New year. Anyone aching to make a dramatic career change? From Account to Analytics, or agency to client-side, or even completely out of the industry? Will this be the year you do it?
This recent BBC News article outlines a five-year plan for making a significant career change. 5 YEARS. That sounds like an eternity to me, particularly if you’re feeling bored or horribly miscast in your current job. But the article assumes you’ll need to acquire new skills or credentials, possibly return to school or pursue certification coursework. It tempers blind enthusiasm with the practical realities of convincing employers you have transferable skills, or taking a pay cut to gain relevant experience. It’s worth a read, because a successful career change may not happen immediately. It didn’t with me.
Here’s my story.
After 8 years in Account Management, the dotcom boom and bust, and a series on agency jobs in NYC and San Francisco, I became enthralled by the idea of recruiting. We were in the midst of staffing several Account positions on our team and I was working closely with our in-house recruiter at G2. In hindsight, I should’ve looked to transition within the company. Given our hiring needs, they surely would’ve supported me, even if it met working both jobs for a short time.
Instead, I found a recruiting job thru an online posting and leapt fearlessly into an entirely different industry. This would be recruiting developers for large technology and finance companies. I agreed to a draw of $40K/year, a lot less than I was making as an Account person.
It was only a few days into the job when I realized I made a giant mistake. I thought I was joining a company that had an existing book of business and searches for me to work on, but instead I was expected to develop my own clients… by cold calling a list of prospects. If you remember the 2006 movie The Pursuit of Happyness about a homeless man turned stockbroker, it was kind of like that: Just keep dialing. Except Will Smith was much more resilient than I was. A week in, I was sobbing during lunch at the prospect of returning to the phones for another 5 hours. Worst, when I did manage to get someone’s attention, I had no idea what I was talking about.
After 3 weeks, I returned to my old job at G2, in a project capacity. I wasn’t giving up on recruiting, but it was clear that there were easier paths to get there. Over the next few months, I continued my search, interviewing for both Recruiting and Account Management roles. Finally, I found my way to a contingency search firm called Markinekt, serving digital agencies in New York. They had established clients and job descriptions I recognized. We spoke the same language and I thought I could be successful there. By coincidence, I received their job offer on the same day as a full-time Account Director role paying twice as much. Again, I dug in my heels and said yes to Markinekt. I was with them nearly 6 years, and learned everything about recruiting and running a small business from them.
In 2010, at the tail end of an exceptionally sh*tty economy and job market, I launched Nadexa Group. I had saved up about $65K, because I didn’t know how long it would take to get paid on my first few placements. And instead of putting my daughter Alexa in daycare, I worked the hours she slept.
It was lonely at first. People that promised to give me business didn’t or couldn’t. But within a few months, I signed two big clients, with no shortage of jobs for me to work on. I did everything for them, learning how to qualify candidates when I was unfamiliar with the skill set. Alexa went to daycare and I worked 12-14 hour days, pausing only to pick up the kids, feed them and put them to bed. The first year was an absolute blur, but even now, it was my most successful year to date because failure was not an option.
That’s my advice to all of you — those longing to make a career change or start their own business: Commit to it and accept failures as only temporary setbacks. Be realistic about the sacrifices you’ll need to make. And gracious to everybody who helps you along the way!