Switching Paths

Kristen

Today's blog post is written by Kristen S.  After obtaining her undergraduate degree from Michigan State University in Hospitality Business and working full time for a year, Kristen has returned to Michigan State University to work towards her master’s degree in Human Resources. Outside of work and school, she knows a good album and a good book is the cure for anything, and she is a believer in the power of staying passionately curious in your career. 


You’re a freshman in college and you pick a major. This major might be something you’ve always wanted to do… or it might be something you’re not so sure about. You choose one because you’re in college, and that’s what you’re told you have to do. Fast forward a few years. Maybe you’ve switched majors one (or five) times throughout your college career, or maybe you’ve stuck with the first one you picked. Either way, you’ve gotten to know your major; it becomes part of your identity, and is often one of the first things you include about yourself when meeting new people. Finally, you graduate, get a job, and start the full time working life. 

So what happens when you’re working and you find a new passion – one that isn’t on the path you picked in college?

Between every exam, every class, and every internship, you’ve invested so much time in what you chose to study. The ‘maybe this isn’t what I’m meant to do’ thought may be terrifying, but it is a thought that creeps up on many, myself included. I never planned on it – I loved each of my internships, and my year post-college of full time work. Yet the thought that maybe I should be doing something else was always lingering. While I loved what I was doing, it wasn’t what I pictured when I thought of my career long-term. It took graduating and getting out in the work world to really grasp this thought. That was a learning point for me. Sometimes you learn something about yourself that pushes you into a different direction. Not only is that okay, it can be the first step toward something even greater.

For those taking or considering that step in a different direction...

 

  • If you find yourself questioning what you’re doing, explore it. Roll with it. Don’t run away from those thoughts. So often people (including myself) have said at one point or another “I can’t switch paths now, I’m in too deep.” You might feel too tied up in your current situation, and think that the time in your life for choosing a new pursuit has passed. First of all, let me tell you right now that you are not too old for a change. It’s funny to hear that coming out the mouth of a twenty-something. If you discover a new passion, it is never too late to explore it. You’ll only kick yourself if you don’t. It may mean a total career change, or it could mean implementing something new into your current role. Either way, it is better to explore it than try to ignore those thoughts and regret it in the long run.
  • Every move you make has a purpose. I have been able to see how each of my career experiences have played a role in where I am now, even if I couldn’t see it at the time. Bussing tables at weddings after my freshman year, the organization I was so involved in throughout college, that full time job I wanted so badly but didn’t receive the offer for – it all leads you to where you’re meant to be. Such a cliché, I know, but I say that with such confidence because I’ve been able to witness it all firsthand.
  • If you do find yourself totally switching paths, use your unique background to your advantage. I thought I’d be at a disadvantage studying something new to me in graduate school. One of my mentors helped me through this – showing me how the experiences I’ve had can actually put me at an advantage in my field. I learned to speak with confidence about my internships and work experiences, and always focus on how they taught me lessons that are applicable to my new field. Never lose sight of the transferable skills you gain in each of your positions. Your unique background is a positive thing – it will help you stand out!
  • Leave your options open. You never know when something could be important down the road. For me, this meant grades. Try not to let your grades completely drop your senior year. I can honestly say I never thought I would apply to a graduate program – I didn’t “need to” with the typical career path that my undergrad field had. Two years later… and here I am in graduate school. Don’t get me wrong, enjoy your senior year to its fullest. I had more fun that year with all of my friends than any other… everything was sentimental, everything was the last, and I lived it to the fullest. That said, I am so glad I still went to (most of...) my lectures, and studied for exams because I was able to get into the graduate program that I later learned I so aspired to be in. 
  • Utilize your network. You’ve built this network throughout your college career, whether you know it or not, full of peers and mentors. Reach out to people who are working in the field, position, or company you’re considering. People get excited to talk about their experiences and share their thoughts with you. I set up a few phone calls and coffee dates with mentors, alumni, and current students when considering my next steps. They all provided me with such great insight that helped to shape my decision to pursue something new.
  • Above all else, never lose a sense of curiosity. Not even if you’ve settled into your career, or your role, or the field you’ve grown accustomed to. The moment you stop striving to learn (both about your work and about yourself), you stop growing. You may miss out on a new path that not only suits you better, but enables you to do something you might not have thought possible.

If you’re considering a change, start researching your options and make a plan. I spent a lot of time talking it through with other people, and making lists to prioritize the things that are most important to me in a career. Once I began thinking about these things, it became clear to me to take a leap and go in a new direction.

At the end of the day you might take a few turns you weren’t expecting to, but it’s all part of the journey.