Whether you fear it or welcome it, career change will likely happen a few times in your life
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While working in Mexico, Shanah Trevenna became
Like Mavro, University of Hawaii professor Shanah Trevenna left a lucrative engineering job for something different, but, in Trevenna’s case, it was her work in a developing country that opened her eyes to what she really wanted to do.
“I came from a small town called St. Thomas in Ontario, Canada. I was the first in my family to go to college and, back then, I didn’t even know what an engineer was,” says Trevenna. “While working for a big corporation, I was sent to work in Monterrey, Mexico, and I experienced how people were being treated. I questioned my company’s practices there and was told, ‘You’re right, but no one’s going to do anything about it. The system is set up to fail.’ ” Disenchanted, and only 28 years old, Trevenna plotted her exit strategy.
“I took a course on technology, society and the environment, then I learned more about community economic development. It was all about how a region could be self-sufficient by honoring the triple bottom line of environmental, economic and social consciousness. I began expanding myself beyond engineering.”
She also scanned the world for a place to fulfill her calling. “I had never been to Hawaii but chose it for its potential for sustainability,” she explains. “Hawaii has the ability to be self-sufficient in this lifetime.”
Trevenna moved to Oahu and, as a graduate student at UH-Manoa, launched Sustainable UH, an organization with the mission “to be in service of those establishing the University of Hawaii as a world leader in sustainable practices, education and research.”
Trevenna now travels the country as a consultant promoting sustainability and her book, “Surfing Tsunamis of Change: A Handbook for Change Agents.” She says there is a stigma attached to the process of making big career changes and a fear of the unknown, but her advice to others contemplating change sounds simple.
“What did you do when you were 10 years old and you could do whatever you wanted? That’s probably your passion. Delve into your passion and, for practical purposes, do an internship in line with your passion. Trust in yourself,” she says.
Inkinen agrees. In an age when employees want fulfillment in their careers and a better work-life balance, not just a paycheck, switching careers is no longer unusual.
And how should employers deal with disenchanted employees?
“If you have an employee who is unhappy and wants to leave, don’t look at it as a bad thing,” says Inkinen. “Turnover is often healthy. You can take the opportunity to revamp the position and fill it with someone different. This kind of change often helps a company grow, too.”
Five Tips for Career Changers
1. Think before you leap
Do you want a new career or a new job? Perhaps you just need to change companies and not industries. For example, if you’re an unhappy lawyer, perhaps you need to practice in a different specialty or work for a different firm, instead of leaving law altogether.
2. Identify your talents, skills and interests
Think of your natural abilities and allow them to steer you toward your new career. What comes easily? What are your passions?
3. Highlight skills that are transferable
Some skills can be transferred to a new career, including management skills, writing and public-speaking abilities, and many others.
4. Know the requirements of the new career
Will you need more education, training or certification? If a position requires an MBA, make sure you can commit the time and money needed to earn that degree.
5. Do your research
Network with people working in your chosen career field so you will know the expectations in that industry.
Source: Kathryn Inkinen, president, Inkinen & Associates
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