By now, most of you know my story. I was a big-firm lawyer for over 6 years, and now I am a full-time recipe developer and food blogger. As you can see, these careers are completely different and there is no overlap whatsoever.
And while I went through years of schooling to become a lawyer (and deep into debt with student loans), I became successful with my food blog with no formal education or skills at all. I just had passion, grit, consistency, and the confidence to make a leap. And I kept moving forward even though change and uncertainty. It was scary, but I did it anyway.
So what do you do when you realize that you chose the wrong career path and want to do something different?
Well, first things first, you don’t panic. I know you probably spent lots of time and money on formal training and education for your current career. I did. But, your skills and knowledge will never go to waste, even if you end up doing something totally different. Education and training is never wasted. In my case, although I am not practicing law, I am able to negotiate all of my own sponsorship agreements, effectively resolve any disputes with clients, and fully understand any and all terms I am agreeing to. Without my legal background, it would be much more difficult and contracts would be overwhelming and confusing. Catch my drift? Nothing is ever a waste.
Additionally, the average American changes careers 5-7 times in their lives. You don’t have to stick with the career choice you made when you first graduated from school. Most people don’t. As we grow, age, evolve, and define what it is that we love (and don’t love), our career choices should reflect that. And don’t let anyone tell you it’s too late to make a change. You can do anything you want, when you want to.
So let’s dive in. You’ve chosen the wrong career path, here are my suggestions for what to do next.
First things first, you need to look within and ask yourself whether it’s the actual career you hate, or whether it’s the job. A lot of times, and I speak from experience, we don’t like our boss or the leadership team or the company itself, but we don’t actually hate the career. It’s just the job that needs a change.
For me, I wasn’t sure at first. I was practicing in big law, which is notorious for overworking young associates, essentially sucking the life out of them. So I tested out different size law firms, moving from big law to mid-size to boutique law firms. I also tried out different practice areas, from real estate law, to hospitality law, and finally employment law. What I learned from the experience is that I simply didn’t want to practice law at all. I was unfulfilled with the actual career choice; it wasn’t the job itself.
I’m not suggesting that it’s a good idea to job hop, but I think it’s worth noting that sometimes we need to do a little exploring before ruling out a career that you’ve invested a lot of time and money in.
Ok, so you’ve decided that it’s the career that needs a change, and not just the job. But now what? What do you want to do? When I ask this question to my friends who are still practicing law (and miserable), they always say “why does it matter, it’s not like I can turn that silly thing into a career.”
The reality is that you can. You might not have all of the nuts and bolts together about how you will get from point A to B, but that doesn’t matter. First you need to identify your passion, and then you work on how to go from A to B.
In my case, ever since I was a teenager, I had a passion for food and wellness. But, I was struggling with an eating disorder that I didn’t think I would ever overcome. I am also a smart and ambitious gal, and so I decided to go to law school as a “safe” choice, that I could pursue and become successful even with an eating disorder (or so I thought). And so, as I began to heal from the ED, that passion for food and wellness kept tugging at me.
And trust me, as I sat in therapy sessions working through my eating disorder and plotting my exit out of law, the only thing I was sure of was that I wanted to do something related to food and wellness, I just didn’t know what. And as a planner and someone who likes having a clear path from A to B, it was a tough pill to swallow that I simply needed to sit in between A and B, for a long while.
So again – you don’t have to have all of the details of your ideal career defined. You just need to have some kind of idea of what would bring you more joy inside and start inching towards that.
If you are one of the lucky people that know what direction you would like to go next, that’s great. This step is crucial for you too. You need to find people that are doing what you want to do, and talk with them. Maybe you can even shadow them. Ask questions. This will give you insight into what it is that they do on a daily basis, and help you assess whether it’s something you want to do too.
And if you don’t know what direction you want to go next, that’s ok too! This step will also help you greatly. Find people working in careers that you think you might be interested in. Talk with them, shadow them, and draw your own conclusions. Can you see yourself doing what they do?
Now that you’ve figured out what you want to do with your career (YAY!), it’s time to begin learning the skills so that you can pursue it. Want a job in social media? Well, first things first, set up your social media accounts, start posting, and spend your free time learning the ins and outs of social media. Read books, articles, anything you can get your hands on, because unless you start your own business, you will be interviewing, and you need to become knowledgeable.
In my case, I was still practicing law when I started my Instagram account. At the time, it was a hobby. But then it became my passion. Because it wasn’t generating revenue, which meant that I needed to continue practicing law, while I learned how to grow a following, refine my skills, learn how to write captions, etc. And this brings me to my next point, it’s rare that anyone ever goes cold turkey, quitting one job and into another. I couldn’t do that because I needed the income from law to support my family. So work on your side hustle and learn, while you have your current job.
Even if your desired career seems to have nothing in common with your current career, you need to find some transferable skills. And if you think hard enough, you can find something. That something is going to be your golden ticket in interviews as you sell yourself to the interviewer as to why you can do the job.
Although I went from practicing law to self-employed, my skills as a lawyer help me every single day. As I mentioned above, although I post pretty pictures on Instagram and develop recipes, behind the scenes, I am able to generate my own business deals and negotiate my own contracts, with no outside involvement. I think that’s pretty cool!
Suppose you are a graphic designer who wants to become a chef. What do these two careers have in common? Nothing. But you can definitely draw parallels between the two and make a connection to why a graphic designer would be a successful chef. The designer is detail oriented, organized, and able to think outside of the box. Those traits would serve any chef well, as a chef needs to be all of those things as well, albeit in the kitchen and not behind a computer screen.
I hope this post provides some good insight and tips to help guide you on your career journey! Be sure to leave a comment below and let me know what you think!