The other day, I hopped on a call with my cousin. She's 28 and looking to relocate from Ohio to California to pursue a career change from retail management to graphic design. Like most people looking to make a dramatic life change, she's nervous, but also excited about the opportunities that could be waiting on the other side. I offered her the advice I wish I'd had when I was in her position. Of course, the greatest career change of my life happened years ago when I began blogging full-time, but as this brand has expanded, I've felt in a lot of ways like I'm starting from scratch at each new iteration, from launching e-commerce to designing shoes. Here's my advice for anyone looking to make a big career change, at any age:
I could tell my cousin was doubting herself within the first few minutes of our conversation. After college, she took some time off to travel and has remained in the same job since she returned. She's comparing herself to women who had killer college internships and immediately landed jobs that seem perfect, at least on Instagram. But discounting herself and putting herself down for not being ahead of the game doesn't do her, or anyone, any favors.
Instead, I told her to take pride in herself for seeing the world and staying at a job that allowed her to live a fruitful life in Ohio, including meeting her now-husband. Before you apply to anything, take a moment to think about the number of things you've accomplished. That's the mind space you should be applying to a job in, not a self-doubting one. I didn't love my job at AOL, but it's the place where I was motivated enough to start cupcakes and cashmere (and where I met my then-client, now-husband). In retrospect, every job I had taught me a lesson, even if it wasn't clear at the time.
Next: Be patient with yourself. I could tell that my cousin was feeling exasperated that she wasn't receiving any offers yet. But sometimes the job process can take a long time, no matter how qualified you are.
The best piece of application advice I ever received was from my dad: Remain persistent, without being annoying. When my cousin received a response from a marketing agency letting her know they didn't have an opening, I encouraged her to set a reminder to follow-up in a few months and reach out to someone she admires at the company for an informational interview. Just because they don't have jobs now doesn't mean they won't have one soon, and the fact that you were so persistent may put you at the top of their hiring list.
When I wanted to work at Condé Nast after school, I spent my entire senior year interviewing there and being told "No." Finally, a role came up the day I graduated and I moved to L.A. the next day. The fact that I'd been so persistent made them think of me when the opportunity finally arose.
One of the most common mistakes I see when people reach out to me about working at cupcakes and cashmere (P.S., Never apply for a job via DMs), is they start out by explaining how the job would benefit them. Everyday, someone emails me to say that they'd like to work for us because it would serve their dream of launching a career in fashion. Let me be clear: Of course I want all of our employees to learn as much as possible, and go off to have fantastic careers when they leave us. But at the point of hiring, I want to know what you can bring to the company, not how we can serve your interests. When cold-emailing someone, be sure to include what you bring to the table. Sell yourself, your work ethic, and experience. Make it clear to a potential employer you'd be a strong asset and worthy investment.
A career switch can be a blow to your ego, since it often means starting over in a new field. But the sooner you accept this, the sooner you'll be on your way to a successful, passion-filled career. First: Get your foot in the door anyway you can. Take a busy-work job, but be the person who's first in and last out. If you set yourself apart, and demonstrate how passionate you are about the company, chances are your manager will take note. In short: Make yourself indispensable, no matter your role.
Have you made a big career change recently? What advice helped you make the leap? Share in the comments below!