Game Change

Change the GameFive years ago, I decided to change careers. And I did it on a whim.

I’d been working as a journalist since I graduated college, and at the time, was in my 11th year as a reporter for a financial newspaper. I also had two young children at the time, and the last-minute deadlines, travel and overall stress of the job had become too much. It didn’t help that the newspaper industry was ailing, and I was starting to feel as though I was on a sinking ship. So when generous buyouts were offered, I discussed it with my husband and then quickly raised my hand. And just like that, I was unemployed.

After calming my mother down – “Who would walk away from a perfectly good job without a backup?!” – I immediately got to work on figuring out my next step. As a journalist, I had written about workplace issues and interviewed scores of individuals about the fear, doubt, depression and financial strain that often accompanies a job loss. I knew I had been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a stress-free career restart – and was extremely grateful. So I ignored suggestions to take a vacation or just relax and quickly identified a new career I wanted to pursue.

My strategy was totally unstructured. Before I left my old job, I had emailed all my sources and contacts, told them about my new career path and offered my services. I researched companies that sounded interesting, pursued leads and networked with a drive that hadn’t surfaced in years. I found job interviews therapeutic because until that point, I really hadn’t spent a lot of time ruminating over my career.

Fast forward to the present, and I’m happy I’ve had the opportunity to shake things up a bit. I’ve worked in a few different industries and had to get acclimated to completely different workplace cultures. It hasn’t always been easy – during the toughest moments on this new path, I would kick myself for leaving a comfortable position back in 2007. But then I’d remind myself that in today’s world of work, comfort is often illusionary, and my ongoing goal should be to continue to build my skills, stretch in new ways and make walking away five years ago worth it.

Have you ever changed careers? If so, what was your approach?