I started this blog in 2012 to catalog the crazy adventures I was having in culinary school along with my food travels on the East Coast. The culinary program ended, I moved back to California, settled into my new digs in Sacramento, CA and have been trying, in various ways for the past few months, to answer the question “What’s next?”
What happens next when you try to switch careers? How do you break into a new industry? Clearly, I need a job, but what? And how?
Naturally, I had a plan. I always have a plan. Usually I have two plans, minimum. I can’t remember an instance where things ever actually went according to plan, which begs the question “Why bother having a plan?” but making a plan must be something like pregnancy; you forget the pain of having made the plan and having watched the plan disintegrate into a morass of Not-Planned-Things by the time it’s time to make another plan.
So, my plan was this: I thought it would make sense to keep plying my usual trade (teaching) while I worked part-time somewhere in the food industry (and I had plenty of ideas of ideal companies) to gain some relevant experience. I recognized that I would need to start on the front lines somewhere (and by this I mean retail) to make myself current. I didn’t mind this idea — in fact, I’ve always liked working with customers — since it was part of The Plan. This plan had a 6-8 month arc and by summer I would be ready to launch into my new full-time professional amazingness doing something behind the scenes concerning food products, product knowledge, promotions, training, special events, or programming.
So I made the substitute teaching happen, but I couldn’t make the part-time gig happen.Yet. (I’ve read that for every thing you haven’t been able to accomplish you’re supposed to add “yet” after the statement to keep metaphysical possibilities open). Could be the economy, could be the time of year, could be whatever planet is/has been/will be in retrograde, but ain’t no hiring happenin’ in these parts.
My plan has gone awry. The process has left me confused, confounded, alarmed, and sometimes abject. Add “Be Prepared To Feel Unqualified for Everything” to the list of Things I Wish I Had Known About Being A Career Changer.
Other useful things I wish I had known: every corporate job outside of IT or administrative seems to require either a sales or marketing degree.
Crazy things happen when things don’t go according to plan. You start wondering about definitional things: When does focus become limiting? When does being determined become stubbornness? When do admirable qualities become liabilities?
And the deeply uncomfortable question: am I the frog in the hot water? Or, when does faith become folly?
Here’s where I put in my favorite inspirational quotes. No, not the whole Helen Keller-one-door-closing-while-another-opens one, but others that I’ve always really liked:
“Success is the child of audacity.” – Benjamin Disraeli
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” –Chinese Proverb
And, my all-time favorite:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — Thomas Edison
I’m not any closer to knowing what comes next. I don’t know which moves are the right moves, which moves are stepping stones or just misfires, or where the boundaries between focus and folly are any more as I try to figure out who is next on my dance card.
I do believe it is possible to have a really cool, creative job in the food and hospitality industry suited to my particular brand of analytical and organizational skill sets. I just don’t know how to get from here to there.
When I know, you’ll know.
Hang in there Nina! I know something fabulous is going to come your way! You are smart, talented and creative and will be an asset to the organization that wises up and hires you!!!
Nina, I read your post with interest. It’s a tough place to be. I have some suggested strategies that could be helpful:
1.) Begin networking. Intensively. New industries and fields are hard to crack into, especially in an economy like this where there is intense competition for jobs.
2.) Hone in on the job titles and positions that you’re seeking. When I read your post, I don’t have clarity on what that could be. If you can’t articulate it, it will be harder for you to look for and others to make referrals to you. “doing something behind the scenes concerning food products, product knowledge, promotions, training, special events, or programming” is not specific enough. Doing what? Specificity allows you to sell yourself and drill down. Develop an elevator pitch for yourself so that you can speak to a prospective employer about your strengths with ease and clarity.
3.) Be open to a side angle into the field. Accept that job that hits a lot of the criteria you’re seeking and could lead to the dream job. As a newbie, you may need to do this. It’s what I’m currently doing and it’s helped. What I thought I wanted to do, isn’t – but now I know the direction in this field I do want to pursue.
4.) Volunteer in a capacity where you’re demonstrating that you’re using your skill sets, hopefully for an organization you’d like to work for. It could lead to a job and will keep your new skill-set strong.
5.) Join professional associations in the industry. Attend meetings. Spring your networking from there.
6.) Have a professional who knows the field or a friend already in the field, make your resume as shiny and relevant as possible. If you’re pursuing all those possible job types above, do you have a resume for each that sells you in those capacities?
7.) Focus on your transferable skills and sell yourself there so it doesn’t appear that you’re taking a dramatically huge leap.
8.) Line up some informational interviews if possible. You’ll begin to have conversations with people who can help you get in the door and refine your direction.
Keep your positive attitude and hope alive! So much of landing a job starts with networking, who you know and timing. It WILL happen. Best of luck to you.
Thanks, Anne — you are always so good at finding jobs for other people!
I always tell you that any company that has the honor of hiring you will get their money back 5 times over….if someone would just take a chance on a very intelligent, creative, organized, analytical, and overall great person…well you Nina! Wake up world here comes Nina!
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