Growing up, you’re told to follow your path.
It’s been the cornerstone of countless graduation cards and valedictorian speeches for years.
But what if following your path means changing it?
Leila Mooney is here today to share with us what happened when she changed the direction of her career in order to follow her passion.
I think you’ll find Leila’s story – and the ones she tells about members of her family – truly inspiring.
Thank you for sharing, Leila!
I’ve worked with children and families for the past nine years.
I was one of the fortunate few to land a job straight out of college. A full-time position had opened up in my internship; I jumped for joy and dove in.
Years later, another opportunity presented itself with better pay. So once again, I got on board. How lucky could I be to land not just one, but TWO jobs in my field, so soon after graduation?
Five years later, it felt like my luck had run out. There was no upward mobility and no chance of a raise; on top of that, my passion had burned out.
With an impending merger in my agency’s near future, I knew I had to make a change, yet I had no idea what to do next.
One summer night I was chatting with a friend over dinner and drinks, pondering my next steps. I had been scouring job postings and just couldn’t get excited about any of the prospects I came across.
My friend asked me one simple question, but one that changed the direction my career would take.
“What did you want to do when you were a kid?”
That one sentence changed my frame of mind from hopelessness to seeing a world full of opportunities.
I had always wanted to be a writer. As a child, I ravenously read books and was constantly filling blank notebooks with stories of my own. I dreamt of seeing my words in print.
But how on earth could I be a writer now? My degree is in Child and Family Studies! I had no experience or contacts in the world of writing. Who leaves a steady and secure job to follow their childhood dream?
I only had to look to my family for the answer and learn these important lessons:
1. It’s Never Too Late to Be what You Might Have Been.
From architect to Harley-Davidson rep
My father has always been a driven man.
He graduated high school at barely 16. He went on to college, taking night classes, so he could work while pursuing his degree. Eventually, he graduated with a degree in Architecture. He put in the work, and it paid off. Years and three kids later, he had advanced to Vice President of Design and Construction at a prominent firm in the city.
During his little free time, he found an interest in motorcycles. He got his license, bought a bike and spent most weekends hitting the roads, exploring. He was hooked. It still came as a shock when in 2005, my father left the architecture world behind and took a job selling Harley-Davidsons.
The drastic move left coworkers and family surprised. The job undoubtedly paid less and didn’t have the “prestige” and titles of his former position.
But guess what? He was happy.
Around the same time my father made his career change, other transformations were making their way around my household.
From stay-at-home-mom to Master of Social Work graduate
When I was a child, my mom had a small interior design company she ran from our home.
But with three young kids at home and a husband working long hours, she eventually dropped the business and became a stay at home mom.
She loved that she was able to raise us, but she wanted something more for herself.
In the fall of 2005, my mom took the plunge and went back to graduate school for Social Work.
Just six months before I would graduate college, my mom had officially become a Licensed Master of Social Work.
At her graduation party, she gave out water bottles that read “It’s never too late to be what you might have been,” a quote from George Elliot that seems to now define my family.
From working for a non-profit to being an urban farmer
My older sister is just two years my senior. After graduating college, she landed a job in communications at a non-profit organization in the city. She enjoyed her job, didn’t have grueling hours and made a decent living.
During her daily commute to work and on weekends, she read. She started reading about urban farming, and eventually farming in general.
Surely, you can understand how shocked my family was when she announced she would be quitting her job and moving across the country to try her hand at farming. Being from New York City, the idea of farming was beyond foreign to us. As I helped her pack up the car for her cross-country adventure, I remember asking her “Are you sure you want to do this? Is this a viable move?”
I regret saying those things now, as I know how hurtful it can be to have someone second-guess your dreams.
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2. Big Moves Come With Risks
Making a change comes with risks.
Your income may be downsized, even if only temporarily. You may find yourself having to learn new skills, a whole new way of doing things. You may feel fear and regret. The point to remember is: change isn’t always easy. It’s up to you to make it worth it.
What are you looking to gain from changing your path? More time at home? Doing work that makes you feel creative and fulfilled?
Finding your “why” and what you want to gain is one surefire way to find your motivation to succeed.
3. Consider the Risks Versus the Rewards
My father was able to do what he enjoyed and surround himself with people who shared his passion.
In her new job, my mother helps people from all different walks of life.
My sister still lives in New Mexico. She branched out to flower farming and is killing the wedding game, and has even been featured in magazines! Not one of my family members said they walked an easy path to make these big moves, but the rewards were worth it!
4. Fighting the Doubt Is Worth It
One of the hardest parts of making my move to freelance writing was the fear and doubt.
The day I gave my notice was the most freeing day of my life. The day after, however, was riddled with anxiety. What had I done? Did I just throw away my years of education and experience (not to mention a steady paycheck) for a foolish pursuit of a dream?
The words I spoke to my sister the day she was packing up her car had come back to haunt me.
“ If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always had.”
How do you get past the negative thinking?
Put the work in and prove them wrong! I started the online search for any and every resource I could. It was kismet when I found Gina’s 30 Days Or Less writing course, which helped get me on the right track.
I joined local writers workshops and made sure to write and pitch every single day. I got rejected a lot. But each rejection pushed me harder. You need to push yourself out of your comfort zone if you want to make the change worthwhile.
5. Don’t Cling to a Mistake
And here’s another lesson I learned: don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.
I’m by no means saying that your current career is a mistake. However, it does become easy to be “too comfortable to leave,” even if you’re unhappy in your job. It’s even harder to think about changing paths when you take into account any higher education you may have devoted to one field.
The expertise is in the experience!
The skills and experience you’ve gained from any job or education can be easily translated into other careers. You just need to know how to apply them. This is true, especially in freelance writing.
I may not be a parent or hold a Masters degree in Education, but my education and years in the field weren’t wasted. I have unique insights into what goes on inside classrooms and afterschool programs. I have expertise.
And so do you! Write out your responsibilities in your job and evaluate. How can you use these skills to promote your expertise?
I’m lucky to have such role models for change in my family. I’m not saying I might never have taken the leap to freelance writing full time, but without the experience of my family, it may have taken much, much longer. It took a lot to get over the doubt. But it’s worth it. The rewards greatly outweigh the risks.
What’s keeping you from your dreams? How can you use your experience to make a new career work for you? Let us know in the comment section below!
Leila is a freelance writer, wife and millennial (love or hate the term, that’s what she is!) She enjoys writing about a variety of lifestyle topics and when she’s not writing, you can find her curled up with a book. If you’d like Leila to help tell your story, click here!