One of the problems of course is the young age that many people go to school. Students between the ages of 18 and 25 are a common sight on college campus, but at this age, your brain has only just finished developing (as of 25!) and so it’s entirely likely that the person you were when you started school is not the person you are when you finished. The other problem is that many programs are deep, but narrow: if you’re taking plumbing, then you’re learning about plumbing. If you are a doing a certificate in traffic flagging, then you’re learning traffic flagging. This, plus working in one field for a period of time, can lead you to feel blinkered and unable to see other possibilities, even while you really wish you could.
So, you’ve sunk six months, two years, four years, six years into training and maybe another year, three or five or ten into your career (or maybe only six months!) and realized that this is not for you. What can you do?
Expand Your Network!
We aren’t going to advocate that you up and quit your job because let’s face it, you probably have to put food on the table, clothes and a roof on, and probably pay off some debt. But what you can do is expand your network while you work and expand it beyond your workplace. Now’s the time to meet some brand-new people!
Look for people such as:
• Others who also want to go into a radically different career than what they have. Their energy will compound yours and you can all work together on your goals
• People who can introduce you to radically different fields through things like job shadowing
• People with their own diverse network you can tap into
We have touched on this a few times before, but it bears repeating: Employers hire people, not skills. Remember that if you build the connections with others, you’re more likely to get the job you want even without the formal education, than if you try to get the job through a resume alone.
Remember That You are More Than Your Education
Many of us fall into a trap when we get our degree or certificate in hand and that is the trap of thinking that we can only go for jobs that line up perfectly with that education. However, just about any program is going to give you more skills than the hard ones for the job. These could be skills such as:
• Writing (think essays, reports, surveys, papers, exams, etc.)
• Problem Solving
• Working in groups
• Digital literacy (working with things like internet browsers and Office 365)
• Following instructions
• Critical Thinking
School isn’t just about teaching you how to do a given job; a good program is also going to teach you soft skills and force you to flex your mental muscles in ways that may not have occurred to you before. These are things that are a of a huge benefit to employers and you do yourself a grave disservice by ignoring them when you do up your resume, cover letter and interviews.
Certainly, you’ve spent a great deal of time and energy pursuing one path. But there’s no reason to think that you didn’t pick up a few tricks along the way.
On this same note, don’t forget about other things you’ve done that have led to valuable job skills. These could be volunteer work, that first entry level position that you don’t want to think about, or hobbies that gave you access to these skills. The trick is to broaden your vision to include everything about yourself, not just your education.
Come at It Sideways
Sometimes you have to hit up a job that doesn’t line up with your training at a skewed angle. So, if you did your training in cooking and you’ve decided that becoming a cook is not for you, you can still use those skills to get your foot in the door of the company you do want to work for by trading your knowledge for their job mentoring, for example. Tied to the idea of using all of your skills to promote yourself, coming at a job through a side door gives you some more flexibility and you are seen as less risky.
Another way to look at this is to make yourself invaluable to a company in small ways. For example, you could volunteer your time and knowledge, consult, help with the social media end of things, or fill in whatever other tiny gaps there may be. Then when it comes time to hire, you’ve already positioned yourself as someone that would be sorely missed and already part of the team, making the transition easier.
It takes some creativity but coming at a job sideways also benefits you. You’ll learn more skills, get a feel for the company culture, and figure out if the new job is one you want without much of a commitment.
Discovering that the career you trained for isn’t the one you wanted after all may seem like a huge blow. After all, you’ve sunk time, money, and energy into it and to discover that it’s not for you after all is a setback. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Your education, previous experience, and everything else about you can be leveraged to help you find the job you do want. You may have to be more patient, creative, and willing to lean on others, but in the end, it can be done and it’s well worth the effort. Good luck and remember to keep your eyes open to new opportunities!