Q: How do I know if a career change is right for me?

4 min

If you’re not doing what you love…what are you doing? A career change is totally acceptable: any age, any time. Go get ’em girl!

Dear Ellie,

I am not working in a field that I want currently and want to become a counselor.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a therapist, but never pursued it, but now I feel the desire to do so.

I spent some time looking up what I would need and that entails going back to school (my degrees aren’t related).

It just seems so overwhelming. It’s expensive, I’m 30, etc. How do I know this is the right thing to do for me?

~ Proactive Pam from Pennsylvania

Lauren, today’s Dear Ellie columnist, breaks it down for us:

Dear Go-Getter,

First of all, congrats on taking the first step in moving towards your passion; identifying it.

It may seem like a small step, but it can be one of the hardest. So if you haven’t give yourself a mental high five, please do so now!

Changing your career can be daunting and lead to a term that I like to refer to as ‘spinning’. I define spinning as the aftermath of expressing a new desire inside your head. Your ego barges in and starts putting the breaks on with fear and ‘what ifs’.

Just remember, the ego likes the same-old-same-old. Comfort and the ordinary make the ego very happy. As a career changer myself, I am very familiar with spinning, and I can tell you, that it doesn’t serve you; it only holds you back.

You are 30, and I think this is an excellent time for a change. I believe that in your 30’s you become more confident about who you are and what you want. Would it have been picture-perfect to pursue this dream in your 20’s? Perhaps. But would you have the insight as you do now to offer clients? Doubtful.

I would think of being older and wiser as an advantage in the field of counseling. You weren’t ready when you were younger, but you are now. So you should have no regrets about timing.

Before you start down the education route, why not give this idea a test run? Many of us see a career from an outsider’s lens and can be either more enthused or disillusioned with reality. What does this mean? It’s time to talk to some people who are doing what you want to do.

While going through my career transition, I read a book called Designing Your Life: How To Build A Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. I would highly recommend it and the workbook. Their advice is to connect and hold short informational interviews with people who are in the field. Reach out to several counselors and therapists through LinkedIn, e-mail, school systems, etc., and ask for help via a 15-20 minute phone conversation, treating them to coffee or Zoom session. In your outreach e-mail or message, mention why you want to pursue this dream.

Make sure your message is heartfelt but also concise, and specify why you want their advice? Do they work in a field that interests you? Are you impressed by their education or involvement in professional groups? Do a little digging and personalize the message.

I would reach out to 10-20 counselors and only expect a few answers. If you don’t hear back, try again, or reach out to a new batch. If you are genuine and prepared, most people will be willing to help. Don’t let the ego tell you that you are not getting responses because people don’t want to help.

Remember that everyone is busy. Patience and persistence is the name of the game.

When starting your information interviews, talk to a variety of people. Just remember, every career has its ups and downs; you are looking for one where the ups outweigh the downs. Also, I would try to interview counselors who are also career changers. With our virtual world, you no longer need to live close to someone to connect. If they can do it, why not you?

The next step that I would make is to schedule an appointment with a local community college and see what pre-requisites you may be able to knock out and transfer options. If you are worried about cost, this can be a very cost-efficient route and help outline a realistic timeline for achieving this dream.

If you need to work while you are in school, think of how you can cut down expenses and what side jobs you could work in that would allow you to have a flexible school schedule. Are there any part-time jobs that could also help you gain experience in the field or have access to other counselors? A part-time job as a receptionist at a counseling office could offer a way to pay the bills give you access to resources to build connections in your new field.

A career change that comes with additional education can be expensive, but what is the payoff? Research the average salary for a counselor and compare it to school costs (only after exploring college options and transfer credits). There are also programs like working for the government and non-profits that may pay less but pay off any school debt after a certain number of years. Stay flexible and open.

Know that things will happen to help you pay for it, but you must stay committed and see it through. It’s interesting what opportunities suddenly start appearing at your door when you start believing. Woo-woo or not, if it works, I’m all for it.

I’m not going to sugar coat this; working towards a new career will be challenging, but you will also be moving into a new and exciting world. Push the fear aside and take a few steps forward. If you come up against a roadblock, don’t move into the spin cycle.

Instead, take a deep breath, possibly even a walk, and know the answer will come to you. You are surrounded by people who want to help, like us, and you were brave enough to reach out and ask this question. What else are you brave enough to do?

Now let’s get started!

Hugs + Lashes,

Ellie + Lauren

Lauren Baxter

Lauren splits her time as an artist, writer, self-professed health and wellness junkie, and community builder. She is is most passionate about helping divorcees thrive and believe that great partnerships are still possible.


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