How can I transition back to a career in my field of study?

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job changeDavid from Lynn University asked:

“I graduated several years ago and have been working in a field unrelated to my degree. I want to utilize my education at work, but I have no relevant experience. What can I do to change jobs and work in my field of study?”

Thank you for your question, David!

Career transitions can be daunting, but are by no means impossible. Before changing fields, there are a lot of options and priorities to weigh, as well as a little soul-searching to do.

The trick is to find what you need to be happy. What do you value in your career? What things are important to your happiness, and what things are detrimental? Do you want to be in a certain location, working with or for a certain kind of person, or do you just need a creative outlet? The more precisely you can articulate what you need in a job, the easier it will be to find your new career.


The first step in switching careers is to be realistic. Take stock of where your life is now. What responsibilities and obligations do you have? A mortgage? A family? Loans? If your desired job pays less, are you willing to take a pay cut? If additional education or certification is required, are you willing to pay tuition and make time to go back to school?

Where are the jobs you want? Some occupations are centered in particular cities, like film in Los Angeles, or theater in New York. If the career you’re looking for is clustered in one place, are you willing to move there in order to improve your chances? Find out how much change is required to switch careers, and how much change you’re comfortable making.

A good starting place would be to reach out to your alumni association. Connect with alums who are in your desired field. Pick their brains! Learn from their mistakes! Not only will you gain important networking connections, but you’ll also get a better idea of what starting out in that field will entail.

Experience is experience!

Just because a job doesn’t fit nicely into your field of study, doesn’t mean the experience isn’t relevant. Learning time management, presentation or team work skills while working in finance doesn’t automatically make those skills incompatible with customer service, healthcare, or marketing. Skills are skills, regardless of where you learned them!

Think of your work history not as a list of places and titles, but as a tool box. What experiences have you acquired and what skills have you honed along the way? Examine job descriptions, and look closely at the skills required by the employer. Highlight those experiences that match up, and make it easy for a future employer to see how well you fit the position, even if you haven’t worked directly in the field.

Finding your passion wherever it is.

What if changing careers isn’t the best option right now? It happens, but there are still ways to find fulfillment without switching fields. You can bring those passions that enhance your career to the workplace. Creative? Help make flyers or blow people away with presentations. Entertainer? Organize team-building and morale-boosting social events. Find ways to blend your work and your passion wherever you can, and often times both will be enhanced!

If there are no outlets in your current job, explore volunteering or internships. Want to teach? Volunteer at a kid’s art camp. Love sports and kinesiology? Coach the peewee football team. Miss performing? Audition or help make sets at your local cultural center.

Find satisfying work where you can, even if it isn’t in the work place. And you never know, volunteering can sometimes turn into employment.

Best of Luck, David!


About the Author

Esme Smith

Esme received her M.A. In Counseling from St. Edward's University, and worked with students at Concordia University Texas' Career Center. She developed a passion for Career Counseling after leaving undergrad without much guidance, and grappling with unsatisfying work. She strives to help others bridge the gap between graduation and "the real world."

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