No Risk No Reward: Tips for a Career Change in Your 20s

Choices… Some of them are easy.  “Should I stay outside in the storm? Or should I find shelter?”  Some choices, on the other hand, are more challenging. “Should I get sprinkles or gummy bears on my ice cream?” …The struggle is real.

All jokes aside, the decision to make a career change isn’t the easiest.  Perhaps it was the crushing reality that a career in Ornamental Horticulture, while soul fulfilling, turns out to have a one in a million shot of paying the bills.  Perhaps the job you went to college for was outsourced or automated. Maybe you got a glimpse of how the sausage is made, and it left a bad taste in your mouth. Regardless of how you got here, the fact of the matter is that you’ve now arrived at a career change sooner than you would have liked.

There are risks involved in changing careers.  But, if you plan correctly, and set yourself up for success, you can come out on top in a better job with the ability to spend your time engaged in your day to day, not hiding from it.  Whether you are up against the wall to find a new career, on the fence and floating the idea around your head, or even committed to the idea, here is some advice to hold on to while making the transition.

The First Steps

First and foremost, you must set yourself up to make the change.  There are certain habits that successful people practice daily (I think I read that somewhere).  One of these is super helpful across your whole career, as well as during a change…Networking. By maintaining a diverse network of contacts, you can expand your reach into different areas of the job market.

Let’s say you are an accountant.  If you only interact and socialize with other accountants, your experiences are limited to just the accountant side of life.  If you are thinking about getting out of accounting, that monotony may also be contributing to your frustration. By having friends that work in diverse areas, especially ones that you have an interest in, you can have a mentor or at least someone to help you along the way.  Even more, they may be able to help you land a gig!

Take Some Time for Reflection

“And you may ask yourself, well how did I get here?” Knowing how you got to this place is just as important as knowing where you are going.  We can take the example of my friend… the Ornamental Horticulturist. It may have started when they were young. Igniting the passion for this art may have been the gift of a first bonsai tree…or the movie The Shining.  It depends on one’s childhood. From there it blossomed into a 15-year affair with shrubs. They even managed to score a spot at the best school in the country. But the reality of that job is harsh… as are all artistic jobs.  The winters are lean, there are cutbacks in landscaping budgets, and relocating to all year shrub weather was not an option.

So now we can reflect.  “I probably should have taken a better look at the reality of that career.”  “Did anyone try to clue me in?” “Was I blinded by passion?” “Did the industry change?”  Etc. You will be surprised at what you can take away to apply to the next career choice.

The Next Career Choice

Picking the next career can be daunting as well.  So, I will pass along some of the best advice I have ever received.  When avoidable, do not start over. Take what you have and build on that.  

Let us go back to our Horticulture friend.  Sure, no one is lining up to have their bushes shaped into the Seven Dwarfs, but that doesn’t mean you need to abandon that skillset and become an airplane pilot.  Take the knowledge of your industry and apply it to another field. With all that plant knowledge one could become a head groundskeeper at a golf course, a flower shop owner, landscaper, grow… medical things depending on where you live.  Just be a little creative. But above all, keep the skill set you earned. Once you identify your target field, get the additional training or education you need for the job. The other option is to start at the bottom and play catch up with everybody ahead of you.

Execute Your Plan

Become the executioner!  Pick a date to execute your career switch and stick to it.  For some people it was yesterday. For some people, it will be a year from now, or even later.   If you have a choice, my suggestion is to make some time for it. Your decision on which direction to take is better intentional and not reactionary.  If you can’t continue working at your current job, take a temp job doing anything while you figure things out. After all, it’s only temporary. You have far more significant things coming down the road.   That execution date will get closer and closer. Be prepared and hold yourself accountable.

At that point, you will have set yourself up for success.  Hopefully, with this bit of information, you can feel better about changing careers in your twenties.  It’s not a disaster to change careers when you are younger. It only gets harder if you put it off. The process may seem painful or scary at times, but that’s anything you do for the first time.  Just stay prepared, know where you’ve been and where you are going.

Article Updated from the Original on August 22, 2018