If you’re unhappy with your current company or career trajectory, you’re not alone. 20% of Americans have changed careers since 2020; 46% of Americans are seriously considering one. In the past two years, more and more people are choosing to take back their life as they recognize their own worth and choose to resign.
The thought of making a career shift can feel scary. Resigning from your job—or your entire career—doesn’t have to be difficult or full of regret. In fact, it can be a good thing.
Shenae Simmons, Technical Support Engineer at Plaid and GA Alumna, sat down with us, to share her story of leaving an industry and creating a new path. Keep reading to get the highlights of that conversation.
How to know when to pivot (hint: you won’t)
Every time I considered a career change, I would take a career test and get the same list of answers: writer, chef, FBI agent. One career path that always stood out to me, though, was web development.
I worked in the restaurant industry for years and never considered web development a viable career for me. When I realized how burned out I was with my work and my desire for a more flexible schedule that didn’t require me to work nights, weekends, and holidays grew, I knew I needed to explore other career options. When I started attending workshops and happy hours sponsored by web development groups and companies, I could finally imagine doing something outside the hospitality environment I had been in for so long. As I networked at these events, I noticed that these web developers looked happy.
I started practicing the skills I was learning and would look at other websites and attempt to recreate them. I then enrolled in HTML courses at a local community college and participated in hackathons hosted by companies recruiting for web development positions. When I was eventually let go from my restaurant management job, I took that as an opportunity to use my new skills to pivot into a new career.
“If you are waiting until you know for sure when it’s time to leave your job, you may never leave.”
Most people don’t know that they make the right decisions until after they make those decisions. It’s a risk, to be sure. But, most good things come with some risk. The path to my career in web development was not a walk in the park. It was full of temping, learning, trying, and failing before there were signs of success.
Identify the through line
It surprised me to discover that there were a lot of parallels between my hospitality and restaurant experience and my new tech career. This is true for most careers—how you do the work is the same, it’s what you do that differs.
When I worked in hospitality, our workflow process looked like this: You’d go to the table, talk to the customers, inform them of the specials and what’s on the menu, take their order, deliver their food, and take payment.
In my tech job, our workflow process looks like this: You talk to a customer, you tell them about your product and how it can solve a problem, they give you feedback and payment, and you take that payment. It’s the same process.
“It’s harder to teach the soft skills than to teach the hard skills. Soft skills come from life experience.”
Don’t underestimate your soft skills. No matter what you’ve done in your life, nothing is a waste. Life experience is all relevant, especially your soft skills. You just have to know what they are and understand how they can be valuable in your new or desired career. Career coaches, courses, and platforms like GA can help you identify these transferable skills.
Negotiate and network
It’s hard to understate the value of your negotiating power when you’re interviewing at a company. The bottom line is this: if they give you an offer, they want you. You have the upper hand.
It can feel intimidating to negotiate as you enter a new industry, which is why you must go into the conversation prepared and informed. When I was in the interview for my first job in web development, I looked on Glassdoor for starting salaries and salary ranges so I had a baseline. I was also transparent that I was interviewing with their competitors. This helped me to establish credibility and demonstrated that I knew what I wasn’t entering the industry naive—I knew what I was talking about. I’m competitive, and my salary should be too.
“If they give you an offer, they will not rescind the offer. And if they do, they’re assholes. You don’t want to work for assholes, anyway.”
Imposter syndrome can seriously affect your negotiating power. But, there’s more to a new career than new skills. There’s also a new network—take advantage of networking groups and begin meeting peers in your new industry to help you prepare to pivot. Industry colleagues and mentors can help you prepare for interviews and introduce others in their networks. This insider knowledge will help with your confidence and give you an advantage when negotiating.
Know what matters
Apply to companies whose principles and morals match your own. This should be non-negotiable. If you join a company in your desired career that doesn’t share your principles, you’re going to burn out again and quickly.
First, know what matters to you. Then, learn what matters to the company you are considering working for. During my job search, I would research the company, visit their website, and look for their beliefs and values. I would look at their web pages, blogs, and staff listings to see how many people of color were on there. I would click over to the human resources page to see if the company offered paid parental leave or childcare support. I may not be a parent, but these things let me know the company cares for all employees equally.
Courage is required
There will be low moments when you will doubt yourself and your decisions—in the beginning, especially. Imposter syndrome will rear its ugly head. Career change requires courage—courage to first be bad at something, but to keep learning until you become better and eventually great. Everyone who is good at anything must first be bad before they have developed the skills they need to be good.
Shifting careers, even the smallest amount, takes courage. When you are feeling discouraged, remember that it is simply a part of the journey to your next right thing.
There’s no one right path
Though many people seem to think otherwise, multiple career changes in one lifetime are normal. If you ask everyone on your team or in your industry how they got to their job, you’ll learn that everyone has a different path. There’s no one right path to any particular career or role.
It can be challenging when you look at job descriptions that require years of experience or specific skills that you don’t yet have. Don’t skip applying to those jobs because you don’t have every single skill or requirement listed. That’s not the point of the job description—the job description is to describe the ideal candidate, a wish list, so to speak. However, the ideal candidate may not be the best.
“Believe in yourself, advocate for yourself, and get comfortable with the unknown.”
- Don’t wait until you know for sure if it’s the right time to make a change. You may never know for sure. Just take action.
- Identify how to take your skills from your previous career and apply them to your new or desired career.
- Embrace your negotiation and networking powers.
- Don’t compromise on your morals and principles for any company.
- Low points and setbacks are simply part of the journey, not a reflection on you or your decisions.
- Recognize that having multiple careers is okay; it might even be desirable.
- If you pick the wrong job or career when you pivot, that’s okay—you can try again.
Interested in exploring a career in tech? Check out our online intro classes to test out your new career path.