.
2. Don’t Sleep on Youtube (or Google)
Youtube University, as I like to call it, has been a game changer for me. If I am having difficulty learning how to do something technical, I just search what I’m looking for on Youtube and watch as many videos as I can until I understand what I’m supposed to do. This has helped me confidently take on creative challenges like building a balloon arch for a party or learning how to build a WordPress website without any code.
Google is another gem for our times. Don’t sleep on it. It seems like almost anything can be researched and Google can help you find what you need to know. I’m constantly asking Google a question for more knowledge or further understanding. Knowledge is truly power.
3. Subscribe To Publications
Part of transitioning into a field is knowing the key players and companies within that field. I used to be obsessed with fashion and wedding magazines and blogs. I knew the who’s who of the industry just by reading through magazines and top blogs. So when I was looking for opportunities to work in both the fashion and wedding industry, I used the publications I practically studied to search for ways to get in. I got a position with Christian Louboutin as a Legal and PR Intern, because I saw a job posting on a fashion industry blog and contacted them. It originally was just a PR position, but the Communications Director liked that I was an out-of-the-box candidate (a law student at the time) and offered to have me monitor their brand for trademark violations to capitalize on my legal knowledge. It was a win-win all because I followed a blog.
4. Become A Professional Intern
Most internships are looking for college students, but that doesn’t mean they won’t take professionals who are already working. There are some companies that will entertain professionals who are looking to increase their knowledge and to get their foot in the door. Some of the best learning experiences happen when you’re not getting paid for it. Because there is more freedom to explore and take on challenges that don’t fit neatly within your prior experience. Psychologically, people are more forgiving with you making mistakes when they know they aren’t paying you to perform the task.
One thing to remember though is to stay humble while you’re learning. You may be a finance manager in your current career, but you’re not in this digital marketing internship. Become friendly with the college students who are interning for school credit, get your intern supervisor coffee, come early and leave late; essentially, realize why you’re interning in the first place and do what it takes to be considered for a permanent position.
5. Manage Your Time Well
When you’re looking to transition out of a career, you’re going to have to use your free time to accomplish your goals. Most people can’t just quit and sacrifice six months of pay to explore at an internship or any new endeavor, so one has to be diligent with realizing that time is one of the highest commodities to success. There are sacrifices that have to be made in order to achieve your goals. Part of that is missing movie nights and brunch Sundays, so you can utilize that time to research, intern and network within your prospective career. I constantly struggle with managing my time and some days are better than others. But I also try to put everything into perspective. If I am constantly working towards checking off at least one item daily on my strategic list, I’m still moving towards the big picture. The tortoise finishes the race, too.