by Kate Vandeveld

When you're finished changing, you're finished. - Benjamin Franklin

As we go through life, our passions and aspirations evolve. If you find yourself in a career that doesn’t fulfill you, you’re in luck – staying in the same job for an extended time period is no longer the “norm.” In fact, these days, 91 percent of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years.

Regardless, leaving a secure job for new career territory can be really scary, and at times, difficult. Even if you have a solid skillset and a strong sense as to what you’re interested in, you often need experience and connections to break into a new industry and beat out the competition.

But just because you don’t have those things off the bat doesn’t mean you can’t get them. So before you resign yourself to staying the course, we have some advice based on our personal experiences in making career transitions:

Volunteer your time.

When you’re starting out in the direction of a new career, it’s best to first focus on gaining some relevant experience.  And when you’re brand new to an industry, the best way to get that experience is often through volunteering your skills and time. Here’s how to go about it: Find an organization that is doing work that you care about in the field you’re interested in, and reach out to see how you might be able to use your particular skillset to further their mission. You may be surprised to learn that many organizations are under-resourced and therefore very grateful for a dedicated and skilled volunteer.  Before you get started, check out these tips for being a good volunteer – they’re spot on.


Don’t be afraid of networking...

For many, the word “networking,” is cringe inducing. Do you picture a bunch of professionals in a room wearing business casual clothes, making small talk, and trying to decide on the least awkward moment to slip each other their business cards? We certainly used to. But now, after many years of formal and informal networking, we’ve come to find that those elements only accompany bad networking events, not all of them. And in fact, networking is just an opportunity to connect with cool people who you may not have ordinarily had the chance to meet. If you can, try to seek out events where you may be able to connect with people with similar interests, like your co-working space or a group for small business owners or entrepreneurs. Much of the time, the hardest part is just getting there in the first place.


….but be yourself when you do it.

We recently attended a speed-mentoring event hosted by Forth Chicago, an incredible organization that creates intentional events bringing people together to support each other in business and share ideas. At this particular event, a number of brilliant and inspiring women offered advice to other women who are looking to start their own businesses or begin on a new career path. One of the women we connected with noted that, when it comes down to it, your personality is your best networking tool. Be nice, speak confidently about your abilities, truly listen to what people are saying to you, ask questions. Be yourself, and like-minded people will gravitate toward you.


Be open and say yes (to a certain extent, at least).

Let us start by saying that we’ve spent some time talking about the importance of setting personal limits for the sake of your productivity and mental health, and we’re not taking that back. But when you’re first starting out on a new career path, it’s not a bad idea to be as open to new experiences and opportunities as possible. This is a moment when saying yes to an event might mean you meet a person who changes the game for you, or accepting a project ends up being a resume builder that opens up big doors. Keep your boundaries in place – they’re there for a reason – but try to be as open to opportunities as you possibly can within those boundaries.


Refine your digital presence.

When you’re breaking into a new career path, your online persona matters. Create a simple website, through Squarespace or Wordpress, and make sure you include information about yourself, your background, and the services you provide. Speak in a voice that is true to your personality. Scan your social profiles, and make sure that the images you use convey who you are. Share your website on your social profiles, so it’s easy for personal connections to learn more about your work. We can’t tell you how many connections we’ve made through social media that have led to interesting and exciting projects. Refining your digital presence doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking – just take a little time to review and make sure you’re portraying yourself in the way you want to be portrayed.


So get out there, be yourself (in person and online), and work hard (sometimes for free, to start). When you’re actively pursuing good things, for yourself and for the world, you’ll likely see good results in return. We wish you the best of luck and are here to help, if we can!

Do you have another piece of advice that you think would help someone who’s considering a career change? Share with us, and we’ll spread the word: