As someone who loves my job, I am super passionate about helping people discover what they really want to do for a living and figuring out ways to get there. Our "career" is something we think about from the time we're a kid with everyone asking us what we want to be when we grow up. And then we start to get more serious about our future careers in high school, then more so into any additional schooling after that. But what happens when the career you went to school for or that you've been working at for years and years isn't what you thought it would be or isn't making you happy?
Two of my employees, Julia and Courtney, both came to Oh Joy from different careers with no prior experience in the jobs they now do at Oh Joy. Julia was a reality TV producer and Courtney was a lawyer. They both changed careers in their 30's and are much happier ever since. I am not sure why your 30's tends to be a period of life changes, but it seems to be a time of reflection for a lot of people to change the course of their lives (both personally and professionally) for the better. In a two-part series, I wanted to share their stories and hope it will inspire those of you who may be stuck in a job rut that you, too, can find your true happiness in your career…
Julia Wester, our Creative Producer and Stylist, crafts, styles, and puts together most of the visuals that you see here on this blog. She started at Oh Joy as a part-time assistant then moved to full-time and has gone from being an assistant to blooming into her role and doing more than I had ever expected and planned for her when she started working with me three years ago. Here's Julia's story as interviewed by me…
How long were you at your former profession and why did you want to change careers?
In addition to internships throughout college, I worked in TV for about 8 years. Most entertainment gigs are freelance, and you work in chunks of time based on the length of the show. So I was constantly trying to make sure I had another job lined up after the current one ended. When I was in my 20s, the ability to work for a few weeks or a few months straight and then getting to take a break between gigs was great. But as I got older, the grind of constantly looking for my next gig got more frustrating. I was about to get married and my fiancé worked in the entertainment industry as well. The long hours and lack of consistency wasn't appealing anymore. I loved TV and most of the time I loved my job, but there were always things that I loved more and wished I would be doing instead. I'm a creative person and although working in TV had its creative moments, it didn't bring me the satisfaction that I had hoped for.
You won an Emmy from one of the shows you produced! How did you feel about the idea of leaving a career that you were so used to (and good at)?
It actually wasn't very hard. I was working on a gig that was wearing me thin and was so emotionally draining that leaving it was easy. I had a string of gigs that weren't fulfilling and stressful, and I just wasn't happy anymore.
What made you decide to take the leap to make the change?
I had finished a gig and was about to start looking for my next one, then my husband (fiancé at the time) suggested that I take a break and use my time off differently. He suggested that I see what else was out there and maybe even find an internship in a career that I was actually interested in. The funny thing was, I had just won an Emmy for a show I just worked on right when I decided to leave.
Were you apprehensive about a change in pay because you were starting over in a new career at an assistant level salary? What made you feel okay with the change in pay check?
I was apprehensive about the salary change. I had spent 8 years in TV and made a great living. At times that made it feel hard to leave, but you shift things around and you work your butt off. Budgeting became more important than ever. There were things I wasn't able to do or things I wasn't able to spend money on because I didn't have as much of a disposable income as before, and that was a rough adjustment in the beginning. My husband was very supportive about the change, and I don't think I would be where I am now career-wise without him. It was a lifestyle change for the both of us to make it work. We were in the middle of planning our wedding and buying a house so money was tight, but we shifted things around and it seemed to fall into place.
How did you begin the change in your career?
I was in the middle of planning my own wedding which I really enjoyed. So my husband suggested I look into jobs that would give me the same type of joy I found in that process. I liked planning events and creating pieces for the wedding, so I started by interning for a local Event Designer. Around that time, a part-time assistant position opened up at Oh Joy. Joy didn't want to hire me originally because she thought I was over-qualified due to my many years in production. I remember emailing her telling her she was making a mistake (in a nice way). She did end up hiring me part-time, and my husband and I decided that I'd take the job and give it a year. Thankfully my part-time job turned into a full-time one. I think what really helped me was that my friends and family were extremely supportive and no one ever told me I was crazy for making such a drastic change at 30.
Now that you’re in your new career, how has your life changed?
Everyday I wake up feeling so thankful and lucky to get to do what I do everyday. I no longer wake up on Mondays dreading the start of a new week. I never thought that was possible. I know its rare to be able to say that I actually have a job where I never really complain about anything, but it's possible.
How do you think your current life as a new mom (to an 8 month old cutie pie) would have been different if you were still at your old job?
It would be way different. I don't know if I'd get to see my daughter before bed each night. Each day would be different and trying to have a set schedule would be hard. I like that my work days are now consistent and I have a really good work/life balance.
What would you tell others considering a career change?
You may have to start from the bottom up and thats okay. If you work hard and love what you do, you'll get to where you want to be. Most importantly be persistent and don't give up. I honestly have never been more aggressive or persistent about getting a job as I was when I applied for the position at Oh Joy! I essentially applied for a part-time assistant position which I was definitely overqualified for but that didn't matter to me. I was told a bunch of times for other positions I applied for that I was overqualified or told that I didn't qualify for an internship because I didn't get school credit. But I kept pushing and now my part-time assistant position has turned into a full-time position as a Creative Producer and Stylist. I kept showing Joy all the things I could do and the things I was good at and it convinced her to keep growing my role at Oh Joy.
So my piece of advice is to stop talking about it and just do it. Make it happen and stop putting it off "until next year" because there's never a good time.
Just leap. The net will appear.