Please! Successful Career Change Stories

I am desparate to switch my career. Quite honestly I don’t know what, something that allows me to be more creative and gets me away from the mind-numbing monotony of EXCEL spreadsheet hell. But the prospect is a little daunting, it is not an easy thing to give up something that at least pays your bills (quite well actually) for complete uncertainty. But i loather going to work every morning and just cannot see myself doing this a year from now. ARe there dopers who have made successful and fufilling career changes? I don’t mean a new job but a whole new career. How hard was the transistion? Is it what you expected? etc.

This might not be all that encouraging, but it turned out ok for me at least. Back in 1986, after working in the fitness industry for 10 years I got tired of it and decided to change careers. I didn’t really have a plan, just like you I was generally sick with the everyday tasks of my job, and more importantly, I wanted to make more money.

I had always enjoyed working with computers, had a Commodore 64, and what was it?, a Sinclair something or other. I had just used the Apple IIE, I think, and figured, what the heck let’s see what happens.

Not knowing the first thing about information technology or how one got into it I just looked in the paper under “Data Processing”, and saw that Eastern Airlines, usually called at the time “Financially Troubled Eastern Airlines”, was hiring entry level computer operators. I sent my resume in, took a couple of standardized tests, and went in as a Computer Operator Trainee, making a whoping $10,500 a year, a 50% pay cut. That part hurt, but this job was fun! It was second shift, fairly slow, and I was able to poke around in the mainframe as much as I wanted. To make a long story short, a couple of months later I moved from computer operator trainee to system programmer trainee, which in turn led to a series of jobs that further specialized my expertise and now I’m in computer security, making great money, for very little work, and I love the work!

I guess the moral of the story should be:

  1. Make sure the next field you choose is something you really like.
  2. Be prepared to make less, maybe a lot less, money.
  3. Enjoy.

I little over a year and a half ago I decided I was completely fed up with doing tech support for a living. It stressed me out too much and I hated going to work each day. The pay, no matter how good, was just not worth it, and I was working subconsciously (I see it now) on getting fired. Finally, my wife and I decided we needed a change in our lives.

We packed up, and moved away to a state with a lower cost of living. I found a job as a graphic artist, doing illustration work for the government. I love this job, and even though I am being paid less, I am a lot happier. With the lower cost of living here, it made it a lot easier to make the transition. Even though it was a total career change, I am quite happy with the way it turned out.

I worked in the motorcycle business (at dealerships) for years. The money was terrible. Barely made enough to live, but it was fun. One day, decided to put my kow-lege education to good use and did consumer credit/finance (kind of in the motorcycle business, but not at the dealership). Got some good experiance there and parlayed that into where I am now. Fancy titles include “Office Manager and Director of Credit”! Really, I just hang around and surf the web, write checks once in a while and look at credit info.

Easiest job for the most money I have ever had! :smiley: Life is good!

Once upon a time I was a teacher at a charming all-girls Catholic high school. The girls were mostly college bound, the parents were interested and discipline was not a big problem. I had lots of autonomy, as long as I didn’t try to show an “R” rated movie (but that’s another story). I was a good teacher, and knew that I had one of the most important jobs a person could have. But I wasn’t a great teacher, and I knew that a great teacher is what all kids deserve. And, at the end of the year, no matter how creative I got, it all came down to whether they remembered that the Americian Civil War happened before WWI (and, realistically, that WWI happened before WWII).

So at 32 I packed up my stuff and moved 800 miles north to go to law school. I started in the teaching profession with $700 in the bank, I left it with $400. So, I borrowed enough money to buy a house, except it paid for my tuition instead, I cashed in my partially vested pension, I learned that my ego had matured enough that I didn’t mind not being in the top of my class. I loved law school. I loved the challenge, I loved the classes, I loved the conversation and playing cards in-between classes. And I loved the law. It was a great three years.

Waiting for the shoe to drop? Oh, ye of little faith.

Granted, my first job out of law school was a bit grim (or perhaps Grimm, in keeping with the fairy tale start), but I did help a person or two, and I wrote a killer brief about a sexual harassment case. But I moved on, into the general field I wanted–labor–but not a legal job. Oh, the legal training was an asset, but I wasn’t practicing law. I was happy, but I thought it could get better. At 39, I was job hunting again (alhough luckily still employed), and looking for a career change–I wasn’t going to settle for anything less than a legal position, but attorney jobs with labor unions are few and far apart, especially if one is committed to staying in a certain geographical area. I thought I might be happy doing general plaintiff side civil, I consider legal aid, I even interviewed with a few big (think mega) firms with reputations for being on the side of truth and goodness. But nobody hired me.

And then it happened. I was the runner up at a law firm that did labor and employment law, but one of the partners recommended that I call this particular union, and use her name. I did, I got interviewed, I got hired. This is the exact labor union I had decided I wanted to work for while I was still in law school, and it is everything I hoped it would be. The hours are long, the pay is low, and it caps out not too much higher, I’ll always travel coach and stay at Best Western’s, but Gods, am I happy. I’m paying down the student loans, I just bought a house, I’ve paid off my car, and my retirement plan is top-notch. Better yet, my co-workers respect me, the members trust me, the boss is pleased with me and I rarely have to be at work until 9 or 9:30. I love the law, I love labor law, I love working for a union and I love helping people get fair treatment at work.

Yeah, this is a successul career change.

I am in the process of making one.

When I first left college, I wanted to get my master’s in library and information science. But undergrad student loans were in my way and it got put off - and it kept getting put off. I ended up in a completely different field (internal audit), without the accounting background I really needed for that. But I did well, and I enjoyed it for a while. I got to travel to different places.
But I started burning out bad, and remembered what I had wanted to do and why I wanted to do it. I’m in school now getting that master’s I wanted to get seven years ago. I’ll have another load of student loans, but I’m ok with that - I accepted it as necessary to get from where I was to where I want to be. I think it will work out fine. I enjoy the classes, and I know I’ll enjoy the work once I finally get out of school again.

After university I was living with my (then) fiancée (now wife). She’d always wanted to be a teacher, my only experience was in insurance.

She went to college to train as a teacher and I worked in a really bad job in insurance, working evenings and weekends for awful pay. My wife qualified as a teacher, and we have to make a decision. I’m in line for a promotion at work, but I could leave that and try to get into publishing, what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve no experience (beyond a stint on the college paper) but I decide I can’t bear to be in insurance all my life.

So, I leave insurance and start looking for publishing work, and we’re living on my wife’s salary. After two or three months unemployed I get temporary work at a magazine that lasts eight or ten weeks. This is largely thanks to a very helpful lady in an employment agency, who also did me the huge favour of telling me how well I interview. Whether she was telling the truth or not, it means that I’m always confident in interviews. That’s not to say I always think I’ll get the job, far from it, but I believe that I’m at least going to give a good account of myself.

So, the temporary work gets me an interview with a publishing company a couple of months later, and I get the job. Five years later I have a good job in the oldest publishing house in the world, earning three times what I was earning in my insurance job. I have a great house and baby on the way.

It makes such a difference if you enjoy what you do. I couldn’t have made the transition without the support I got from my wife, especially during the four months I was unemployed, so I was very lucky in that respect, but it’s well worth it.

Good luck!


My life is a never-ending series of career changes. In fact, I’m getting ready to make a rather involved one.

I was an English Teacher in Japan for three years (although many in the know will argue that is not a career, but rather a working vacation.)

After that I was a technical editor for a major electronics company.

Currently I am a translator/training coordinator/whipping boy at a Japanese-owned auto parts manufacturer located in a place where the movie “Deliverance” is interpreted as a story of unrequited love.

The near future for me holds business school, an MBA, and hopefully a deliverance of my own. If anyone is interested, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

I went to college and ended up with a degree in Systems Engineering because I thought I wanted to design robots. When I got out of school, I didn’t want to design robots, so I had to figure out what I had learned in college that I could get a job with. The answer was programming. So I got a job as a programmer. And I was pretty good at it. Not brilliant but I got things done.

But in the back of my mind was a nagging voice that reminded me how much I enjoyed construction and architecture. Eventually I enrolled in Drexel University’s Architecture program because it was an evening program and I didn’t have to quit my job. And I really liked it. After three years of a seven year program, I left my programming job to stay home with my newborn son. After a year of that I got a job in an architectural office as an intern, and four years later I’m graduated and finishing up my internship. Next is the licensing exam and then I’m an Registered Architect.

At times I would like to go back to programming, mostly because I understood that and I’m still learning stuff here and making mistakes. But I enjoy architecture more than programming.

Had a night-shift job at a printing company doing pre-press work. I liked the work but hated the job – annoying politics, lazy co-workers, stupid boss demands. One gorgeous fall morning I was driving home and realized that (1) I live in a tourist area where people come to spend their free time, (2) I have a big house on 9 acres in the country, and (3) I was never getting to enjoy any of it. That, plus the fact that I’d always been a square peg, lit the fire under me to see if I could become self-employed.

To make a long story short, I looked at my ready-to-go skills and decided I’d make a good freelance copyeditor/proofreader. I was right. After a year of part-time freelancing, I quit the hated printing job. I continued to build my client base and work at some fun part-time jobs (bookstore, frame shop at Ben Franklin) until I had enough work to freelance full-time.

I was lucky to have the full support of my hubby; he had a good-paying job at the time that covered the bills while my income dipped, and he hated to see me miserable in the old job. It paid off, though; he got downsized in February 2001, and suddenly my 30% of our joint income had to pay all the bills. But we cut our spending way back (no kids; that helped, I’m sure), and I kicked up my workload a few notches. He’s temping at a fraction of his old pay; he doesn’t mind the job, and he can get time off whenever he wants (he lost 4 weeks’ vacation when he got canned, tough to give up at age 46).

We’re actually liking the new arrangement, even though we have less money. He usually works 2nd shift, so we can wake up in a leisurely manner. I’ve managed to increase my income to close to what his was. He acts as my “wife,” taking care of the house, errands, etc so I can spend more time working. I like being in charge of my own time, what jobs I take, who I work for, what tools I use, etc. And I can’t be fired – although I’m very grateful for a steady workload (I routinely turn down work because I’m already fully booked), because many of my fellow freelancers are having dry spells.

I fully believe in enjoying one’s work. You spend so much of your time at it. It’s too draining to make the transition from “Work Person” to “Home Person.” My job now is a better reflection of who I am, and I love to talk about it, and people seem to enjoy hearing about it. I’m a much more peaceful, happy person than I used to be, when most of my waking hours were spent whoring myself out (well, that’s what it felt like!) to someone else.

Where in the hell was this thread years ago when I was stuck in a brain numbing rut?

These stories give me hope.

I worked in PC services for about 10 years or so and just got burnt out. Beyond that, my managers there encouraged me to apply for promotions only to choose others. After I was passed over for the third time it occurred to me that maybe I didn’t want to be in PC services for the next 25 years. The capper, though, was that the “underqualified” gentlemen that management chose to promote instead of me became my supervisor. Little did I know that he would be demoted within 4 months, demoted again in a year and leave the company after 20 years of service a year after that.

I checked the company intranet and saw an opening for a Logisitics Analyst position. I had taken some MBA Logistics courses and did very well so it seemed like kismet or something. What I did not know was that the position had been open for more than a year; the company wasn’t paying market rate and the economy was booming so they could not attract qualified outsiders and informed insiders knew of Logistics management’s poor reputation for excessively high turnover.

Nonetheless, I took the job, making a significant career change at age 37. I also received a healthy raise and am more challenged by this job in my strengths rather than in PC services where it was my weaknesses that were greatly challenged. Just as important, I also believe I am making a greater contribution to the company than I ever could have in PC services. Not having to deal with whiny, demanding PC users is also a plus by means of subtraction.

I should have mentioned before: Gangster Octopus, you need to read a book called Making a Living Without a Job by Barbara Winter. Lots of inspiration in there. Basically, she espouses the “do what you love and the money will follow” idea, with the added concepts of living a tax-deductible life and having multiple sources of income. Reading her book still gets me fired up even though I have two businesses going at the moment.

I honestly don’t know if he is sucessful, but one of my ex-coworkers quit his job as a sales guy and working as a conductor/engineer/whaterver they call the driver of a frieght train. I’d say that was a change!

A friend if mine got a desk job, but had an interesting experience:


Did I get a job? Yes, as you can tell from the source of this e-mail. It
took about 5 weeks after getting laid off to get this job as the Information
Technology Director for… It’s a government job, so it’s a major switch in business processes, etc.
I’m scrambling to get a good footing on how all of this works from that
aspect. Also being in a management position is strange and new…

About my third or forth day on the job, the Sheriff comes by my office. I’d
met him the day before and figured he wanted to talk about budgets or
computers or something. Instead, he wanted me to get in touch with a guy in
Denver that sell’s side-scanning sonar equipment and to get one in here and
get it up in running with the computers it needs so that they could take it
out on the lake to look for this kid. [About 4-5 weeks ago, a
teenaged boy drowned out in the lake].Ok, fine, no problem. Well, I get
the equipment this past Tuesday and I get it all set up and working. Well,
the Sheriff’s not to technical and he tells me I’m the ‘expert’ with the
thing and I’ll be going out with the divers the next morning. So, on
Wednesday around 6:30am, it’s raining and cold as hell when I show up at the
dock. But the divers are from out-of-town and the parents of the kid are
riding the Sheriff’s office to locate him so we are going out. So, to make
a long story short, here I find myself, just over a week into a new job, and
I’m out on this big lake in the pouring cold rain searching for a dead guy.



Man, Octopus, if you feel that way about your job then change it - plain and simple. I know that stepping out into the unknown is never all that simple but you have a job and you can keep it while you explore other options.

I’m kind of in the same boat as you although I’m a stay-at-home mom so I don’t have the financial pressure you do. I’ve been a structural draftsman for years and have loved it but am ready for a change so I’m looking at going back to school to get a degree in psychology. Whew! Many many years of school and I’m not a spring chicken any more. But it’s my passion.

Soooo, find your passion. Go to the closest college and take some job counseling to see what fields you are interested in and what your personality is fit for and then narrow it down. Find people in those fields to talk to about what they do to see if you would enjoy it. I am a firm believer in enjoying your life’s work. Sometime’s you just gotta grit you teeth and shovel the s**t for awhile but if it’s for the long run you’re a lot better off mentally, emotionally and physically if you truly have a passion for your work.

BTW, I just knew I wanted to be an engineer but as a draftsman I worked closely with engineers and knew that while I would make a decent one I would really hate my job after awhile. It’s a lot of hours, paperwork, deadlines and dealing with impossible customers. I’m glad I saw that before I invested a lot of time and energy into becoming one.

Well I graduated college as a civil engineer. I had worked a couple summer interships for small engineering companies and then worked as a civil engineer for about six months. I hated it. I hated being outside 90 degree heat and rain, babysitting day laborers who would take breaks every 5 minutes, staring at a CAD station for hours, designing retaining walls and bathrooms and pretty much everything about the profession.

Well after 6 months of that I got into IT consulting as a programmer. It wasn’t that hard to pick up the computer stuff and I was pretty good at it. Problem was I hated being behind a computer all day. I wanted more human interaction. Well, 5 years and several firms later, I am now a laid off managment consultant (IT consultings less technical cousin).

Well, now I need to find a new career that also pays really well. Maybe I’ll go to law schol or something.
Anyhow, its easier to change careers if you can transfer something from your last job into the career you want to do.

In my experience, this only holds true if you do what other people love.