Inspiration: 5 Career Transition Success Stories

When you’re in college or trade school working on your major, your vision of life after school is pretty clear: you’ll get a job in your major and make a decent salary until you retire. However, in real life, it looks a lot more like Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” with surprise layoffs, changes of heart and new opportunities.

To give you an idea of how common (and surprising) career transitions can be, here’s a look at four unconventional transition stories. 

Editor to Marketing Specialist

This first one is mine, and then I’ll share some others. I’ve made several successful transitions in my career, but one of the most significant was from my position as an editor for a government contracting company to a marketing and content specialist at a marketing agency.

There was some overlap between these word-based careers, but I believe what made me stand out as an applicant was my blogging hobby. In my spare time I started a website and learned about grassroots social media marketing and blogging. When I went in for the interview I was able to share first-hand experience about how I maintain a social media calendar and editorial calendar as well as basics about search engine optimization. Investing my personal time in professional skills paid off.

Accountant to Personal Coach

Chrysta Bairre started her career in administration and bookkeeping. With continued hands-on training she became an Accounting Manager for an accounting services firm, providing high level accounting, forecasting and budgeting services.

After 20 years on the job she found herself  overworked, overwhelmed and overstressed. Her health was suffering and she realized she needed to make some significant changes in her life. She started a work-life balance blog to explore finding peace and happiness in her work and her life. Friends, family and co-workers started asking her for advice about work and life, and she gave it. People kept telling her, “You should do this for a living!” Eventually it sunk in that maybe she really could. That’s when she launched a full-time personal coaching business Live Love Work.  

“Look for ways to transfer your skills to a different career,” says Bairre. “For example, my skill of analyzing information and understanding complex systems helps me see the heart of the challenges my Confidence Coaching clients are facing so I can help them recognize and communicate their value in their work and their life. It’s never too late to live the life you desire, and have the career to match!”

Math Teacher to Food Blogger

Marla Sarris started her career as a seventh-grade math teacher. Six years later she realized it wasn’t the lifestyle for her, and she made the leap to food blogger and author of Pigskin Paleo,”  a recipe book of game-day Paleo snacks. She also took on work as a project manager for her husband’s web design business SPYR.

Speaking about her transition on Life After Teaching, Sarris said, “If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing… find a way to make that happen. Change is hard, and it takes a lot of work, but if you’re willing to put in the time and make a change for the better… then you can and should do it.”

Professional Dance Artist to Accountant and CEO

In a recent Simply Hired post, Mathew Heggem shared his career transition from dance artist and choreographer to accountant. Along the way he discovered several uncharacteristic similarities between dancing and performing and being a CEO.

“Discovering the overlap between the outputs of dance and accounting paved the way for me to effectively take on a CEO role.” said Heggem. “I choreograph the dynamics of my business to achieve a desired output and experience for my customer, and I work with the ‘dancers’ of my company to provide an experience that delivers not only meaningful and compliant financial systems but also a branded customer experience.”

Architect to Professional Chef

Chef Larry Keck wasn’t always a chef, though he has been involved in the restaurant industry since the age of 14. After earning a Bachelor’s in Arts in Architecture, he took a job as an architect. After six months he knew the career wasn’t a fit for him.

“Working chained to a desk didn’t feed my creative, people-loving side,” he said. “I knew the money would improve over time if I stuck with it, but I didn’t want to work every day at a job that I didn’t want to do.”

Stepping into the restaurant world as a chef, Keck knew he found the career he was supposed to have. “I’ve been doing this for 42 years, and for 35 of those years I haven’t had a ‘job.’ Every day is playtime. I come into the kitchen and create, play and build. Life is so short. Why waste it in a career that doesn’t feed you? Don’t find a job you can do and that’s that. Find a job that inspires you to do your best every single day.”

If you find yourself struggling with your current field of work or daydreaming about a new job, you might be on the verge of a career transition. Consider the advice from these successful transitioners and apply it to your situation to pursue the job you’re meant to have.