Career transitions are equal parts scary and exhilarating. And if transformation is truly what you desire, then there are few reasons not to take a chance. Life is too short not to do what you love.
How do I know? Well, I went through a significant career transition. After spending over a decade working for NASA as an electrical engineer, I received my real estate license. Making the radical move from rocket scientist to real estate professional wasn’t an easy transition.
There’s no doubt that guiding astronauts on the International Space Station to repair their equipment in space is a far cry from guiding home buyers and sellers on their real estate journeys. What helped me the most was figuring out how to apply the lessons learned in my first career to my blooming real estate career.
I credit these lessons learned with my current success, and I hope they can bring you success in your next career transition.
“Trust, but Verify”
“Trust, but Verify” is NASA's unofficial slogan. I hear it repeated by everyone from leaders to administrative staff throughout the organization, and for good reason. When everyone is operating with this principle in mind, you don’t just have a team, you have an A-team. Trust is the mark of true collaboration.
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Whether the project is launching a rocket to the International Space Station or finding the career of your dreams, this principle ensures that the checks and balances needed for success are in place.
When considering this principle in relation to a career transition, it reminds us to take time to discover what we want and how to get it. As you do your research, trust your gut, but verify what you’re feeling. For example, you may find that you still enjoy your current career but would welcome more flexibility in your schedule. Or you may come to the conclusion that what you need is a different position in a different field altogether.
If you’re ready to take the plunge, learn as much as possible about your new potential career. Research qualifications, salaries and the marketplace. Then talk to people in your desired profession to get a more realistic picture of what your new career would be like.
Get Up to Speed
If, like me, you have been in your current career for many years without having done much job-searching, realize the ways in which the process has changed. Like a rocket gearing up to break free of Earth’s gravitational pull, you’ve got to get up to speed on the latest trends in your target profession.
Getting my real estate license meant making a considerable investment in education. Yes, I had to take all the usual real estate classes, but I also had to educate myself about how to become a successful and profitable independent contractor. Think about how to bridge the gaps in your personal knowledge base to set yourself up for success.
Networking has always been and always will be a critical part of building a successful career as a real estate professional. The same is true of every other career, too. Do yourself a favor: If you don’t yet have a LinkedIn profile or your current one could use some updating, pay attention to this critical business tool. Also, it’s important to build in some time each day for online networking.
Plan for the Unexpected
From the outside, it seems obvious how to prepare for a space flight mission: test for the mission conditions, create a plan, then operate according to the plan. But the thing about space flight missions is that each one is unique, and so it’s impossible to plan for everything.
Likewise, each career transition is unique, and so it’s impossible to plan for everything. The best you can do is hedge your bets:
Take your time and avoid rash decisions.
Don’t be afraid to keep one foot in one career as you feel your way into a different career.
Involve your family and those closest to you in your decision.
Gather as much information and talk to as many people with the right experiences as you can.
Do as much as you can to prepare before you take the leap.
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Remind yourself that you can’t anticipate every challenge you’ll encounter.
Don’t burn any bridges.
While there are no guarantees in life, keeping the above strategies in mind will maximize your chances of finding success. Best of luck with your career transformation!
Juan Munoz is a real rocket-scientist-turned-Realtor with HomeSmart Realty Group.
Westword occasionally publishes op-eds on issues of interest in metro Denver — and World Space Week starts today! Have a piece you'd like to submit? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, where you can also comment on this one.