Like many UNC alumni, you might be looking at new career options after being in a career or industry for many years. The decision to change careers can come with fears or anxieties that you didn’t expect, but we at UNC are here to share some insight from fellow Bears as you look to apply to a new role or enter a new industry. Here are a few things you can expect when going through the process of changing careers. 

Making the decision to change

The decision to change careers can be a difficult one. For many, the decision to change is based on values; the current career path they are taking doesn’t feel right, they no longer believe in the leadership of the institutions or organizations they work for, or they want to do more by sharing the skills and expertise they have. Others look at the work they’ve done up to that point in their career, and want to expand into career options or industries that find those skills and experiences relevant. Others simply see company restructuring as a pivotal opportunity to try their hand at something new. The decision process can take months or even years, and it can take many conversations with family and colleagues on what this change will bring.

If you think it might be time to make a change, take some insight from fellow UNC Bears who have made a career change:

“If you’re thinking that where you are isn’t where you fit, and you’re thinking about another opportunity, take it! There’s a reason why you have that thought in your brain, and we have to ignore that self-doubt, and just take it. You start to mess it up when you start to think about it, but you can’t do that, you simply have to jump in.” Felecia Burke ’96, ’00

“If you’re in a career that you feel you’re not personally invested in, do things outside of work that fill you. Be the champion for your children’s school or for your city, connect with fellow alumni and current students, and bring value to your family. Just do what you need to do while in your current position to get you to that next position. Education, testing, certifications, etc… Do it for you.” Ryan Roth ’99

Challenges you might face

Change brings stress, but stressors are unique to your current situation. Finances, family dynamics, new position responsibilities, and time to build on your network can all cause you to rethink your decision, but it’s important to note that many of these challenges are temporary. Thinking long-term may help mitigate this stress, and it will help you plan for the many changes that come with a career change.

Communication with family and friends will also be vital during this time. Communicating with your partner about changes in schedules or family roles will help mitigate the stress that comes with a new profession. Finding a colleague, family member, or fellow Bear to be an outlet, will allow you to share your struggles without judgment. 

Resources available to you as a UNC Bear

Have you shadowed a potential future colleague in their role, or had a career conversation about what the industry looks like? You can easily connect with fellow UNC Bears through our online LinkedIn Alumni Group. These career conversations might also be an opportunity to ask hard-hitting questions about changes in schedules, work-life balance, average salaries and benefits information, and a time to ask for additional connections in the industry. 

As part of the UNC Bear Network, there are various resources at your disposal. Here are a few great ways to start tapping into our suite of career resources and programs:

Bear Network Live online career chats – chat 1-on-1 with a UNC career counselor and get your career questions answered. Happen monthly, register for our next event today.

Digital resources & blogs – expand your social media presence, update your professional materials, and read the alumni blog to continue to develop your professional expertise.

Alumni-only career events – UNC partners with institutions around the state to offer alumni only career events. (Fall 2017 free event - HireBoulder on December 7th).

Continued Professional Development – take an online course through UNC’s Extended Campus, or start down the path of your next degree through UNC’s Graduate School.

Felecia’s Story

Felecia graduated from UNC in 1996 with a degree in Elementary Education and a passion to support the development of youth in her community. For 12 years, Felecia stayed on that path, always passionate about the students she was serving, but slowly losing confidence in school district leadership. These changes caused Felecia to question her “fit” in her role as a teacher, in education, and in her community. She wondered if she could still grow and flourish, and if she was making a difference for the students she served. 

As Felecia’s time as an educator was coming to an end, she and her husband had several conversations around making the change. How would she succeed in this new role? How would a career change affect the family? 

Although it didn’t come without hiccups, Felecia says she couldn’t be happier after making the change from educator to sales manager at North American Title. Her work continues to feed her soul, because she provides options and education for home buyers, real estate agents, colleagues, and others through products and training. 

Felecia shared that the transition was difficult for her family. Her traditional schedule as an educator had her home by 4 p.m., and immersed in home life. In her new schedule, many of her traditional roles at home no longer fit; she worked later hours because relationship building and networking happened after close of business. She and her husband had to learn to communicate differently after the change, and coupled with other ways of looking at things, the new family dynamic took shape. 

The other struggle Felecia shared was the issue around salary. Felecia initially feared not meeting home expenses through the commission in her new role, so she negotiated a base salary comparable to her former teaching salary. This ended up hindering her initial success, and was difficult to negotiate her way out of. Felecia hopes that more women find ways to connect with others in the industry to ask about options, and not hinder their own success. 

Recently, Felecia was named the Denver Metro Sales Manager for North American Title. Join us in celebrating her success!

Ryan’s Story

Ryan graduated from UNC in 1999 with degrees in Journalism and Communication, and a full-time position at Frito Lay. He and his wife met during their student experience at UNC. To support their growing family, Ryan began working at Frito Lay after graduation. Ryan spent nearly 17 years at the company, and although he had a stable position, he desired a better life. Ryan shared that there was a lack of professional advancement in his role, and that he didn’t feel emotionally connected to the work he was doing. While the company was completing a restructuring, Ryan took the change as an opportunity to move into a new industry. 

Ryan recently entered the insurance industry, and although there have been challenges; he and his family mitigate their stress through their faith as Christians. Ryan also shared that the family prepared in many ways prior to his career change including a comprehensive financial plan while Ryan’s business took off.

In our conversations, Ryan spoke to the passion he’s found in his new industry. He is able to use his skillset and values in his work every day, and is able to help others in ways he could have never done in his former role. He also talked about the leap of faith he and his family had to take for him to follow this new path, and the advice he would share with others. “There is no going back. You have to be in and do it 100%. Toes in the water doesn’t work.” Through this mindset, he has pushed himself into taking every opportunity, training, or networking event as a growth into his new life.

Ryan said he would have liked to have a mentor in his new industry, but more specifically, a mentor who had entered the industry within the last three years. This would have helped him learn about the challenges and potential pitfalls of entering a new industry. It would have also provided an opportunity to share insight, ask for feedback, and receive pointers about the first 6 months to a year in the new role. He hopes to remain engaged with UNC and provide that insight along with other UNC Bears as others decide to enter a new industry.

Recently, Ryan joined the Greeley Chamber of Commerce. Help us celebrate this and other upcoming successes!

Do you have a career change story to add? Would you like to be a resource for fellow UNC Bears thinking about career change? Get involved as an alumni career advisor.