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Switching Careers + Finding The Courage To Do So: My Story

So many people out there in the working world are dispassionate about their careers, feeling like they’ve chosen the wrong path and are now…


So many people out there in the working world are dispassionate about their careers, feeling like they’ve chosen the wrong path and are now stuck. But they’re too scared to change and are doubtful in the first place if switching careers and wasting their years of investment would be the right thing to do. So how do you know if you should be switching careers?

Is there something that you’ve always longed to do but have been too scared to take the plunge? Is this other thing something you’d do even for free? Evaluate your skills and talents and ask yourself if it is possible to make the change. I have a feeling it is.

In “Women Who Don’t Wait In Line Break the Mold,” author Reshma Saujani (Harvard / Yale alum and former attorney turned New York Deputy Public Advocate turned founder of the nonprofit, “Girls Who Code”) gives us a check list of how to know if our current job or career isn’t for us:

  1. Losing passion for your job or realizing you were never passionate about it in the first place.
  2. If you start to realize the financial, emotional and physical costs of your job aren’t worth it. (Think about whether you are suffering from burn out.)
  3. If regardless of how hard you work, you won’t ever be more than mediocre at your job.
  4. If you are intellectually stagnating and not being challenged or stimulated.

Women Who Don’t Wait in Line: Break the Mold, Lead the Way — by Reshma Saujani

Maybe you’re a high powered publicist — but the only thing that you care about is Crossfit and healthy eating and speaking to the world about it. Maybe you’re a corporate lawyer and hating the corporate greed and all the costs associated with it and now want to work in civil rights.

It’s not unusual. Sometimes — er, often, we get stuck in our careers. We’ve worked so hard for something — and then ‘arrive’ and then get hit with a, “this is it?” But switching careers is too scary of a thought because we all feel as though we’ve worked so hard to get where we are that it isn’t worth wasting the former years.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer, an artist, an athlete. Something that would enable me to flow creativity through my body — whether through my limbs, words, choices. To express myself on a platform. As a doctor’s daughter and as a Korean — that wasn’t accepted, encouraged, supported. I was set on a path to become a doctor, a lawyer, a ….well that sums up my options.

When I was around 11 years old, the dad of one of my best friends was the manager to Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson. Another friend’s dad was a huge entertainment attorney. Bingo. A happy medium. A happy marriage of the business world and the arts. A smart way to appease the parents but stay in the creative, art world, right?

I busted my butt in high school to get into Berkeley — then for the years that followed (in college and later law school), I continued to stay conscientious and on a mission. I was going to become an entertainment attorney or a manager — what I was set out to do since the age of 11.

But then I got there. The place I was striving for. Sitting in my office as an attorney with an assistant screening my calls. My parents were proud while I was miserable and with IBS. I felt like I didn’t work so hard through all my years of education to feel like this. I wasn’t inspired. I wasn’t happy. I had Sunday night jitters. I didn’t give a sh*t about [insert rude artist’s name here]’ royalties or percentages — and hated that I was sweating over details I didn’t care about with some belligerent attorney repping the other side.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like the people I was working with at my company. I did and I loved my bosses. But if you’re not into the content of what you’re doing and if you’re dealing with extremely unpleasant people on the other side of the negotiations — there is no purpose.

If you’re feeling this way. Then get out.

I started my career over. And you can too.

I don’t care if you’re 30, 40, 50, 60 or 70 years old — or just out of your arduous years of medical school. I had medical doctors in my law school class who were in their mid 40s and wanted to switch careers — and I know lawyers that have go onto writing, acting, etc. I know the head of a music label and publishing company that went through the Ivies, became an attorney, hated it, became an assistant at a music company and is now running the music field. Needless to say, his hard work and ‘regression’ was proven worthwhile. Switching careers and starting over is why he’s surging in the industry today. I give it a few years until he’s CEO.

I know of former architects, pediatricians and attorneys who decided to quit their day jobs to become full time moms/dads. And vice versa.

I know a former Korean American attorney who quit her job and took a leap of faith — and then became Editor in Chief of an award winning national publication. Today, she’s a successful blogger and world traveler.

Then there’s a childhood friend who’s a law school grad turned Fox distribution exec turned co-owner / creative executive of our nation’s top hand made, eco-friendly and gorgeously crafted FORTRESS OF INCA shoe and boot line (sold at Anthropologie, Free People and their website).

And last but not least, there’s my friend Deb who was a recent law school grad who just passed the bar — who grew overwhelmed with career regrets. She moved from LA and headed to New York and became an intern at Vogue — the lowest on the totem pole. Today she is one of the hottest stylists in the industry fashioning clients at Conde Naste (Vanity Fair, W) amongst many others.

Your possibilities are endless.


You’re not going to fly through the skies in your career if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing. So start it over and don’t be scared. It’s not a waste of your previous years and efforts — as every single experience contributes to your new one. Think of it as grad school.

After practicing law and having an assistant, I took a step down…or many steps down..and became an assistant. And then a personal assistant. And then started rising in the ranks again. I utilize my legal background every day in my current job (which I love and where I’ve been for almost 9 years) — and I get to listen to music everyday, all day working for television shows at one of the major studios. Now THIS is the perfect marriage. Utilizing my negotiation and organizational skills acquired from being an attorney — and combining those skills with my love for television and music. I love my job today and the career path I’m on.

More important than that is it gives me the time and lifestyle to be a committed mom, practice taekwondo and write before I head off to work. (Writing, blogging and taekwondo / health / wellness are my other loves and obsessions.) Lifestyle (and not just financial reward) is the biggest bonus package to a job. Ask yourself if you’re still able to do the things in life you love — stuff that’s outside of your job.

You just new a few things to make the switch.

  1. BALLS: Find your cojones and don’t worry about what anyone thinks. I don’t care about your age or your years of schooling.
  2. TIME: You’re not going to be working full time in your current career and then trying the new career full time on the side. There’s no time for that. You’d be physically and emotionally drained — and besides, normal business working hours are 8–6ish. So manage your time wisely. Instead of going for drinks or dinner after work, take an extension class and learn about the field that’s of interest to you. Take a course online and study it at 6am before you get to work. See if there are volunteer opportunities and work during lunch, after work, etc. If your mission is finishing up that novel, then get up early and stay up late. It’s all doable.
  3. FINANCES: In the same way time is always a deficit, so is money. If you take the leap and switch careers and need to start at a place that’s a lot less lucrative, still do it. Money can’t buy you happiness — so downgrade your car or apartment, your clothes, your eating rituals. You don’t need to go to the movies or shows or out to eat for a while if the big picture is something grand. Delayed gratification so to speak.
  4. LINKEDIN: This is underused. Everyone remembers being in a position of feeling lost. So research someone who’s in the field you want to be in, someone whose career you want to emulate. And then reach out and see if they’ll do an informational phone call. Asking for coffee or lunch may be too much sometimes because people are busy and then they may not respond at all.

You can do it. Yes, switching careers is scary and takes balls. But the last thing you want is to be on your deathbed and realize that life passed you by. You don’t want to be 90 and thinking, “Man! If I just changed careers when I was 30 and was a partner at my law firm, then I wouldn’t have been miserable over these past 60 years.”

Your move doesn’t have to be sudden or dramatic. But you just have to motivate and move.

Move an inch. Make a phone call. Read books. Take extension classes or classes online. Volunteer. Make the leap if you’ve worked so hard to be where you are — and you just ain’t feeling it. Life’s too short.


Originally published at elainesir.com on August 14, 2016.

Originally published at medium.com

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