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You Don't Need To Go Back To School To Start A Business Or Switch Careers

You Don't Need To Go Back To School To Start A Business Or Switch Careers

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. In this week's journal entry I want to encourage you not to get stuck in the mindset that you need to go back to school if you want to change careers or start your own business (or both!). That is simply not true!

So many people are under the wrong impression that you need to go back to school and invest in a new degree if you want to do something different for your career. But real life work experience is far more valuable to most employers, and there are so many things you are already qualified to do that require no additional schooling at all! You simply have to get a new perspective. You have to start looking at your skills and work experience in more general terms. I know this can be hard if you just spent a decade doing a certain job, but you can do it. Sit down with a trusted friend or family member and brainstorm how your current skill set translates into other positions.

For example, I know so many lawyers who say to me, "I want to quit the legal profession like you did, but I just don't know what I'm qualified to do." What?! Lawyers have so many transferrable skills. They are typically excellent writers, negotiators, problem solvers, and public speakers. They know how to do research better than almost anyone. And they're the most amazing critical thinkers. From day one in law school, they are taught to see both sides of any argument because, in order to win a legal case, you have to anticipate the other side's best points and know how to get around them. These days, the ability to analyze things from both sides is so valuable. Most people simply don't know how to do that. Lawyers today often have great data analysis skills too, since some cases turn on spotting small differences in digital data and digital documents. What are some things lawyers can do with these skills? Honestly the list is almost endless, but to start they can be a university professor, a real estate agent, a political researcher, a human resources executive, a CEO, or a business consultant. 

This brings me to my next point: don't get stuck in analysis paralysis. Once you get to work on your general list of skills and talents, you might become overwhelmed at all of the options out there that require those skills. There are tons of job titles out there, most of which we don't even know exist. And it can be overwhelming to look at job postings. This is where you need to engage in research. Rather than throwing your hands up in the air as you stare at the open job postings in your city, take a deep breath and pick out the ones that naturally look most appealing to you. Then spend some time doing a little research on what those positions actually do and what skills they require. This is not a five minute project. This might take you a few days or even a few weeks. But the goal is to expand your perspective on the options available to you, and to get out of the pigeon-hole of your current job title. I know, I know, it's so comfortable there. You know what jobs are available in your industry and you know in a split second whether or not you're qualified to do them. But you're a fish out of water here, exploring new jobs and new industries, and you have to expect some ignorance and discomfort at first. But don't get stuck there. Don't become so overwhelmed by all the options that you become paralyzed and give up.

If you truly become stuck in analysis paralysis, you can hire a career coach or a headhunter. These people are trained to help you find alternative careers that suit your skills so they are a great resource. Some are free and some charge a fee, so see what you can find in your area. You might even be able to consult the career office at your old university or grad school. Think outside the box and if you need help, don't be afraid to ask for it. It's better than spending 10 years in a career you find unfulfilling or completely draining. 

Sure, there are some jobs you cannot do without a relevant degree. For example, you can't be a doctor or lawyer or nurse or therapist without the required education. But most jobs don't require additional education if you are otherwise qualified and have translatable experience. So, if you catch yourself in the trap of thinking you need to go back to school, ask yourself - am I using this as an excuse to stay stuck and avoid the discomfort of a major career change? No matter how unhappy you are in your current career, changing careers can be scary and intimidating. It can feel like "starting over" and that's hard, no matter how much courage or strength you have as a person. It's simply a part of being human. So, unless you want to go from baker to doctor, or teacher to lawyer, check yourself and really determine whether additional schooling is required or whether your mind is just trying to keep you secure and avoid major change. And last but not least, do not under any circumstance think you need to go to business school to start your own business. I have quite a few friends with MBA degrees and let me tell you, they are clueless on what it takes to start a small business. People with MBA's tend to be groomed to work in higher level executive positions at existing large companies. They aren't really taught how to start a small business. So, please please please don't think you need a graduate education in business to start that bakery or catering business or book store or fitness coaching business you've been dreaming about.

I hope you're able to learn something valuable from my own experience. If you'd like my Weekly Journal sent straight to your inbox every week, click here to subscribe.

P.S. Are you on Pinterest? I have a Weekly Journal board on Pinterest so you can easily navigate my journal entries. You can view and follow the board by clicking here. I've written so much about quitting my lawyer job to start g+h over the past few years and I want to make it easier for you to access and read the entries that resonate most!


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