Should I Change My Career to Follow My Passion?

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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.

Should I Change My Career to Follow My PassionBut 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!

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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!




24 thoughts on “Should I Change My Career to Follow My Passion?”

  1. Passion doesn’t have to have an expiration date. I believe if you do it right, passion changes and grows — as we do.

  2. I am currently going through a similar situation. This was absolutely inspirational to read. I will definitely remind myself “It’s never too late to be what you might have been”

  3. I changed my career 10 years ago and may want to do it again soon! Life is too short to be doing something that doesn’t make you happy. If you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything. This article was truly inspiring and a great read for any age! ?

  4. Your experiences are encouragement to delving into the “unknown”. Often we dream of taking another path, rather than continue on the boring day by day
    routine.. We want change but fear failure…..There is comfort in doing what comes naturally……….”what if I don’t make it?”…….know what?…….Start Over
    Just as you did….you have proven that….effort and belief in ones self is the power towards success……..wishing you continued success…..T.M.Macaluso.

    • “We want change, but fear failure”. SO true! It really holds us back from achieving our dreams. But only as much as we let it! Thank you for the kind words!

  5. This post is exactly what I needed to read right now! My husband has the opportunity for a new job, which would mean we would have to move half way across the country. I have been pondering making the leap to freelancing for a while now and this may just be the push that I need to make it happen. Thank you so much for such an inspiring story. Best of luck!

    • You can always look into options after work and on weekends. Explore what makes you happy and then find a way to work it into your daily life. It’s how I started out!

  6. I believe if we are not happy with our life as it stands at this point in time……stand back…and believe that success is within our reach….if only we can be willing to investigate the things in life that has given us confidence and the courage to explore new horizons……then just be firm and confident in the belief that with determination and trust in our inner voices…success can be achieved…….Go for it…….!

  7. The first move is always the hardest, you’re right even if we’re unhappy in our jobs we get to comfortable to leave, it takes courage to quit. …thank you for your inspiring experience.

  8. Remember, it’s never too late to start following your passion. I did so at 68 after multiple very full careers in high tech. Yes, it is scary. Yes, fear of failure is always looming but ask yourself over and over again ‘what is the worse that can happen’. Look closely at that question and you will soon see that even the worst is surmountable. But the rewards will always please and surprise you. Go for it. Follow your passion!

  9. As a part time writer, I’ve been feeling the urge to leave the corporate world and go full time. I’ve been discussing with my husband if we could make things work. I’m not sure, but your post has make me want to see if I can. I’m more than ready to make writing my life. Thanks for the post.

    • Crunch the numbers! I budgeted out every single monthly expense with my husband and had to make some changes to make it feasible. It also took some time, but it’s worth it! My best advice is to continue part time while you budget, build a nest egg and client list until you get to a place where it’s possible to say goodbye to corporate. I’m rooting for ya!

  10. I am currently in this situation and I truly love this because it’s inspirational to my life. I will remind my self about all your messages that was learnt in this reading. Thank you

    • I’m so happy my experiences were able to help inspire you! We owe it to ourselves to always live our best lives, and while it’s not easy, it’ll be worth it! Keep us updated when you make moves!
      And remember….
      “It’s never too late to be what you might have been,”

  11. Great article Leila! I’m going to share it with a friend of mine who lost her job about a month ago. I think your article will definitely provide some inspiration. 🙂

  12. This is so eloquently timed in my life. I’ve been really sitting/wading/drowning in fear. I’ve changed careers more than a few times now (law to higher education to retail to restaurant management to food service) because I never felt happy doing any of them. I was choosing respectable careers over my heart. Time to brush up connecting to myself and truly seeing what I’d like to do because my current job isn’t it at all. I’m gonna bookmark this and reread. Taking a risk seems like the best, most freeing move I’ve ever done. So inspired by your words & the path you’ve walked!!

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