In 2015, Lauren moved to Chicago to study Art Education at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She had worked previously as an Art Teacher and thought she wanted to pursue a career in the museum field.
After grad school, Lauren looked for a museum education job for two years without any luck. She applied for hundreds of postings and eventually heard back from less than five museums with no prospective offers.
She took unpaid internships to boost her resume and worked part-time jobs for minimum wage to supplement her income, which at age 29, felt like a step backward for her.
ALV: WHAT LED YOU TO DECIDE, “OKAY, IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE?”
LAUREN: What finally pushed me to make a change was realizing that the museum field is incredibly saturated with other really smart, well education people – especially white women. Unfortunately, this often leads to a culture where only people of privilege, who can afford to pursue graduate degrees and take unpaid work, end up in the field. While I know some kick-ass men and women of color that are actively disproving these pre-requisites, it’s definitely a very slow, uphill battle. As a white woman, I just didn’t feel right about breaking my back to perpetuate this system.
Lauren talked to many empathetic mentors and peers about her experiences, but she wasn’t sharing anything they didn’t already know, which only confirmed to her that she was making the right decision to leave.
ALV: WHICH INDUSTRY OR ROLE WERE YOU HOPING TO TRANSITION TO?
LAUREN: I knew I wanted to get back to something creative. I have a degree in art and have spent my entire life making and writing things. I thought maybe I would even want to become an art teacher, but the prospect of going back to school again to get my credential made me cringe. So I kept it broad: I wanted to do something where every day, my job involved making something new.
When she started her search for a new career, Lauren realized she was interested in working with other people who were really passionate about doing their jobs well. She wanted to go to work with colleagues who cared about their jobs and did the best they could, while also being able to talk about other things (beyond work) during happy hour.
Lauren had heard of ALV coaching through Brit + Co and after a little research, she was impressed by the way ALV focuses on helping our clients figure out what they wanted to do, rather than helping them land any old job.
ALV: WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST BENEFIT OF WORKING WITH ALV?
LAUREN: I have some work-related trauma in my past that I really needed to work through. With kindness and respect, my ALV coach, Mandy, asked me to reflect on experiences with a previous boss who made me feel like I was not just a bad employee, but a bad person. Through my reflections, I came to the realization that these accusations said much more about my former boss than they did about me.
The imposter syndrome that I experience in my work life is really painful, but if I focus on the things I do well that make me unique – that I can communicate effectively through a variety of mediums, that I care about my work no matter what I’m doing, that I create unity around me – I can overcome those bad feelings long enough to be successful.
It took 6 months for Lauren to transition into her new career, and it took her just one interview to land her current position as a Content Producer/Strategist for a branding and ecommerce consulting company. In short; she now writes stuff!
ALV: DURING YOUR INTERVIEW, WHAT WAS YOUR MOST EFFECTIVE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION “WHY DO YOU WANT TO LEAVE YOUR CURRENT ROLE?”
LAUREN: I think it’s really important to sell your interviewer on how this job is fundamentally different – as opposed to better – than your current role. You don’t want them to think that you’re just looking at a grass-is-greener opportunity, but that you’re trying to make a definitive, life-altering decision to switch gears.
Lauren’s best interview tip is this: Don’t let imposter syndrome make you feel like you don’t have enough experience to be an interesting candidate. By the same token, be honest about your experiences without being overly negative. You can thoughtfully explain why you left your previous field in a way which makes you sound wiser!
ALV: WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART OF YOUR CAREER TRANSITION:
LAUREN: It was hard to let go of my seat at the table. I didn’t want to keep my foot in the door of the museum world, I wanted to be able to let go completely, and after four years of obsessively thinking about cultural institutions, that was really challenging. I’m finally getting to a place where I can just be a spectator in the museum world, and I remember that being an enthusiast is fun.
ALV: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER CAREER TRANSITIONERS?
LAUREN: There are two voices in your head that you can listen to. The quieter one says, “I think I might be really good at this other thing.” The louder one says, “you’re not good enough to do that.” Listen to the quieter one.
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