Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Career Change: It is hard

Another post, that, for one reason or another, I stored away as a draft.

About six years ago, I graduated from a private university with an MBA in Finance. That I have not used. You see, prior to that I had been an accountant. Being an accountant is very boring, but I liked working with numbers, so I thought finance was a natural transition.

As it turns out, it is much, much harder to move from the world of accounting to the world of finance than really makes any sense at all.

So, I started reaching out to people in finance at my company. They offered the normal suggestions--networking, informational interviews, and taking on project work to gain experience. I've done all of those things. Okay, technically, I have not taken on project work--I've offered my time to a variety of groups, but no one has accepted.

I joined the women's network at my company, the Lean In-style circles offered by my company, and I've participated in a mentor program, all to try to gain exposure to different people, different career options, different options for how I should proceed.

Then, I reached out to someone at my company who has successfully made the transition from accounting to finance. And he had the same advice--namely, informational interviews, project work, and the like. All of the same stuff that hasn't been working for me. He did, however, have some ideas as to what "additional experience" I would need, as well as some of the non-technical barriers to entry. It was actually the most useful conversation I've had on the topic.

While I would like to stay at the company where I'm currently working, I've realized that staying might not take my career in the direction I want to go. I've set up a meeting with a recruiter to see what sort of outside next steps I can take, or what other career options there are for me.

A few weeks ago, I googled how to leave a career in accounting, but most of the advise was directed at people who wanted to leave public accounting--and nearly all of it focused on getting a job in the private sector.

In a conversation with a self-employed friend, she pointed out that women are more likely to say things like "I was very lucky..." and men are more likely to say "I did this..." when talking about how they shaped their career. My company really pushes employees to "own their careers" but it's a little bit of a trap. I've discovered that what they really mean, but don't say, is that they want employees to own their careers within the parameters management prefers.

Unfortunately, I think luck plays a very big part in successful career change. A lot of it seems to be being in the right place at the right time with the right people. I'm still trying to figure out how to make my own luck, but I've stopped working so hard at doing all of the things I'm "supposed" to do--it was too much effort with little payback.

I do have some feelers out there for different prospects, and I've been thinking way more outside the box about what I want to do. I'm trying to make some big changes in my life, which is a little scary, but I also know that I'm more scared of staying put.

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