Let’s Be Honest About Career Transitioning

If you were like me in high school, your parents, teachers, and guidance counselors urged you to follow a straightforward path: go to a good college, complete a few internships, graduate, and land a respectable job. This path keeps you from going astray in a big world. As I would become the first person in my family to graduate from college, you better believe I was going to follow this path. But now, I wonder if it held me back from pursuing my goals.

Per my father’s insistence, I attended a public university without a clue as to what I wanted to major in. Eventually, I chose journalism because of my love for writing and African-American studies because I wanted to learn more about my history. I went on to earn my MBA from Alverno, and the College’s emphasis on personal growth made realize the shortcomings of my original approach — mainly, that plans are never set in stone. While I had hoped to pursue my journalism career, life intervened on my “foolproof” path. Through trial and error, I moved from corporate communications to project management, eventually landing in corporate recruiting/human resources.

My varied experiences were necessary as a young professional making her way and in shaping a philosophy regarding work culture. I moved from company to company, gaining salary increases and exposure to new opportunities, but also a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. That feeling was the uncomfortable realization that my definition of success has evolved dramatically from my time as a bright-eyed undergraduate.

I suppressed this nagging feeling for the longest time, telling myself that I didn’t have the luxury of exploring other interests. I eventually realized that I needed to make a change, or I would burn out.

I underwent a period of self-rediscovery by asking myself the tough questions: “What do I want to do?” and: “Is what I am doing now moving me closer to the things I want?” I needed a serious realignment of my career with my personal goals. As for my family and other guiding figures, I decided I would no longer place their opinions instead of forming my own.

To those looking for advice, let me say that you must first have a sense of self. Knowing who you are and what you want allows you to stay firm in the face of obstacles and other people’s judgments. Second, understand that you are allowed to change and grow, but do so under your own terms. Third, know that doubts will creep up from time to time. However, avoid allowing them to overwhelm you. Always stay focused on your goals and work toward achieving them. Lastly, build a support system of people who will listen to you and offer advice, not judgment calls or orders. If you feel that the people in whom you are confiding don’t have your best interest at heart, let them go.

As I go through this amazing journey, I am grateful that Alverno has taught me to use my critical thinking skills to analyze situations, to set goals and build strategies toward achieving them, and to believe in my power and voice. Before Alverno, I often found myself doubting my decisions and worrying about the future. Career transitions are hard and even scary; however, my experience at Alverno instilled in me a keen sense of self and self worth. As a strong Alverno woman, I am confident that I can tackle the inevitable challenges head-on. My new path may be rocky or unclear at times, but I am excited, and I know it will be worth it.


Jessica Pharm earned her MBA from Alverno College in 2016. She currently is a talent acquisition recruiter at Athea Laboratories & Packaging. You can find more professional advice on her website.

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