On Changing Careers | Sarah Wyland
From Sarah | Life

On Changing Careers

Changing careers is something I have some practice at.

It’s no so much changing careers as it is pursuing different passions though, is it?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

How often were you asked that question as a kid? 

I was asked this all the time. Some of it was out of amusement. I went through a phase of wanting to be a British Monkey and my aunt Crissy taught me to tell people I wanted to be a “rich bitch” when I grew up when I was three or so. Honestly, I still want to be a rich bitch, minus the bitch part, so I suppose she was an inspiration of sorts. 

In high school, I wanted to major in equine studies in college. I had been competing in horse shows every weekend for a while at that point and wanted horses to be my career, whatever that looked like. My mom discouraged that dream – “there’s no money in horses” was her battle cry – and enlisted my riding instructor to help dissuade me. I’m sad to say it worked and I decided the “next best thing” was to be a veterinarian. 

I had zero interest in being a veterinarian, but it got them off my back for a while. 

Things changed my senior year – I’ll share more about my horse girl dreams later – and I decided to be a nurse, not because I wanted to help people or gravitated towards the healthcare field like some of my classmates but because I was told nurses make a lot of money. By the time I graduated high school, the plan was to marry the boy I was dating at the time, go to the local community college, get into their nursing program, and be a nurse. 

I live in Los Angeles and I’m in film school now so that’s how that plan worked out. 

I used to think I had to know what I wanted to be for the rest of my life at eighteen, twenty at the latest. I didn’t think I could change my mind. I didn’t know what was possible until I started to question if “this” was all there was as I tried to navigate a bad breakup (different guy, but same ‘get married, be a nurse’ plan). 

Over the years, I’ve tried on a number of career paths. Let’s walk through them, shall we? 

Medical Records 

My then boyfriend’s aunt helped me get a full time job at UVA Medical Center almost the moment I graduated high school. I was so excited at first. I was earning a real paycheck, had my own insurance, could afford a car payment (but not my own place to live so I was still at home…), and I was following in the family footsteps – most of my family worked for and still works for – the UVA medical system. I was really good at that job. It was mostly data entry and I was fast and accurate at it. 

I hated it. 

I loved my co-workers (I’m still friends with several of them!), but I loathed the job. It was mindless and I tended to be done with my work by lunch so I spent the whole of the afternoon searching for things to do, playing games on the computer, and, later, writing both fanfiction and country music articles in between answering phone calls and issuing medical record numbers. I got promoted a couple of times and everyone knew I was in nursing school at that point, but I couldn’t wait to get out of there. 

I worked there for four very long years. 

Four. 

Nursing/Teaching 

While I was at UVA, I was, as mentioned, in nursing school. I’ve shared how very much not meant to be a nurse I was a few times now and after nearly two years in the program, I finally got brave enough to quit. There was a whole breakup thing in there too and during my self-discovery journey, I seriously considered being a teacher for a while, so much so I even tried to get a job at the childcare center at UVA. I didn’t get the job and I wasn’t too disappointed. It was a short-lived idea and I know from having teacher friends now (and teaching kids’ gymnastics for a year…) that teaching in a classroom was not calling. 

Country Music Journalist 

This deserves a whole post. I’ll get to that soon. But I took to this like a moth to a flame and I did everything in my power to make it happen (while still working at UVA). I built a MySpace page to report country music news, write album and show reviews, and eventually interview artists. That MySpace page turned into a website that I built myself which turned into countless opportunities and led me to an internship at Great American Country. That internship turned into years of freelance opportunities in the country music industry. 

Honestly? I miss it. I burned out and moved fully into marketing, but now, removed from it for a couple of years, I’d love to get back into it. Anyone hiring a freelance country music journalist? 

Marketing 

I took my first marketing job – social media account executive for Dollar General – out of necessity. My solid contracting gig with GAC was coming to an end and I needed stable income to support the freelance income. It was never supposed to be long-term. I tried for three years to get a full time job in the music industry. I came close time and time again, but I was always passed over for someone who had interned with the company or had some other tie to it. 

After three years, I decided to move back to my hometown so I took another marketing gig at an agency in Charlottesville and then left there after a year for WorldStrides where I hung out for three years, trying and failing to get promoted. I loved that job and would have stayed if I could have just gotten past the “you’re too valuable to us in this role” line I was fed several times and moved up in the organization. At the three year mark – I seem to have a three year trend, don’t I? – I packed it up and moved to Chapel Hill for yet another marketing gig (and to open a barre studio…) 

Barre Studio Owner

I wrote a whole post about owning a barre studio and then having to close it down. Fitness had become such a huge part of my life during my time in Charlottesville and I wanted to make a career out of it. The goal upon taking the job in Chapel Hill was to hustle for a year or so while I got the studio up and running and then be in a position to leave my full time gig to focus on the studio and open another one in Durham. 

Again, I’m in Los Angeles now, so that clearly didn’t shake out. 

Coaching 

I’ve been coaching in some capacity since 2015 when I started teaching barre. For several years now, I’ve dabbled in the personal training and nutrition coaching space with various levels of success, but never quite got it to take off the way I wanted it to – until I realized that it was the mindset work that I loved doing more than the actual programming. Want to work with me as your life coach? Hop on the email list (you’ll get an awesome download of 10 ways to improve your life while you’re at it!) because something BIG is about to come your way. Coaching is one of my heartwork paths and I can’t imagine a life without it. 

Writing 

And then came writing, my other heartwork path. That’s right – I’ve got two. Coaching and writing. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and I mean this in the most literal sense. I was winning awards for it from as far back as kindergarten, but it only just clicked in the weeks after my mom’s April 2019 death that I could do this for a living. And so here I am, an aspiring TV writer that also happens to have quite a few manuscripts living on her desktop she’s trying to do something with these days and sharing her story right here on this little ‘ol blog that she hopes will soon become something much bigger. 

Someday, I might decide to shave my head and be a sheepherder in the mountains, but that’s the thing: I’m allowed to change my mind. I’m allowed to have more than one passion. I’m allowed to throw caution and stable paychecks to the wind and see what happens if I set out down a new path. 

And you can, too. 

It’s laughable, really, that we expect kids to know what they want to be when they graduate high school. They’re a whole eighteen years old. They have done nothing with their lives at that point. They think nursing or being a lawyer is an excellent career path until they are eyeballs deep in studying and hating every minute of it. It’s kind of ridiculous that we expect them to know what they want to do at twenty-two with a college diploma in hand, too. I had no idea what I was doing in my twenties and someone wanted me to pick a career? Wild. 

And so, feel free to change your mind. 

Changing careers doesn’t have to be daunting and fear certainly shouldn’t keep you from trying on a different career if you can’t stop thinking about it. 

You don’t have to go whole hog like I did and quit your job and move to Los Angeles. If you think you want to own a bakery, pick up a few shifts at a local bakery to see if you actually like it. If you want to leave your corporate job and build websites, moonlight on the side for a while to see if it’s as great as you think it will be. 

Just know that you have options. 

Now and later. 

You can change your mind. 

If you need permission, this is it. 

I’ve tried on a few careers. I’m trying on another. 

And that’s perfectly okay. 

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