A 2021 study by LeanIn.Org found that 27% of women of color, especially black women, were planning to change their careers within the next year, compared to 16% of white women (leanin.org, 2021).
Changing careers gives us the opportunity to take what we’ve learned and apply it to a more aligned career path, whether it’s a new industry, new company, or better suited position. That being said, it’s not uncommon to feel a mix of excitement and apprehension when considering such a significant transition as a career change. In my own life before becoming a business and career coach, I switched industries multiple times; I worked in politics and was so stressed out by the work that I navigated a successful transition into nonprofit fundraising where I could still apply the skills I learned.
The job market can be a challenging terrain to navigate, and it can feel a lot ‘easier’ short term to settle in a position that is comfortable but unfulfilling. But with the right guidance and mindset, you can successfully embark on a career transition that not only increases your salary, but fulfills you on a deeper level.
As a business and career coach for women of color and allies, I’m here to share valuable career advice specifically tailored to women seeking a career change but feeling stuck in the HOW.
Understanding What Might Hold You Back
1.Self-Doubt and Identity Crisis
One of the most common hurdles you might face when contemplating a career change is self-doubt and, at times, a full-blown identity crisis. You might question whether your current career aligns with your true self, your values, and your sense of purpose. This inner conflict can make it challenging to move forward.
It’s important to recognize that the desire for work that fulfills your legacy and sense of self is a valid and powerful motivator for change.
Many women of color experience imposter syndrome–feeling like you don’t belong or aren’t qualified for a new role. To validate you in this, my career coaching clients usually come to me wanting to completely change career paths but feeling that it’s “impossible” after spending years in one industry–even when they feel completely unsatisfied with their work. Recognize that imposter syndrome is a common challenge, but it doesn’t define your abilities. Seek support from mentors, friends, or a career coach to overcome these feelings, and trust in your ability to adapt your skills and be resourceful in new ways.
3.Fear of Code-Switching
Do you know what it means to code-switch? Code-switching is a phenomenon where individuals adapt their communication style based on the context or environment. Seems harmless, but as a black woman or woman of color you may fear that you’ll have to change who you are to fit into a new career, which can exacerbate feelings of unworthiness or being a ‘misfit’ professionally. Embrace your authentic self by seeking employers and environments during your job search that value diversity, equity, and inclusion, and appreciate the unique legacy you bring.
Navigating Your Career Transition: Tailored Advice for Women of Color
Embarking on a career change is a transformative journey that can be especially empowering once you take the leap. It’s a path that holds the promise of not only professional growth but also personal fulfillment. As a woman contemplating this significant transition, it’s natural to face unique challenges and feel completely unsure of how to transfer your skills to a possible new industry. Let’s get into offering you some targeted guidance and actionable steps to help you get a game plan for your first steps.
Whether you’re driven by a desire to align your work with your sense of identity and legacy or are simply seeking new opportunities and a change of routine, here are strategies to consider on your journey toward a brighter, more fulfilling future.
1.Leverage Your Network
Engage in Informational Interviews – One of the first steps I always tell my clients is to reach out to your network and request informational interviews with professionals in your desired field. This can provide valuable insights that you might have missed, and potentially lead to job referrals.
Attend Networking Events – Participate in industry-specific networking events, conferences, or online communities. Building connections with like-minded individuals can help you discover opportunities and stay updated on industry trends.
2.Seek a Career Coach
Research and Choose Wisely – The right career coach can be invaluable in your career transition. When selecting a career coach, research their background and expertise, especially in supporting women of color. Look for reviews and recommendations to find the right fit for your needs.
Set Clear Goals – Work closely with your career coach to establish clear, achievable goals for your career transition. Be sure to regularly review and adjust these goals as you progress, and be honest about the roadblocks you’re facing!
3.Embrace Diversity and Inclusion:
Research Prospective Employers – Before applying to a new job, research the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Look for organizations that have a track record of supporting diversity and equity because these environments are more likely to value your unique perspective and contributions, regardless of industry.
Highlight Your Diverse Experience – During interviews and on your resume, emphasize the unique perspectives and experiences you bring as a woman of color. Show how these qualities can benefit the organization and how you envision bringing new perspectives to the position because of your experiences.
4.Upskill and Re-educate
Identify Skill Gaps – Identify the specific skills and qualifications required for your desired career path. Then, assess your current skill set to determine where you need to upskill. Can you take a course? Seek out a conference that centers topics you might benefit from? Talk to a friend that has experience that may be helpful?
Online Learning Platforms – Consider enrolling in online courses from reputable platforms like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, or edX to gain the knowledge and certifications needed for your new career.
5.Develop a Strong Personal Brand:
Craft an Elevator Pitch – Know who you are and what you want! Once you do, create a concise and compelling elevator pitch that introduces you and your unique value proposition. Use it in networking events and interviews to make a memorable impression. And also, don’t be afraid practicing it to yourself and your trusted friends!
Online Presence – Build a strong online presence through LinkedIn and professional social media profiles. Share articles, insights, and accomplishments that showcase your expertise and personal brand, so prospective employers see that you’re already invested in the type of work they do.
Changing careers is a significant step, and it’s natural to have doubts along the way. I’ve experienced it myself and know how hesitant we can make ourselves! As a woman of color with dynamic perspectives and experiences, you possess a wealth of untapped potential that can enrich any field you choose to enter. By addressing self-doubt, seeking support, and proactively pursuing your goals, you can make a successful transition. Remember, your journey is a testament to your resilience and determination, and your unique perspective is an asset to any organization.
So, take that leap of faith, pursue your passions, and embrace the opportunities that await you. Your career transition can be a transformative journey toward a brighter, more fulfilling future.
If you would like further support in your career, business, or leadership, my team and I would love to support you in creating a sustainable life! You can schedule a 30-minute legacy business or career review call with me to see if it’s a good fit to work together, and you’ll receive 3 action-items from me.