There you are, trudging into the office at 8:00 a.m. The coffee hasn’t quite kicked in yet and there’s someone already screaming, “Good morning!” Your coworkers are nice. Your boss is great. The health benefits, time off, and employee discounts are decent. But somewhere inside, you’re not fulfilled. Clocking into work is dreadful and you wait for your shift to be over to strip out of your work clothes and relax on the couch for the new Netflix series you started.
Even then, before you sleep, thoughts about making a change in your life keep popping up. Why am I so unhappy with work? Can I stick it out a few more months to look for something better? What do I want out of my career?
I’ve had these thoughts more times than I want to admit. I’ve worked in customer service and administrative roles for years with the same nagging feeling that I’m not purposeful. I’m not making enough money. I could be spending more time with my kid than working at a job I loathe. I’m the kind of person that hates monotony. I work fast, I learn quick, and I take initiative. When I’m stuck in a place that doesn’t stimulate me, I get bored. Even after making a switch to a different company, I realized I was doing way too much. The problem wasn’t with the company; it was the work I was doing. After so many frustrations, I was finally fed up with myself. I knew I had to make a change or I would never be happy. That’s when I applied for graduate school.
Now, I’m not advocating for everyone out there to do the same. Although furthering your education post university is a great asset in getting the job you want while increasing your earning potential, not everyone has the time or money to do so. However, I do advocate for getting some sort of education or experience under your belt. Whether that’s through certifications, non-degree seeking programs, second bachelor’s degrees, volunteering, networking, researching, or attending workshops, there is something out there that will help you make a career change without consuming your time or money.
Certificates, Non-Degree Seeking, and Second Bachelor’s Degree
Getting a certificate is a great alternative to formal schooling. Instead of lengthy semesters, high costs, and strict course standards, certificates are a perfect way to gain new skills. Many community colleges and universities offer certifications in specific categories that allow you learn something new or build upon skills you already have. For example, Tarrant County College has a host of certificate programs to choose from including accounting, event planning, firefighting, massage therapy, and veterinary work. I remember my mother enrolled in a photography 101 class at University of Texas Arlington a few years ago after getting a fancy Canon camera. She’s a dental hygienist but has always been interested in photography. If you want to start a side hustle or really make a big career change, certifications are your best bet.
If you want to up the ante, most universities will allow you to take undergraduate or graduate courses (if you have a bachelor’s already) as a non-degree seeking student for personal development or to enhance your resume. To start taking classes, you will have to apply to the school and meet basic requirements before enrolling. This option is usually more expensive, but having some university courses in your pocket will increase your marketability. In addition, a lot of courses can be taken online. This allows you to take classes from home and ease the anxiety of having to potentially speak in front of a class or work in groups.
Lastly, if you already hold a bachelor’s degree, many universities will allow you to pursue a second bachelor’s degree. With about half of the curriculum being basic courses like English, math and electives, a second bachelor’s in another degree program will cut the time of attaining your new degree. When I graduated from UNT in 2016, I enrolled in the second bachelor’s degree program in political science. If I were to have followed through with it, I would’ve only needed 11 credit hours to get another bachelor’s degree. Most of my courses in my undergraduate sociology degree transferred over, and I could’ve finished the second degree in less than a semester. Unfortunately, unlike my first degree, a lot of the courses were not available online, so I couldn’t quit my job to attend classes in person.
If you are worried about finances, there are myriad opportunities to pay for school. Simply by filling out the FAFSA, loans and grants are available to almost everybody. Scholarships are also prevalent. Schools will often give general scholarships to students who meet certain GPA requirements. If all else fails, schools will allow you to pay for tuition in installments. Instead of having to pay for tuition up front, small monthly payments can be made towards your costs.
Volunteering, Networking, and Workshops
What if the cost of certificates or other education programs just isn’t right for you? You may want to consider options that don’t cost anything but your time. If you’re like me and want to be somewhere that fulfills your purpose in life, volunteering can be an invaluable opportunity. Volunteering allows you to gain experience without having to take classes. Whether you’re interested in children, homelessness, aiding domestic violence victims, gardening, nutrition, refugees, or other causes, volunteering will equip you with hands-on experience and skills. There are several opportunities to volunteer with your children, too. In other words, degrees are often not enough. Most nonprofit and public sector jobs require you to have some experience before landing a job.
If you can’t find the time to volunteer, networking with friends, colleagues, or social media groups can get your foot in the door of a new career. Believe it or not, some jobs don’t require you to have experience in the industry. A lot of the skills you have now are transferable. Do you have experience working in a collaborative environment? Do you have Microsoft Office or Google Suite knowledge? Do you have good written and verbal communication? These are all essential skills employers are looking for regardless of what business you’ve been in. Find yourself a Facebook group for job seekers. Read articles related to the industry you want to be in. In my spare time, I follow organizations on Twitter related to nonprofit and philanthropy to gain insight into current trends. Having some knowledge about the work before you jump in will let the employer know you are abreast of what the business is doing. Libraries offer free workshops in computer basics, business education, and languages for those seeking to develop new skills. Other websites, like Alison, provide free courses in many areas, including Microsoft Office and strategic management.
Whatever path you are seeking, there is something out there for everyone. It’s never too late to make a career change.