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Reflections: 6 Lessons I learned from Making a Career Switch in the U.S.

At the start of the new year we typically set goals. There is nothing wrong with doing that. Goals give us direction; they instill hope in us - and in a way – put us in the mindset to succeed.

This year, I did things differently.

I chose to go on a career retreat. I blocked off 4 hours in my calendar to reflect on my career over the last 4 years. This was particularly important because it was 4 years that was peppered with major changes and little time to slow down to reflect.

In those four years, I gave up a high-profile role managing internal communications for 13 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. I completed an MBA at one of the most quantitative business schools in the world (and no, I didn’t work with numbers before). I lived in two different cities – which are night and day in their characteristics.

Dallas known for its sweltering heat, finger-licking ribs and warm-hearted people and Rochester with its biting cold, months of snow and breathtaking scenes in the spring.

Above all, I made a complete 360 in my career in a new country with hardly any professional capital at the start. I moved from being a communications strategist to a talent developer – more specifically – a career coach.

It was not easy.

It took a lot of hope, resilience, curiosity and support to pursue what I loved.

Some of you might be going through a career switch right now, so I want to share the six major lessons I learned along the way.

Be clear on the why

Sometimes making a switch can be ill-conceived; it might be emotionally or financially driven. Before you do anything, get in tune with your inner self and listen to your gut. Why is this switch right for you at this moment? Evaluate the factors that are pushing you to leave and the ones that are pulling you to stay. Is the cost of staying greater than going? Be as honest as you can. Sometimes, you might find that you don’t need to switch careers – you may simply need to change your environment or even industry while you remain in the same field.

Come from a place of curiosity

Switching careers isn’t always easy. One of the biggest challenges I faced was my lack of information. I didn’t know all the answers. I was this person who liked to be reasonably clear on all my information before I committed to anything. This time, I had to rely on curiosity, asking lots and lots of questions and listening at an active level to get the information I wanted. My biggest suggestion here is approach every conversation or research as if it’s your first and only opportunity to learn something new. In fact, I landed my job as a coach, because I accepted an opportunity to connect with someone who had worked in executive recruiting, an area that I wasn’t considering.

Build a Board of Advisors

More often than not, you will find that you need anchors – people who can guide and support you when the transition becomes tough. I had four people – whom I built solid relationships with – supporting me during the transition. They helped me to see my blind-spots, picked me up after rejections – and opened their networks and wealth of knowledge to me.

Understand that ‘no’ sometimes means ‘not today’

I wasn’t used to rejection. It took a lot of Netflix binge-watching and Chinese food to digest this reality. However – the more I heard no – the better I became at realizing its nothing personal. It made me feel better when I realized that people who were way more seasoned in the field I was looking to get into were getting ‘no’ to. How you respond to that no is most important.

Mindset is everything (Failure = one step closer to success)

Overtime I learnt that every failing conversation or even lack of response from following up wasn’t a failure. It was an important learning to get better at what I was looking to do. Give yourself permission to reflect, pick yourself up when you fall and look for an opportunity in every misstep you make.

Reposition your personal brand

We often think that once we do a career switch we have to throw all our skills and expertise out the window. It’s important that you figure out how you can leverage what you already have and use that as your story. It would be helpful to work with a career coach or someone who has gone through a career transition to help you with this. You might find that what you already have brings a fresh perspective to the table or – in some cases – well-honed expertise for those a company or job that’s in its infant stage.

Making a career switch is a very big decision. Ensure that you understand why you want to switch and how you can leverage the skills and expertise you already have to support that transition.

It is a process that demands a great deal of resilience – so find time to reflect and connect with a small group of people who can support you through the process.

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