I was 28 years old and working in tech. I had skyrocketing up the ladder putting my life into my work. It wasn’t an easy feat as most of my peers were in their 40s and had worked their life to get to this same point in their career. It was at this point in my life when I realized I couldn’t see this as my future anymore.
I don’t mean any disrespect as everyone has a different timeline in life. Everyone has different priorities in life. For some, it is a steady job for their family or flexibility to live their own life. When I started in the corporate world I had an amazing mentor who was a VP at the company. He believed in young achievers. He had children himself and many daughters, so he was a big advocate of mentoring young talent. He wasn’t stuck in his old ways. Would call and ask for opinions. As a 22 year old out of college I thought I had no opinions to offer. I was shy and grateful to have a job at a great company. I had some internship experience, but I didn’t think I had thoughts of value yet to offer a VP. But luckily, he did see what I couldn’t see in myself. When we spoke he would ask me my opinions. He would ask about different strategies I may have learned in school or case studies I may have read. I learned that I did have something to offer. I had a unique point of view that wasn’t tainted by process or groupthink.
It was starting off in this way that made me realize I had ideas of value. As I grew farther in my career though, I realized some companies don’t want your ideas. Some bosses want you to follow protocol and process. They don’t want to hear your ideas about how to improve or how you could make the company more money. A lot of leaders say to come with solutions which I agree with 100%. But the dirty secret is huge corporations move slowly. Some leaders don’t want to have to communicate a solution to other departments. It’s why you find so much apathy. This was the hardest part for me. I am a person of action. Let’s talk, figure out the root cause and fix it. Instead I started to see only blaming. That it was “that organizations problem.” “That organization is the one that is doing it wrong.” We are all on the same ship though, and if there is a hole on one end…. We are all going down. The lack of integrity culture made me realize it wasn’t isolated. I grew to see it more as the company went through many acquisitions and changes. Many of my colleagues and managers were terrified of innovation or change. They would rather stick to what made them feel “safe” which was status quo.
There was no safe space for failure.
Making no safe space for failure is the number 1 indicator it’s time to leave. If you are looking for innovation, this isn’t the right company for you. Today, many companies have broken cultures. It’s the ones that are solving for this that are growing and will continue to grow.
I understand for many corporations it’s about scale. But I see increased “processes” in corporations lead to mediocrity. I don’t mean when it comes to things like finance and accounting, or best practices. But for skills that thrive on creativity and new approaches. For example roles like sales, partnerships, communication, and marketing to name a few. If some people can do something better and faster using their own method you should let them. Don’t stifle innovation. Luckily, I had some leaders that didn’t stifle innovation. The greatest influence though was my mom. My mom encouraged my innovation from a young age and always treated my thoughts with respect.
I had a wake up call at 28 that I was doing this for all the wrong reasons. I was making great money, but I wasn’t happy anymore. I used to love my job, but a bad culture at a company had left me feeling jaded. I can’t say I blame the company alone though, because there are many things wrong with the industry as a whole. My role was to increase revenue and build growth year over year, which I achieved. I wanted to help and improve the company as a whole, but the system didn’t want to listen. I had to stop and ask myself:” Why am I working so hard for a company that doesn’t appreciate it?” “Why am I doing something that I’m not even sure I love?”
I had always been in love with the arts from a young age. I’m one of the weird people that has even left brain and right brain. I always loved fashion. I was on a competitive dance team in high school. I loved to always create and think outside of the box. This is when I realized I had started to change myself too much to be who a company wanted me to be. In an increasing older, male dominated company, they didn’t understand me as a young female. If a company doesn’t celebrate unique differences and you lose yourself. It’s time to stop and think. Nothing is worth losing who you are. I know many females deal with this in corporations today. We’re told we must act a certain way. Be more assertive. But if you are, you’re called Bossy. Too ambitious. What’s wrong with empathy? What’s wrong with humble leadership if it results in increased revenues and sales? Instead it’s time our culture as a whole realized there is innate value in different traits. Teams that are more diverse (via gender and culture) wind up making the company more money. Since corporate profits are on the line, I say this is a global issue. Every company should start asking themselves, is our old way of thinking holding us back?
Everything in my life had to happen how it did for me to get to this point in my life. I had to learn the skills I learned in Tech to allow me to then transition to Fashion. I now have the experience of working with Fortune 500 companies in the tech industry. I know how to grow partnerships. Life lesson are priceless if we pay attention. If you’re graduating college and reading this, my wish is that you learn from my experience. If you’re well into your career now, my greatest wish for you is to realize it is never too late. Now is the time in your life when you can make a change. If you’re in a company whose culture doesn’t value differences. Whose culture doesn’t have a supportive atmosphere for failure. Then these are the key signs that this company isn’t innovating. It’s burying the problems and is not learning to fail fast, so it can get on to succeeding. Wishing you all the best in your journeys and would love to hear your personal stories.
If you found this article helpful, or you think it could help someone else – please feel free to share.
I recently did an Ask Me Anything on Changing Your Career. Below are some of the questions I received and answers I gave.
But here are some snippets..
When looking for a new career path, what is the most important thing to be taken into consideration?
Great question. It’s asking yourself what is the most important to you. Is it doing somethign you love, making a certain salary, having flexbility in work? For me it was doing somethign that I was passionate about, and being able to use my skills to go off on my own. What is most important is going to be different to everyone. Making a list of what matters most would be the first step. Then starting to find careers that fit into what hits your top list.
What is the best advice you can give someone that is considering changing careers?
Thanks for your question. I would say to start to look at why you want to leave your current career. Make a list of what your ideal role would be. Then start by finding roles that fit your list. Enlist your network in helping you out once you find out what it is that you want to do. You never know who may have access to careers, experience or contacts that may be of interest. A lot can be your extended network or friends of friends that may be able to connect you with someone who can help to you to transition.
ENA DIANE PASA
How hard was it for you to start again from zero? What would you have done differently?
Thanks for your questions. It wasn’t as hard as most people would think. I dont believe you ever start at zero. Any expereince you have an one career can be applied and transfered to a different industry. I believe it’s taking what you know and using that to slowly transition into your next career.
What age is too late for one to change careers?
It’s never too late! That’s the number 1 thing I’d love to share with everyone. Throughout history people have changed careers late in life. Martha Stewart was a wall street trader and wrote her first book in her 40’s which then lead to her domestic success. Vera Wang became a fashion designer in her 40s. Charles Darwin was 50 years old before he published his findings that made him famous today. I believe all skills transfer. It’s about passion, drive, and believing in yourself to take the chance. Much success!
Did you ever fear that you won’t be successful in your new career?
Of course. There are always fears and risk. I was told if it doesn’t scare you, then you shouldn’t do it. Use discomfort as your radar. You have to get uncomfrotable to get comfortable again. Your tolerance expands overtime and success becomes more rewarding. Success isn’t absent of failure, but it is not giving up in the face of it. Everyone is going to fail, but it is the ones who don’t give up and keep going that ultimately succeed.
Is it uncommon for people in their 20’s to change careers?
I think may people may change jobs, but not careers. In most cases, when people have invested in a career ( like tech, engineering, marketing, etc.) that they have spent time, effort and money in – they feel that they cannot change. Anytime people invest- they feel the cost of change means they lost out on everything they invested in. There is a term in economics called “sunk cost” that describes this. We can use the example of standing in line at a grocery store, say there is a long line that you have been waiting in it. But then another line seems to be going faster- you could either hop lines and go next or you could continue to wait in your line even though it is going slower. Even though you have been waiting in line, it’s best to hop over to the shorter line. But in life people get scared about wasted time. I dont believe there is a such thing as wasted time and effort because I believe all skills transfer.