Guest post by Alexis Rodich, regular guest contributor to Women Grow Business and its series The Emerging Entrepreneur. Alexis graduated this year from American University with a Masters in Business Administration, specializing in finance. She served as AU’s chapter president of Net Impact and takes particular interest in venture capital, social technology, and how women entrepreneurs can use both to further business innovation. Taking the Level 1 CFA exam mid-2009, she is a summer associate for LaunchBox Digital and can be reached at www.twitter.com/alexismichelle.
Elizabeth Gilbert posed an interesting question during her talk at the most recent TED Conference in Long Beach, CA:
Is it rational that any of us should be afraid of the work we feel we were put on this earth to do?
From professional dancer to private equity: a career shift
As a young woman embarking on a seismic career change, Gilbert’s question struck a chord. When I began my MBA three years ago, I was a professional dancer and labor union strategist. Now, as I finish my last semester of business school, I am preparing to sit for the level 1 CFA exam and exploring a career in venture capital.
Needless to say, the differences could not be more stark between my past and present! While I generally feel confident about my newfound path, the uncertain terrain can feel, at times, incredibly frightening.
Surviving the early stages
While I intend to blog about my path into the opaque world of private equity, I feel compelled first to share some of the lessons I’ve learned about tackling the early stages of career change:
I’ve used the prospect of changing careers as an opportunity to explore from the inside and out.
If you face a similar crossroads, I suggest:
- subscribing to industry blogs; on this front, I’ve gained a lot from these in particular: Jibberjobber (fabulous for planning and contact management);
Penelope Trunk at Brazen Careerist; and the NYTimes Shifting Career Blog.
- finding out who is active on Twitter in your field (with a strong recommendation to follow @dailycareertips);
- attending related events in your community;
- and engaging.
At such an early stage in career development, I find I have everything to gain from new experience, insight, and relationships – and nothing to lose. Again if you and your career are at a related crossroads, I have found this mindset to be especially motivating:
Consider yourself a student embarking on a cultural immersion for a new career (and get out there!).
2. Avoid “wet blankets.”
At the earliest stage of career change, it is crucial not to put out sparks of inspiration before they have a chance to ignite. You may be able to identify 101 reasons why things won’t work out, but now is not the time to give them an ounce of energy or attention.
This moment is about the art of what is possible; save “reality” for later.
3. Don’t negotiate with yourself through fear.
While changing careers, there’s a strong likelihood you may not currently be working in your desired field. In that case, you cannot know how you will be received by members of that new community, so don’t waste a moment of time trying to project [what you assume is] how they will perceive you – especially if you’re nervous or fearful of next steps.
Instead, focus on proactive thoughts, such as fortifying the reasons why this new career speaks to you and identifying the unique value and attributes that you – as an outsider – bring to this new industry.
After developing a few close relationships with people working within your new professional track you may find trusted feedback and guidance from new mentors. But this will happen organically (and ideally, will not be rooted in your original anxiety or fears).
After experiencing these stages, I feel much better positioned, as Gilbert said, to do the work I was “put on this earth to do.”