An Unconventional Path to Communications
Like many college graduates, I walked across the stage with a five-year plan. But unlike most communications professionals, I also walked across the stage with a master’s degree in accounting. I know what you’re thinking: Numbers and words aren’t exactly one and the same. Well, you’re right.
How it all started
I started my professional career journey at a Big Four public accounting firm. It was the dream of any accounting major and, more important, the path was clear: Land an internship, attend graduate school, then start your career and path to become a partner. I loved the absoluteness of it.
Two years into my career, I had a great job, a steady income and a world of opportunity, but I had an uncomfortable awakening. I wasn’t happy. It wasn’t one defining moment, but rather a lot of little moments that added up to be too much. Everything was right, but it all felt wrong.
And so, I came to a fork in the road. It took a lot of courage to admit to others and even more moxie to admit to myself, but I decided it was time to move on. I refused to spend the rest of my life unhappy at work.
I had no idea where the road less traveled would take me. All I cared about was that it was taking me far away from a career of long days and unfulfilling work. I wish I could say I had a calculated plan to redefine my career path, but I’d be lying. I pivoted into the first role I could find and landed as a recruiter.
While the glass slipper didn’t quite fit, it did give me the headspace to do something I hadn’t done in years: write.
And so, it began
I began writing about my career journey, my experiences, and my thoughts around work and well-being. It was cathartic, fulfilling and, most of all, fun. I loved the feeling of my heart and soul pouring out of my fingertips onto the keys of my laptop. Click-clack-click-clack. Each keystroke was taking me one step closer to a career where work and happiness could collide. I just didn’t know it yet.
The universe must have known that recruiting wasn’t my calling before I did because, shortly after I started, another recruiter enlisted me to work in operations at an accounting firm. While this wasn’t a long-term fit, it gave me the freedom to hone my writing skills and dabble in communications responsibilities in a more formal capacity.
After three years of playing it safe in a comfortable role, I was ready to take the plunge into the communications field, so I left to become a social media and marketing coordinator.
This leap propelled me into uncharted territory. Social media was only a stepping-stone, so I put in my time and jumped at the chance to be where I am now. It took over four years to transition from an accounting professional to corporate communications, and I’ll let you in on a secret: I had no idea what I was doing. But I can tell you one thing: I’m happy.
How I got here, and how you can too
My path was not linear and not planned. It took perseverance, grit and determination (or, as some call it, stubbornness). Transitioning careers is not for the faint of heart, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, but here’s what worked for me:
1. Practice, practice, practice.
When I started freelancing, I didn’t even know that’s what I was doing. I only knew I liked to write and, by some miracle, someone else liked what I wrote. I started by cold-emailing websites and pitching stories about my career, sometimes even blindly sending complete articles to online publications unsolicited. It took a lot of trial and error, but getting published on one outlet gave me the confidence to reach out to another and then another.
There are plenty of online resources now that will teach you how to freelance and hone your craft much more eloquently, but the important thing is that you start, and then once you start, keep going.
2. Network online and offline.
Networking can feel anything but authentic when you’re transitioning careers. Awkward doesn’t do justice to how it felt giving my elevator pitch to a stranger as I stumbled for the words to explain why I’d spent five years in college studying accounting only to change my mind two years after graduation.
But no matter how excruciating it was, I continued to do it. I attended events to meet like-minded people and followed local professionals on social media to form authentic connections virtually. Eventually, it became easier, and my story became clearer.
3. Accept the “right for now” job.
No job is perfect. While much of a position can be everything you hoped for, there are always less-than-stellar responsibilities. So instead of focusing on immediately stepping into a perfect role, I accepted positions that were “right for now” instead of “right for forever.” Whether I liked it or not, every role and responsibility led me one step closer to a fulfilling career as a communications professional.
Everyone’s career journey is unique. Some are linear and others, like mine, are unconventional. But no matter how you found yourself here, rest assured that you’re in good company.