The Art of a Massive Career Change

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Should you revamp your resume or go back to school?

While changing jobs is hard, making a significant switch to a new industry is even harder. In today’s economy, despite the difficulties of making such a transition, more professionals are choosing to make considerable changes in the kind of work they do. Meet three women who’ve done exactly that.

Lyndsey Kramer is the director of business development for a boutique Internet marketing agency, but months ago she was an employee in a Fortune 500 company. Known often by her employee number rather than her name, Ms. Kramer craved change and found it while reading an article about her now employer.

Feverishly updating her resume after reading about her target company, Ms. Kramer highlighted going above and beyond for clients in her current position, and she showcased marketing and business development expertise she developed that would help her to make this thriving company even bigger and better. “Just like I would never send the same proposal to two different clients, I always recommend revising your cover letter and resume for every job,” shares Ms. Kramer. “I pulled information from my background that was relevant and showcased my technical recruiting experience to indicate my knowledge in their industry.”

Her tailored approach worked, as she quickly traded suits for jeans and her employee number for an identity in an office of 10. “It takes time when you launch a new life,” says Ms. Kramer, “but I’ve learned it was worth the risk to be engaged and collaborative in my work.”

Marcy Farrey worked through journalism school to get her dream job as a producer and video journalist in a major television market, but it didn’t bring her fulfillment. “I wasn’t excited about going to work every day,” she explains. “Sadly, I dreaded it. I knew I’d given broadcast news a fair shot, working both on- and off-air, and it just wasn’t for me.” She weighed her options and decided to make a dramatic change in her career, starting with the pursuit of an advanced degree.

Ms. Farrey moved from Minneapolis to Chicago and completed her master’s degree in writing and publishing at DePaul University. Now, she’s living a life she loves, working as a digital content editor with a Chicago tech startup and freelancing for corporations and non-profit organizations to build her portfolio. She says pursuing an advanced degree helped to “combine my skills to create the career I wanted.”

If you’re considering a massive career change, your biggest decision might be deciding which of these women’s footsteps you want to follow – to rewrite your resume and hope to find a company with the right fit or to invest in your education to create the career you want.

Betsy Ziegler, associate dean of MBA programs, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, counsels many students choosing education to make a career change. “The vast majority of Kellogg students are coming back to school to do one of three things: invest in their own personal and professional development, move faster in the industry they’re currently in or make a big change.”

It’s no secret that going back to school can mean a larger paycheck, but schools with a stellar reputation also bring alumni networks and access to corporate recruiters you might not find in any program. “There are a lot of roles you can’t even gain access to without an advanced degree,” observes Ms. Ziegler. “Continued education opens doors, and a Kellogg MBA means you’re stamped as someone who demonstrated terrific performance and has unlimited potential.”

Ms. Ziegler is no stranger to career changes herself, having come to Kellogg after 12 years at McKinsey & Co.When economic downturn expanded her portfolio at McKinsey to include social sector projects, she found her passion in higher education. Ms. Ziegler used her networking prowess to connect her way first to a consulting position and finally a full time role with Kellogg by reaching out directly to Dean Sally Blount.

In Ms. Ziegler’s role as associate dean, she coaches students using her own experiences as a foundation for her advice. What would she tell those thinking about making a big change or going back to school? “Be quite reflective around what you really want to do,” she says. “Force yourself to think hard about what you really want. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s popular or expected. But if you really know who you are and what you want to do, you must have the courage to stand by that.”

Altering the direction of your career can be terrifying. And whether you’re armed with a phenomenal resume or new diploma, the most important steps you can take in preparing for and executing this kind of change are also universal. Surround yourself with a support group of family, friends, colleagues or classmates who will become your Board of Directors in the change you’re making. Think strategically and reflectively about the reasons for the change. And finally, execute that change with confidence and trust in yourself. Chances are, no matter the path, you’ll find yourself happier on the other side.

Marcy_Twete

About Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is founder and CEO of Career Girl Network, an online media platform focusing on the advancement of women in business and the development of an online network of women to nurture, mentor and support each other. Ms. Twete serves on the Board of Directors for <a href="http://www.suwn.org/Step Up Women’s Network in Chicago. You can find her writing daily at www.careergirlnetwork.com.