Life Enrichment
Questions to Ask When Changing Career

Questions to Ask When Changing Career

Advice and tips to help your career makeover
By Taylor Arnold

If you’re ready to get more out of your job than just a paycheck, it may be time to consider a career makeover. But before you leave your current job to take on something new, it’s important to identify your professional goals and expectations. Consider the pros and cons of starting fresh and then decide on the best way to make your transition into your new career as smooth as possible.

What are the things that are important to you in a job?
Are you looking for more flexible hours? What are your salary requirements? Are you willing to relocate? Rate these things in order of importance so you can identify what matters most to you. When you know what you want in terms of compensation, flexibility and location, it is easier to see if your list of “must haves” and “non-negotiables” aligns with a new job.

How can you use your current skill set in your new venture?
Take your skills and leverage them – you may find you already have what you need to begin this new job. If you find you need to restructure your resume or brush up on your interview skills, talk to a career coach and see how you can present your skill set in the best way. Sometimes looking at your experience from a new perspective can shed light on some untapped skills you forgot you had.

Will you have to learn a new skill, and what is the cost of continuing your training or education?
If another four-year degree is required, ask yourself if you have the time and money to devote to it. Can you afford to go back to school full time, or would it make more sense to enroll in evening courses while maintaining your current job? Ultimately you must decide if the benefits of a new career outweigh the costs of continuing your education.

Are your expectations of this career realistic?
Do your research and learn all that you can about this new career and what you will need to land a job. Find a mentor who can give you insight into a particular field. They may be able to point you in the right direction and help you maximize your current skill set as you seek out new opportunities. If possible, try a job on for size by doing an internship or apprenticeship. Most importantly, network as much as possible to build professional relationships in your desired field.

What are the biggest obstacles in your path?
If you’re having trouble making your career move, identify the things that could be holding you back. Are you worried about taking a pay cut? Can you find the time and resources needed to update your skill set? Will the pursuit of a new career require more time away from family? These are important things to consider when you’re trying to decide if making a career move is really worth the hard work and sacrifice.

Switching careers is a big decision, and it is important to be clear about the benefits and drawbacks of making such a big change. You may find that your current job is a better fit than you thought, or you may decide that switching careers is the only way to feel more fulfilled. Either way, a career makeover is possible as long as you can commit to putting your talents to good use! 

Career Makeover: Dolores Henriqez

Dolores-HenriqezAs creator of Couture Recycle, Dolores Henriquez designs and sells T-shirts that allow people to express what they love and value. But before to launching her own company, she practiced construction, corporate and real estate law in Atlanta for nearly two decades.

After years of practicing law during the day and drawing T-shirt designs at night, Dolores decided to turn her passion into a full-time career. “The difference in the happiness and kindness levels of people who pursue their dreams and those who don’t is astounding to me,” she says. “It is a refreshing change to surround myself with people who define themselves by what they love.”

The idea to launch Couture Recycle came to Dolores three years ago. Inspired by her friend’s decision to donate his kidney to his father, she wanted to do something to promote organ donation. So she drew a design with a heart made of two arrows with “Recycle Life” on the front and “Be an organ donor” on the back. After she sold three dozen shirts, she decided to make more. She went on to produce over 100 different designs supporting a variety of causes and interests.

Dolores says she knows she chose the right career path when she hears about the positive impact her shirts have had on her customers.“I feel so amazingly lucky to have so many people approach me and tell me which shirt they bought and why they bought it,” she says. “One person bought the organ donor shirt and the motorcycle shirt from me. The following year, she came back to visit me and explained that one month before she bought those shirts, her brother had died in a motorcycle accident and his organs were used as transplant organs. She said that each time she wore one of the shirts, she healed a little more from the death of her brother.”

Career Makeover: Diane Ray Owens

Diane-Ray-OwensFor 13 years, Diane worked as a secretary and administrative assistant for CWA Local 3204, the labor union for AT&T. After being laid off in May 2010, she realized the demand for secretaries was rapidly disappearing and she needed to update her skill set to find employment in a new field. Today she is completing an online course to become a medical transcriptionist, in addition to working part-time as a receptionist for Ballroom Dance Clubs of Atlanta. 

Diane admits that facing unemployment was daunting. “I was letting failures dictate my life, but I realized that I was stronger than that,” she says. “There are opportunities out there. You just have to look hard for them.”

As a former certified court reporter, Diane felt that new voice recognition software would take over transcription in the legal industry, but she believed the new technology would not yet impact the medical field. So she signed up for a two-year online course to become a medical transcriptionist. Her part-time job allowed her the necessary money to pay the bills while she pursued this job.

After going through the process of starting a new career path, Diane encourages others seeking employment to talk to people and get their advice. “Don’t get discouraged,” she says. “Decide what you love to do on a daily basis and find a way to make that into a source of income. Seek advice from people who have been there before you and have figured it out. Don’t be afraid to ask how they did it.”

Career Makeover: Elana Washington 

elana-bembIn 2009, Elana Washington co-founded Beauty Escape Makeup Bar, a national pop-up salon in Atlanta that hosts RSVP-only events for female guests who are treated to makeovers, massages, cocktails and gift bags in an upscale venue. But before starting on this undertaking, she served as a sales account executive in the professional sports industry, obtained a Bachelor of Arts in marketing from McNeese State University and then briefly worked for a company that assisted people settling large tax debt.

Driven by the instability of her corporate career and the inconsistent job market, Elana decided to find a new career direction. “I wanted to take control of my ‘professional destiny’ and use my experience to build something that was my own,” she says. The unique idea of Beauty Escape came about during a conversation with a high school friend. Elana realized she could use her sales and event planning background in this venture. Her older sister, who has led many businesses, inspired her to put the idea into action. 

Although building a company has posed its challenges, Elana has no regrets about her decision to change jobs. She knew she made the best choice when companies began inquiring about partnerships and women started calling hoping to attend the events. “I appreciate watching this idea of mine grow over the years,” she says. “It has been a humbling and fulfilling experience.”