How to Overcome The Fear of Changing Careers

Changing careers and going back to school is tough, especially after a successful career in a different field. In my seven years since graduating college, I have done some really cool things: I worked for the Orange Bowl planning events for the teams, school administration and alumni, and worked at the bowl game; I got a Master’s degree; I managed student and community outreach, wrote all event scripts, and developed and managed the game-day marketing experience for University of San Francisco Athletics for all sports events; and I planned four major fundraising galas (raising $3.2M) and a variety of other smaller events for Jewish Family and Children’s Services, a non-profit organization. I have had success in events and in marketing and I had opportunities to continue in my career, but yet I felt it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Many people at some point in their career experience the same feeling that I had. They aren’t necessarily happy in their career and don’t think they want to do it for the rest of their life. When people have had success it is very hard to make a change and start over. But sometimes starting over and even starting at the bottom is not a bad thing. In fact, it can be energizing!

Last September was when I decided to actively do something about making a career change; I began to look at Web Development courses. The career change made sense to me. I love to create new things and experiences and have been building things since I was 3 years old, but just on different levels. In my professional career I was creating and building events, and I loved the process of working and collaborating on something and then seeing it come to fruition. I am also good with computers. I knew that my skills and experiences would be right for coding. I searched for intro classes and signed up for Galvanize’s 8-week intro to JavaScript.

Walking into class the first day, I was nervous. My palms were sweating and when I introduced myself I could barely put two words together. During the first class the teacher explained what the Command Line, GitHub, and Stack Overflow were and showed some basic JavaScript. I left class thinking, “What did I sign up for? Am I actually making a good decision?” Seven months later I can say with definite certainty, “Yes!” As the class went on and we dove deeper into the basics of JavaScript I realized this is what I want to do.

Quitting my job was the hardest and scariest part. I left a comfortable job with lots of job security and great co-workers to basically start over in my career in a field that was new to me. I remember walking out of my old job on the last day thinking, “Ok, the training wheels of life have come off now.” When I told friends I was leaving to go back to school, I got some weird looks and some questions like, “Why are you starting over?” or “Aren’t you nervous that you are too old to switch careers?”

For anyone uncertain about changing careers, being able to draw from previous experiences even if they seem unrelated is the key. Being able to connect the previous struggles in an old job or career that led to successes will be key in changing. One very important point to remember in changing is that just because there is a career change doesn’t mean that someone had an unsuccessful career or that someone was a failure. The change represents someone wanting to grow and become more well-rounded and follow a new passion, not trying something new because the old was not successful.

In January 2017 I started Galvanize’s 6-month Web Development program. While there were some nerves, I walked in more confident and knowing I was going to succeed. I knew that based on my previous successes that I could get through the program and be successful. Fifteen weeks in, I am still confident despite some bumps along the way. Every time there is something new and challenging and I feel like I am banging my head against the wall, I take a deep breath and think about my past successes. I did not know anything about fundraising or galas when I started at JFCS, but I figured it out. When I started writing game scripts and managing the game-day experience at USF basketball games (USF’s biggest athletic events) I didn’t have experience, but I figured it out.

In six short weeks, I will officially be starting over with brand new skills ready to enter the workforce just like I did seven years ago when I graduated from college. I feel more prepared now to have an even more successful career than I did then. I know I made the right decision and I am excited about the opportunity and the future!

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