Saturday, April 30, 2011

Career Change Success Stories

Because I've been having trouble helping my clients change careers, I searched the Internet for career-change success stories to provide inspiration and ideas.

I could not find recent success stories but found more than 30 from a few years ago. There were some accomplished by very high achievers, for example, those with Harvard degrees, but I didn't feel those would be the most instructive.

The following career changes were accomplished by more typical people. For more pleasant reading, I've edited and paraphrased a bit and put the stories in the first person, but the facts and the author's name are as originally published.

I didn't learn anything that would help my career counseling. Instead, I'm struck at how important luck and persistence are and how irrelevant career counseling seems to be--not one of the 30+ stories mentioned that a career counselor was helpful.

R. Marie Taylor
(This well-written one is presented here virtually verbatim.)
"Come to California, you'll love it out here!" I begged my sister to leave Louisiana for good.

"I'll end up being homeless with my kids" she fretted.

But I told her that she would have a home as long as I had one. So she came, by bus, with three very young children, a bag full of groceries to eat on the trip, two gallons of fruit punch and $100 pinned inside her bra.

She had a high school diploma and almost no work experience. She'd left behind the small town that she'd lived in for most of her life.

She worked as a cashier at a discount store. Before she could go to work, she had to take the bus to the daycare center, then get back on the bus to get to and from work, before returning to the daycare center, to get back on the bus and head home.

Life was hard but she signed up to take night classes once a week and eventually earned a bachelors degree in business and a master's degree in business accounting.

Today she is in charge of the payroll department of a large company and is studying for the CPA exam this year.

This is the woman who once pawned her high school graduation ring to buy the uniform I needed to sing in the school choir, the one person in the world who would be there for me and I for her.

She changed her career path from one dead-end job to another and made her way into the professional ranks.

That's my sis! And I'm proud of her.

Nicole Williams
I had been a stay-at-home mom, no college, no real skills, just a little bit of office experience and some odd job experience here and there. Yet I got a job in a bank. It turned out the new manager just had his admin give her two weeks notice. He was still trying to figure out what do to, he was overwhelmed, needed to hire someone, and he must have liked something about me and so he gave me a try. Looking back, I still can't believe they hired me and paid me that much.

Pat Gray
I had done a little tech writing as part of my job at a computer hardware company. After 20 years, the job and the politics got to be a little too much, so I wrote my resume to stress my tech writing skill. I got a job for 25% more money and 75% less responsibility! And most of the contracts were just a few months so I was always learning new things and meeting new people. I worked from home, no commute--I loved being with my dogs all day. And I scheduled my own time so if the weather was nice, I could spend an hour or two gardening in the afternoon and do my work in the evening.

Drew Mitchell
I was sick of the corporate world and sent out applications from everything from small office work to hospice. Finally, an app I sent 6 months earlier that apparently got caught in the employer's spam filter paid off: I got a job as a substitute teacher working with the autistic. It's a year later and I'm still just a sub but have found my calling and I'm applying for autism jobs elsewhere. I'm optimistic I'll get one with that experience on my resume. And importantly, I found something I really like, something I never would have thought of.

Neil Dixon
I was sick of working in a tannery, burning cowhide into leather. So I went back to school to become an accountant. I got a job and after a year it was time for salary review. I had done well and they gave me a nice title but just a few percent raise, still a pittance. I quit and helped my brother with his window cleaning business. I was scared of heights but got to like it. More important, my brother was lazy and did poor marketing. I took over and now the business is thriving.

Julie T
After graduating college, I took a job working for my aunt's pharmaceutical company. Every time I complained of being overworked, she guilt-tripped me by saying my hiring was a gift and there were plenty more intelligent working applicants and with biology degree. I believed her. I was even subjected to janitorial duties from time to time. Finally, I started applying for jobs at other places and one of the jobs was in regulatory affairs. Because I had a little experience at that and he only had a few applicants, I was lucky enough to get hired. Three years later, I'm still there and very content.

1 comment:

ST said...

I won't comment on needing a career counselor or not, but I can say personally, I would never use a "headhunter" again (which are the anti-career counselors). The two jobs I got using headhunters lasted respectively 2 years, and then 2 months! The 3 jobs I got on my own lasted respectively 5 years, 8.5 years and 11+ years.

My career has flip-flopped between business analyst type to data processor type during these switches, which of course in their minds was a career change.


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