To recap: I studied psychology in undergrad, dabbled in social work, graduated from law school, passed the bar (even though I didn’t want to practice law), moved to NYC without a job, was unemployed for two months before landing a job in communications in commercial real estate, worked at a fashion brand for three years and now I’m managing corporate communications for the one of the best airlines out there.
Whew – are you still with me?
I’ve heard that a few of you are in the same boat. You went to school to study something, only to wonder how it will translate into the real world. Or you started down one career path, only to realize that your passion is something completely different. I’ve been there – multiple times, clearly. When you switch professional gears, the odds feel stacked against you, but it’s not as impossible as you might think.
When I graduated law school, I knew that I wanted to work in the fashion industry. That meant moving from Tucson, Arizona to New York City to be closer to the heart of it. That meant scouring the internet for any and every entry-level job that might take a chance on me (I probably applied to 30-40 positions). I looked both inside and outside of the fashion industry, knowing that I would have to start somewhere to develop the needed skills to make moves later down the road.
I ended up applying for an internship at a small marketing and communications firm in the commercial real estate industry. When they brought me in, they realized that I was overqualified to be an intern and offered me a role as Senior Account Executive. I have to admit, I really lucked out that someone took a chance on me. But it goes to show, that those kind of employers are out there. They’re the ones who know that the most valuable employees can come from all kinds of backgrounds and experiences.
After spending my first year busting my chops and cultivating real-world skills (like account management, event production and brand strategy), I started applying for the jobs in the fashion industry again. Although I was still relatively new to the professional world, it was a mixture of my current experience, my educational background and my blog that piqued the interest of a recruiter. I didn’t just lean on the work that I did over the past year, I shared the ups and downs of my entire journey. I didn’t just talk how I was passionate about fashion, I showed how it led to everything that I have done so far, including creating my own personal style blog. I spent three years managing internal communications for Ann Taylor and LOFT – an absolutely dream come true for me at the time.
After a while though, I realized I wanted to get out of fashion. It just wasn’t as fulfilling for me anymore and I was ready for my next step in professional growth. But before I made any moves, I knew I wanted to work for another company that I believed in and that I used in my own life (like Ann Taylor & LOFT were for me when I first applied).
With a few years of experience under my belt and no real rush to make moves, I could be more selective in which companies I applied for. When I saw a job posting for JetBlue, I knew that was the next big move for me. During my interview process, I was surprised at how many people didn’t come from airline backgrounds (although many did). I wasn’t asked to prove why I belonged in an industry that I had no experience in. Instead, we focused on how my skills and my professional journey thus far could help bring a new perspective to the company.
Just because you studied one thing in college doesn’t mean you can’t do something completely different in the real world. And just because you’re spent a few years in one career doesn’t mean you can’t switch gears in your next job. Changing industries sometimes involves a bit of luck, but it also takes a whole lot of tenacity. It requires that you believe in yourself – that you have the ability to apply your education, skills and/or experience in whatever you choose to do next.
If you have any specific career-related questions that you’d like to see me tackle, let me know in the comments section, DM me on Instagram or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.