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Visual of 5 Things I've Learned by Switching CareersBy: Tawanda Carlton, Junior Account Executive

Sir Richard Branson once said, “Unless you dream big you’re not going to achieve anything.” This quote has been etched in my mind from the first time I read it a few years ago. It wasn’t until last year I decided to put the words into action. For me, dreaming big has meant switching professional gears and stepping into the world of PR.

Making a pivot in your career can be tough because it can cause you to feel there’s been a major setback in your life, and make you think your time has been wasted. So, do you dream big or do you hesitate? There are many people who never manage to switch careers because they don’t have the courage, but like many things, it starts with taking the first step.

Here are five things I’ve learned in changing my career:

Create your own opportunities

Before I moved to Atlanta, I remember reaching out to one of my “mentors in my head” on social media for her advice on how to connect with those in my potential field and land a job in a new city. She only had four words for me, “create your own opportunity.” This is the advice I was left with and it was up to me to figure the rest out. Sometimes creating your own opportunity means taking on a part-time internship while you work full-time, networking and setting up a coffee or lunch date with a successful person in the career you wish to pursue, or volunteering in a capacity that can speak to your desired skill set.

Trust your gut

When it’s time to make a change in your life, you know it. It’s an internal shift you can’t ignore. Once I committed to the idea of pursuing a career in PR, I read everything I could on the topic, sought advice from mentors, and figured out how to make it happen. My background in broadcast journalism gave me my foundation but I still had a lot to learn, making the process as scary as it was exciting. Even still, I knew that taking any job would keep me further away from my goal. I had to trust the process and ignore the fear.

Remember to be brave (and feisty)

It’s easy to get comfortable in your career and lose the spark that got you there, but there is nothing like the uncertainty of starting anew that kicks your survival instincts into full gear. Being brave means making a decision and taking action. Taking a risk and believing you have what it takes can be the hardest to overcome, but it’s doable.

Stay humble

When you start on a new career path it’s important to remember you are new to the role, which means some parts require paying your dues in an entirely new field. Starting new means the playing field is not even; however, it doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes. Many people think of humility as thinking very little of yourself and it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Humility is about reflection and assessment. A big part of humility is knowing what your limits are, understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and realizing there is no problem in learning something different.

Life experience counts

When I started in my new role what I had to remember is that I’m not totally new to the game. I’ve worked in big and small companies, following up with key stakeholders, persisting to get results, and I’m familiar with juggling multiple tasks. I’ve received promotions and survived layoffs. I’m not afraid to meet with clients, work with executives, or navigate my way through the internal politics of a new industry. I have experience because I’ve practiced these things for years in my previous roles. So remember, even though you are starting in a new field, it doesn’t mean you’re starting from scratch.

The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner is one of my favorite reads. There is a quote from his book that has stayed with me for as long as I can remember:

“Others may question your credentials, your papers, your degrees. Others may look for all kinds of ways to diminish your worth. But what is inside you no one can take from you or tarnish…no amount of paper, no pedigree, and no credentials can make you legit. No matter what, you have to feel legit inside first.”

So again, do you dream or do you hesitate? Remember, there is no age limit or rules when it comes to pivoting in life. You always have a chance to change your mind; a pivot simply means you’re moving forward.