A Career Change View

By: Jacklyn Hughes

So it is that time, the time when you wake up one morning and know that you need to change careers. I am a single Mom and have a teenager. I also have been working as a hairstylist for over 15 years and have run a successful business, but the time is now to grow up and get a “real job”, as certain people have told me.

Since when did hairdressing not count as a real job? I thought that is what I’ve had all along! I pay my bills, put food on the table, I raise my daughter and can afford to send her to a good school, and I’ve traveled all around the world. I’m proud of my accomplishments and my skills. I’ve won awards and many of my clients literally travel in from other cities for their appointments. I’m in demand and yet there are some who still look down on my profession. This is the attitude I’m facing. My mountain to climb as I reinvent myself.

Why am I looking for a career change at this point? Simply put, I want more. I love a challenge and I love business. I’m good at it. I have a real knack for projects and planning and still, I love people and working as part of a team.

My first thought was “I know, I’ll go work in a corporate office!” I figured that with my public relation skills, my success at running my own business and several years doing volunteer project management for a non- profit organization, that it would be a piece of cake. I saw job postings and what they wanted for skills and I knew I could do the job. I figured I would just go in and apply (or apply online in most cases), and land a new job and I’d be off and running. Oh, how wrong I was. Apparently there is a stigma still attached to hairstylists. We are still too-often considered uneducated and it’s assumed we do not have the first clue on how to operate a business. I was shut down. Now what?

I did some investigation and realized that I was missing that “piece of paper”, a certification or degree that companies are looking for. Years of experience behind me didn’t seem to count as much as having taken a course, so being the type of person I am I thought I’d start with something I love and know I could do well in - project management. The course was interesting and, just as I thought, I loved it. I could feel my creative juices flowing page after page. I completed the entire course and then when it came to write the final so I could get some letters behind my name, (because in the corporate world those letters seem to mean everything) I discovered I need several project hours before I can write the exam. Again I thought no problem as I had volunteered and did project management with a non-profit organization for several years. Unfortunately, according to the course advisor the hours needed to be paid hours not volunteer. It didn’t count. Now what? I need to get experience but I can't get a job, without a job I can't get experience, so here I was stuck in a cliché.

I did what every resourceful person would do-I Googled to find information on making a career change. There is a lot of great information out there for women who are taking the plunge to reinvent themselves like I am. More and more women are returning to the work force because of the economy, and competition for jobs is definitely more tough.

I’d like to share an article that helped put things into focus for me:

After reading this article I started a plan of action.

1) I researched what fields I was interested in and what it would take to enter and advance in each field.

2) I spoke to different vocational sources and discussed what options were available for a mature student.

3) I made a list of achievable goals to create a step-by-step plan for my career transition.

I returned to university and I am currently enrolled in distance learning for Business Management. I still run my business and still work with all the different clients. I still play mom's taxi service to my teenager and several of her friends. I am still striving to cross the threshold of hairstylist to corporate business woman.

With each completed course I get closer to achieving my goal. The hardest part is taking the first steps, but you can do it!

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