Career Transition: Changing a Career – How I did It
January 6th, 2014; Posted in Career Counseling
I thought it was a cliché until I realized it was true. There are so many stories of the life changing experience, the moment you question whether the life you led is the life you want. Mine came in mid 2007 in a doctor’s office in the Texas Medical Center. Having just moved three months before from Los Angeles to Houston for my husband’s job when I had never lived anywhere but Los Angeles was complicated in itself. Yet, now I am in the doctors’ office hearing you have “garden variety breast cancer.” Initially, I was told my treatment would be short, lasting only 5 days but turned into six weeks of radiation, three months of chemotherapy, double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery.
Here I was in a town where I knew no one, no one knew me. I did the only thing I could do and be a good patient and do what I was told. A year later, having survived cancer and Hurricane Ike, my hair starting to grow back, the thought of returning to work preparing taxes in my career as an accountant was just completely unmotivating. Having survived a diagnosis no one wants to hear, a young family at home, the seemingly successful career on paper, everything came into question.
I will always remember my father telling me as a young girl to be an accountant “you are good with math and you can always find a job.” He was right. I graduated in Accounting from college and after a few small CPA firm jobs; I landed the job I always wanted at a “Big 8” accounting firm as a Tax Specialist for Ernst & Young. I had the young professional life, working in downtown Los Angeles, and at client sites like Warner Brothers or Amgen. Eventually I left and worked in private industry corporate tax departments at The Cheesecake Factory and Teledyne. I am CPA, with a Masters in Taxation, making money. I had everything every professional woman wants in a career. Yet after my diagnosis, none of it mattered.
The question manifested as a nagging sense of uneasiness, the thoughts of goals unfulfilled all went through my mind. But then with some clarity I came to the realization I really did have a second chance and so can anyone.
So here I am in Houston, my job as a professional patient is over and I am not working nor do I want to work in the way I was professionally trained and certified and in a city where I knew no one. LinkedIn wasn’t really popular yet. I didn’t know what to do but I knew I had to do something. I reviewed all of my previous positions, and wrote down what I liked and what I didn’t like. Specifically, I remembered mentoring the younger professionals and helping with resumes. So I thought to myself where can I find young people who need help with resumes.
Two months later, I was working as a Career Counselor at the University of Houston helping Business students with reviewing resumes, mock interviews and job search strategies. I was able to transfer the skills I had from my previous career into a completely new career path. Though I had the business background and experience with coaching others on their career path, I needed the counseling skills.
I had to think to myself I am 40 but I could be working over 30 more years and I didn’t see it happening as an accountant. I recognized I needed to invest in myself and applied to graduate school for a Masters in Counseling.
Fast forward three years, I finished the Masters program, passed the National Counselor Exam and now I am a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern (LPC Intern) specializing in Career Counseling. I took two online programs to be certified in administering and interpreting the Strong Interest Inventory and Meyers Briggs MBTI inventories because I see these two career assessments as helpful for clarifying what is needed and what is missing. These tools help to solidify, answer questions, and provide options for those who are considering a career transition.
There are many steps on the path of career transition. When you find yourself lost and looking for the next step in your life due to industry changes, economic downturns, children going off to college or you just aren’t passionate about what you are doing, you can re-evaluate where you are in these steps. The basic steps are self assessment – who am I , career exploration – what is out there?, decision making, setting career goals, implementing education requirements or job search strategies, enjoying success at work, or career life planning reevaluation and transition. If you need help finding where you are on the career exploration process or just need help getting started, I recommend you meet with a licensed career counselor who can guide you on this process of career transition.
Otherwise, it may just be that you need to try something different. I recommend taking the schedule of classes at your local community college and signing up for a class that you always thought about but never had the time. If there was a hobby you wanted to explore, research where you can take classes or try it out. I had always wanted to learn to knit but was intimidated by those who made it look so easy. I moved past the fear and signed up for classes. It just takes a first step on your part.
Whether you have experienced any transition such as recent layoff, retirement, death in the family, or divorce, you need to start the process of rediscovering yourself. It all starts with you recognizing the aching or numbing sense of uncertainty or unfulfillment in your life and deciding it’s never too late to invest in reconnecting with yourself and what brings you pride and joy.
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