Changing careers can be daunting: You might not know yet what your intended path should be, and if you do, the uphill climb to a new role or industry might seem riddled with tasks to be completed and lessons to be learned. It could seem overwhelming and isolating—but it doesn’t have to be.
Whether you're making a leap into a new field or pursuing a passion that's long been dormant, the process of changing careers brings about a wealth of emotions and experiences that are, surprisingly, universal. And along the way, you’ll meet plenty of people willing to help you succeed. Yourself included.
In collaboration with our partner company Markforged, we asked one woman who has changed careers to share the most relatable parts of her career pivot. Meet designer trainer Sabrina Leng. Thanks to her hard work and support from her employer, she is now thriving in the manufacturing industry—but it’s her path to her current role that should make every career changer think, “Whew, so it’s not just me.”
7 relatable things every person experiences when they change careers
1. You’ll find your passion
Some people can clock into their jobs, send a few emails, complete a task or two, and then happily end the day at 5 p.m. They’re neither fulfilled nor unfulfilled by their work. It just is. With intentionally changing careers, however, you’ll experience much more engagement and excitement about the work you do—and maybe even a melding of your personal identity with your professional one.
“Coming from an immigrant family, I’ve always enjoyed being able to help my mom,” Leng says. “It made me feel thankful that I was able to translate English to Khmer, or even English to English with simpler terms. On the other hand, I am a very organized person who enjoys putting things together. Becoming a Designer Trainer has allowed me to excel in both areas!”
Venturing into uncharted territory can help you stumble upon a profession that surprises you, challenges you, fuels you to succeed, and maybe even reminds you of home.
2. You’ll become more resourceful
Changing careers can make you incredibly resourceful. As you transition into a new field, you'll find yourself learning new skills, adapting to different environments, and tackling unexpected challenges. This process forces you to tap into your creativity and problem-solving abilities as you navigate the unknown.
Leng started her career at the company as a machine operator and, over time, transitioned to her current role. Her resourcefulness came into play as she took on new tasks at the company and began skilling up. “To put it simply, taking advantage of every opportunity with Markforged helped me the most,” she says. “It allowed me to be hands on and understand what direction I wanted to take. Most importantly, it highlighted a few strengths I never knew I had.”
Like Leng, you'll discover hidden talents and strengths you never knew you possessed as you change careers, making you more adaptable and resilient in your professional journey.
3. Your team will become integral to your success
Your coworkers and team can play an indispensable role in supporting you as you embark on a career change. Their guidance, encouragement, and willingness to share their expertise can make all the difference. Through their collective knowledge and experience, they become your mentors, helping you navigate the nuances of your new role and providing insights that textbooks and training alone cannot offer.
“Markforged slowly transitioned me into my role and always made sure I felt both comfortable and supported,” Leng says. “There are many programs and processes that are new to me. My team has done an amazing job showing me the ropes and reassuring me of their support.”
A bonus? Such camaraderie also fosters a sense of belonging, making your transition smoother and more enjoyable. Win-win.
4. You’ll have a lot of questions
Similarly, as you embark on a new career path, it’s entirely normal to have a multitude of questions for your manager, coworkers, mentors, or peers. Doubts and uncertainties will naturally arise, and you might wonder if you're making the right choice, if your skills will transfer effectively, or how you'll adapt to a new work culture if you switch teams. These questions are not signs of weakness but rather illuminate your determination to succeed.
“Since I was a machine operator [before I changed careers], I had a pretty good understanding of our processes,” Leng says, “but there were still so many questions I had going into my new role. Asking questions can lead to more opportunities, new skills, knowledge, etc. You must do this to grow into your new job and get comfortable. Everyone at our manufacturing site has helped me immensely.”
It's okay to be inquisitive. In fact, it's a crucial part of the journey toward a fulfilling and successful career change.
“Not having a degree made me feel useless to the workforce. Changing careers has given me a new perspective. I am confident in the knowledge and skills I carry, with or without a degree. It has encouraged me to never give up. I hope I am able to inspire women who may be in the same place. The grass is definitely greener where you water it. Never give up on yourself and continue to fight for what you believe in.” —Sabrina Leng
5. You’ll gain a lot of new skills
With every new job, you learn more tricks of the trade. Now imagine how many more skills you’ll gain when you change not just jobs, but teams or industries. Whether it's learning to adapt to different tools and technologies, mastering fresh techniques, or honing soft skills like communication and adaptability, each day for a career changer brings opportunities for growth.
“Everyday I learn a new skill,” Leng says. “A skill that I find valuable is Computer Aided Design (CAD). There are so many possibilities to create assemblies through CAD designs. CAD design helps me become creative while also developing easy to understand job aides.”
This skill not only helps Leng help others at work, but off the clock, learning CAD has encouraged her to restart her own clothing brand. Don’t be surprised if something like this happens to you. Changing careers will expand your skill set beyond your expectations, making you a more versatile and well-rounded professional who’s curious about pursuing passions in unexpected ways.
6. You’ll gain confidence
In addition to bolstering your hard skills, your inner work will go through some TLC during the career change process. As you take bold steps into a new industry or role, you'll find yourself overcoming challenges and achieving milestones you might never have thought possible. This gradual accumulation of achievements, no matter how small, will grow your self-belief. You'll begin to see that your ability to adapt, learn, and excel in a new environment is a testament to your resilience and competence.
“I have always felt my career wouldn’t go anywhere, Leng says. “In my eyes, all my future held was being a machine operator or manufacturing assembler. Not having a degree made me feel useless to the workforce. Changing careers has given me a new perspective. I am confident in the knowledge and skills I carry, with or without a degree. It has encouraged me to never give up. I hope I am able to inspire women who may be in the same place. The grass is definitely greener where you water it. Never give up on yourself and continue to fight for what you believe in.”
This career change journey is not just about professional growth; it's also about personal empowerment and realizing the extent of your capabilities.
7. You’ll be surprised!
Changing careers is a good way of reminding yourself that you never know where your career will take you! Just when you think you have it all figured out, unexpected opportunities, challenges, and twists can reshape your path in remarkable ways. You might find yourself thriving in roles you never considered, working with inspiring mentors, or discovering hidden talents that propel you to new heights.
“Part of me is shocked that I was able to change career paths,” Leng says. “I am a young female working in manufacturing. Markforged has given me an amazing opportunity, and I will forever be grateful.”
Markforged has exceptional scores for Ability to Telecommute, Flexible Work Hours, and The People You Work With, but what’s got us doing a double take are the goals they’ve shared for WAM+, their women’s affiliate group: “to provide a safe space for open discussion, lobby for diversity in hiring and promotions, and create an inclusive and collaborative work environment.” Notable results already? WAM+ added a note to all job descriptions to encourage people with nontraditional career paths to apply. Click the link below to browse those open positions for yourself!