Loving Advice for First-Time Career Changers
14. October 2020 • By Natalia Schmid
I decided to become a dentist when I was 17, before I could even drink or drive, and way before my personality and true values had matured into the person I am today.
As you might be guessing, this didn’t work out very well. What started as gentle unhappiness turned into a restlessness that morphed into a near burn-out. At the age of 25, fearful but full of hope, I finally decided to quit and dive into an uncertain (but ultimately successful) career change.
This is the advice I wish I would have received back then.
Your grief is normal, embrace it.
Career change is not only about career; it is born from a fundamental shift in how you see yourself and the world around you.
When I began studying dentistry, my values were very different from what they are today. As a teenager, I believed that a large pay-check and professional security could solve almost any problem in the world.
By the time I was 25, my well-being had deteriorated so much that I could no longer uphold this belief. Letting go of this belief, however, meant letting go of a younger version of myself and the life that I had built around it, and this hurt like hell.
What I wish I would have known back then is that this pain was not only normal but necessary. It was a manifestation of my mind and body purging themselves from a belief system that no longer served me. From this purge, new space was created in which a new me was born.
Focus on the people who believe in you
By far the hardest part of my career change was letting go of relationships who either couldn’t or wouldn’t understand my process. They were too scared or too attached to their own narratives of what a successful career looks like to embrace my own change.
On the flip side, other people (some of whom I barely knew) reached out to me to express their support. This meant the world to me back then.
A career change can be a very scary time, and fear makes us focus on everything that can go wrong and forget what is already going well. My fear led me to focus on the people who could not support me instead of on those who believed in me and were cheering me on. It is by focusing on the latter, however, that we can fill up our tanks with the necessary energy to make it to the other side.
Believe in yourself
I am a born writer and communicator. Even though I suppressed this fact early on and had completely forgotten about it by the time I became a dentist, my skill and passion for writing and communicating had always been there, waiting for me to come back.
I believe that this is the case for everyone: We are all a unique combination of skills, values, and personality traits that make us the perfect match for the career of our dreams. There is no reason why we should spend our precious time on this Earth pretending to be an engineer when we, in fact, want to be a baker or a dentist when we, in fact, want to teach classes or write books. You are doing a disfavor to the world and to yourself in doing so.
When I quit dentistry, however, I believed that the only thing I was qualified to do was dentistry. However, all the skills I would ever need to move forward with my career and my life were already a part of me.
‘Don’t you worry child, heaven’s got a plan for you’
It was 2013 when when the famous song from Swedish House Mafia was blasting in the radio, becoming a reminder of my career change period and a symbol of a belief system I still uphold today.
Even though it is difficult to put into words and more spiritual than practical, it is nevertheless true: When you take a brave step in life, life will come and meet you half-way.
For me, quitting dentistry and stepping into the unknown was like making a gigantic announcement to life that I was ready for something better and more aligned with who I was.
Barely a month after I quit, a promising new opportunity in a different industry came my way. Luck? Hard work? Connections? All of those are true, but not the full story. This new job opportunity was life’s way of saying ‘thank you’ for having freed myself from a path that I was never meant to walk on.
Ready for a career change? Join The Career Change Masterclass starting March 5th, 2021, and shift from your current professional reality to the career you truly want to create.