Nov 5, 2007

On the Benefits of Changing Careers

Ten years ago, almost to this day, I was stuck in a franchised business that had suddenly taken what would become a fatal turn for the worse. The details are unimportant; an unfortuitous mix of new competitors, historically high merchandise costs, and some poor decisions on my part sent the business into what one associate of mine deemed "the spiral of death."

Yet for some years prior to my departure from the role of entrepreneur, I instinctively knew that I was in the wrong line of work. The process of devising new schemes to generate more revenue than the previous year was still interesting to me, but beyond the marketing aspects of my job I was bored.

Personnel, P&Ls, government inspectors, meeting payroll, mountains of paperwork: I lost my desire to run a business.

Or perhaps I never really had such a desire, and as I look back I think I was always a poor fit for the restaurant industry. Sure, I enjoyed food, and one meets all kinds of intriguing people in the food service business, but I was much more interested in history, languages, and literature than I was with operations manuals, sales reports, and accounting software.

With the encouragement of my wife, I returned to school at the beginning of this decade and I have not looked back since.

While I changed my major during my first year, I knew almost immediately that I had found my intellectual home in academia. I worked as a waiter at a high-end restaurant for a few years and delivered pizzas for another year to pay the bills, while concurrently gaining experience in a number of entry-level education positions. One of the proudest moments of my life occurred in 2003, when I was recommended by a professor as a writing tutor.

This was my first real job in academia, and I derived a significant amount of personal satisfaction helping fellow students improve their writing skills.

Since the time that I made the decision to change careers and return to school, I have been pleasantly surprised at the wide variety of employment opportunities that have opened up for me. My efforts to develop my latent writing skills have blossomed into opportunities to write for local, international, and academic periodicals, while I have simultaneously cultivated academic contacts at universities around the globe.

Yet I write these words not to boast of my modest successes, but rather to encourage readers who are unhappy in their current line of work to consider a career change. If a burnt out, thirty-something, 1980s college dropout like the old me can take the leap of faith to return to school, anyone can. Even if you are not quite sure what line of work will be satisfying, you can still spend a few years taking the university coursework requirements while you decide.

The most important benefit for me that accompanied my change of careers has been the knowledge that I am doing work tht I actually enjoy, rather than work that pays the bills. Take a moment today to write down three careers you think would be worth consideration, and then do some research to learn what you would need to do to accomplish this move.

You might be surprised just how close you are to a career that brings you greater satisfaction.


The Screaming Nutcase said...

Seconded by someone who started med school at 28....

MP said...

Hear hear from a law student who hopes he can make a career out of what he loves doing (as a minority of lawyers do)

Tim Higgins said...

If you are doing what you love Michael, it is never really work. Congratulations on finding your true calling, and thanks for offering up the inspiration for the rest of us to try to do so.

Continued success in your chosen field ...

kooz said...

History Mike, I found this post interesting.

I'm very discouraged about my prospects. I have an associates degree in Marketing and a bachelors degree in business management. After ten years of unfullfilling work in sales....I got into radio hoping to follow my "passion." Unfortunately, this particular passion doesn't even come close to providing for my family.

So now I face this fact. I know I have to get out of radio. I don't want to go back into sales. And, even if I had the money or desire to go to school...yet again...I don't even know what else I am interested in.

I've been interviewing with companies for marketing manager jobs, sales managers, etc...just to make good money again....but, I've found the potential employers are weary of my "career change" to radio and that I've been out of business for four years.

I guess I'm stuck at 35 years old.

Hooda Thunkit said...


Funny you should write about this now.

In ~ 203.5 hrs., my main goal will have been achieved.

And then, on to whatever suits my fancy and, oh yes, that Honey Do list.

And it is with that last sentence I have mixed emotions... ;-]