Woman standing near arrows against asphalt | advice for changing careers
Read time: 3 min

“I completed a graduate teaching program, and my first year of teaching was terrible. Now I’m rethinking everything. Do you have any tips on what to do when the career you’ve planned for ends up not working out?”

Audrey B., second-year graduate student, Portland State University 

What you’re experiencing is normal—we all go through different phases in our lives. Give yourself a round of applause for what you have accomplished and the experience that you have gained so far. It’s a good thing that you were able to recognize early on that this may not be the career for you. Now, you’ll need to figure out what your next steps are. 

Take a self-assessment

VIPS: values, interests, personality, and skills | advice for changing careersI always suggest to students and alumni who are looking for a career change to take a career assessment (such as these free assessments on CareerOneStop). Look for an assessment that utilizes a combination of your values, interests, personality, and skills (VIPS) to guide you through the exploration process of locating a new potential career. By taking this assessment, your goal is to become self-aware so that you can make a well-informed decision about your next career move. You can also check with your university; many career centers have subscriptions for career assessments that you can take for free.

After you take your assessment, take a hard look at what was suggested for you. Research everything about the potential careers that interest you and even research a few careers that may not be on your list. I also suggest that you make an appointment with your career center to talk through your results and research.

Learn what your degree qualifies you for

Another potential starting point would be to ask your career center if they have resources on what you can do with your current major/degree. Many people find that they can transition into a new career with their current degree. However, if through your research you find that more schooling is necessary for your career change, don’t be discouraged. It’s common practice for people to return to school, or take night classes or online classes while working full- or part-time jobs.

Identify your skill set

The awesome thing about being a college graduate, in any area, is that you have developed transferable skills that can be applicable in other industries. Use these skills as a selling point and be sure to highlight them on your résumé.

Pros and cons icon | advice for changing careers

Evaluate your options

Weigh all the pros and cons of leaving your current career for the new career you are examining. Make note of these pros and cons and your thoughts on them.

Take action

Organize an action plan and write it down. Some items on your action plan should be: updating your résumé (visit your career center for assistance), reaching out to your network for potential job opportunities, applying for employment opportunities, speaking to advisors, etc.

Continue to reflect on your results, research, and action plan(s) as you go through this process. Take a deep breath and look at this as an opportunity to begin an exciting new chapter in your life.

Clemson Resources


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