Graduation is just around the corner, which means many students are making career plans and fretting over life-changing choices.
After years of hard study, many graduates feel a pressure to succeed, while others are worried about the prospect of long-term unemployment. Leaving the comfort of college for the unpredictability of corporate life often overshadows the excitement of embarking on a new adventure.
To take a little weight off their shoulders, graduates should remind themselves that what they decide in this instant will in no way determine their entire future career path.
If there is one piece of career advice graduates should take to heart, it’s to embrace the benefits of change. Be brave enough to consider a career transition down the line. Don’t allow yourself to become one of the 52 percent of people who are unhappy at work.
To show you the power of career transition, I found three examples of ambitious professionals who had the courage to take a leap and shake up the course of their careers.
From Police Officer to Fitness Guru
Kim Scott’s life has changed significantly since she decided to overcome her career transitioning fears. For years, she studied and enforced law, first as a solicitor, then as a police officer. For four whole years, she struggled with the decision to make a change.
In February 2015, Scott took up running, but she found herself wanting some company. She sought support from her community, and the response was incredible. Scott was overwhelmed by how many women gathered to motivate one another. The sense of camaraderie and fulfillment gave Scott a lift, and something inside her clicked. Scott realized that with enough hard work, she could make the group grow and create a business doing what she loved.
“Leaving behind a career and a pension was a scary move,” Scott says. “I think I printed out and ripped up my resignation form at least ten times before finally taking the plunge.”
Scott started a small business in June 2015 at the age of 38 and named it These Girls Can Run. The aim was to help women become more active in a supportive, positive, and safe environment.
“Although I took a pay cut initially, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat,” Scott says. “Finally, I feel fulfilled, and I’m doing something I love. … This is the hardest I’ve ever worked, but the risk was absolutely worth it, and I’ve never looked back. I have two beautiful daughters who are my motivation, and I want to teach them to have the courage to follow their hearts while working hard.”
To all the soon-to-be graduates out there, Scott emphasizes the importance of authenticity and contentment: “Be brave! Happiness in your chosen career is so important. Listen to your inner voice. If you feel like you’re going down a path which doesn’t feel right, then don’t be afraid to make a change. I wish I’d had the courage to follow my heart sooner.”
From Community Health Worker to Freelance Hair and Makeup Artist
Sandra Cormack became dissatisfied with her career as a community health worker. The people she worked with were beginning to seriously affect her happiness, motivation, and well-being.
Like many people in her position, Cormack struggled on for a few years. She didn’t know how to change careers or what that transition would look like. What finally prompted her to take action was the realization that whatever the risk might be, nothing could be worse than her current situation.
Cormack started a business as a freelance hair and makeup artist. It provided her with a creative outlet, and she began to thrive in ways she had never experienced before. Since starting her company, Cormack has had a number of celebrity and corporate clients. She regularly works with international clients, is a published beauty writer, and has experience in creating and directing makeup and hair for fashion shows.
“It may be a cliché, but it is true that the most interesting people are those who don’t initially know what they want to do after completing their studies,” Cormack says. “If you end up in a career you’re not passionate about and you’re eager for a transition, just do it! If you don’t, you will always wonder. If it doesn’t work out or it isn’t for you, then you can plan another venture. Remember that you don’t always have to work for someone else. You can be your own boss, and you can be an entrepreneur. It can be scary leaping into the unknown, but it can also be the best thing you ever do!”
From Corporate Buyer to Virtual Agency CEO
Rebecca Newenham began her career as a corporate buyer, working in London for high-profile retail giants like Superdrug and Sainsbury’s. Successful though she was, Newenham wanted to find a way of working that allowed her greater flexibility and work/life balance. Knowing that there were many women out there who wanted the same thing, Newenham began researching various business ideas.
“I came to the conclusion that launching a virtual assistant business was the best solution,” she says. “I use all the networking skills I gained in my corporate career but in a completely different way, building something for myself and my family.”
Newenham set up Get Ahead VA in 2010. Get Ahead VA now supports hundreds of small and medium-sized enterprises and entrepreneurs across the country. Newenham runs the team of more than 30 virtual assistants, which includes many award-winning experts in their fields.
“Taking the risk to set up my own business was one of the best decisions I have ever made,” Newenham says.
To those cautious of change, Newenham has the following words of encouragement: “Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. Do your research up front, and then just get on with it. If things don’t turn out quite as you thought first time, don’t panic. Just think about how you could do it differently. Keep evolving until you get it right.”
One resounding message sent by all the people interviewed: “I would never go back.” They are all inspired and intrinsically satisfied with the career changes they have made. Although they might never go back, they might still go forward and make yet another seismic career change.
After all, we spend decades working. These years should be exciting, rewarding, and satisfying.
Ida Banek is the founder of GRIT International.