These Career Changers Got Off to a Rocky Start — Here’s What They Learned

Not every career change goes smoothly. These professionals had a rough go at first, but they learned plenty from the experience.
20 min read

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  • Changing careers can be a game-changer, but it doesn't always go as planned.
  • Before you feel too afraid to make the leap, consider these stories.
  • Three career changers tell us about what went wrong and what they learned.
  • Their lessons include asking for help and staying flexible after a setback.

When done right, changing careers can be a true game-changer in someone's professional life. It can lead to more job satisfaction, higher wages, upward mobility — and those are just some of the upsides.

Yet, no matter how many times you hear the positives of making a career change, sometimes you can't help but focus on the negatives. You might be thinking: What if it doesn't work out? is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to Start Your Journey?

It's perfectly normal to feel afraid to fail, especially when you can't know for sure if your plan will succeed. It's like being scared of the dark — you're afraid of what you can't see.

Need reassurance? Consider these facts:

Hearing the stories of people who actually struggled with a career change may also help.

Here, we highlight the stories of three career changers who got off to a rocky start and what they learned from their experiences.

The Ups and Downs of Launching a Business Without a Backup Plan

Nia Lewis has always considered herself a people person. That's why she chose to become a human resources (HR) recruiter — it seemed like the safest job to fit her strengths.

But her passion wasn't in HR. So, in 2016, she decided to quit her job and start a consulting company to help small business owners with communication strategy and marketing.

Yet, she had no safety net or backup plan.

"Shortly after, I found myself drowning in my company without a life jacket," Lewis said. "I was an overworked, overwhelmed solopreneur trying to be a one-woman show. For nearly two years, I burnt myself out, trying to wear every hat for my business. I thought hustling 24/7 and feeling the stress associated was just a part of the process of building a successful business, but I was wrong."

But after learning the ropes of being a business owner, Lewis eventually found her way.

"When I stopped hustling and started using my strengths to build a team to support my business, I finally felt like I was on a path to creating the life of freedom I was seeking. This business has since evolved into The Solopreneur Hustle, a podcast and community that connects powerful women in business, to go further together."

Takeaway: Hardships can make you stronger, but don't forget to ask for help.

Lewis: "Things will come together as you go. I had no idea how I was going to make my business work but had I not jumped into all of this without a life jacket, I wouldn't have had enough fire under me to go after my dreams full force. Had I not experienced the horror of my business nearly going up into flames, I would have never discovered the ingredients for success."

The Pandemic Took Away His Passion But Led Him to Something Better

In 2019, Jordan Wenck decided to quit his job and went back to school to get a master's degree in nutrition. Meanwhile, he enrolled in a community college to take anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and microbiology classes.

"It was going to be a 3-4 year project in its entirety because I had to keep working," Wenck said. "I worked part-time as a nutrition assistant at a health spa making $14 per hour, but it was OK because I loved it."

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. He never went back to the spa again.

He ended up getting into contact with some old friends who were hiring for a part-time customer service position at a skateboard design and manufacturing company. It turned out to be the best possible outcome for Wenck, who found his passion in the industry and room to grow.

"Now, I'm working full-time and have a robust job with so many opportunities, and I'm learning everyday."

Takeaway: Stay flexible when dealing with career-changing setbacks.

Wenck: "Start small or part-time. Keep your options open. Ultimately, your dreams can change, and that's OK. Pivot where life takes you. Don't stop looking for opportunities."

A Not-So-Cool Boss Can Make a Career Change Tough

Laura Fuenteswas in a bit of a squeeze. After spending almost a decade in the automotive industry, Fuentes didn't know how to leave her career — or if she even should.

Fuentes had a high-paying position. She thought it would be foolish to look for a new career when she was already making more than enough income.

Still, Fuentes decided to stick it out. That was until her employer declined to give her the health benefits she had requested.

"I knew I needed to move on," Fuentes recalled. "Unfortunately, I had only worked this job for the majority of my adult life and I needed a good recommendation letter."

But her employer declined to give her one. Fortunately, her education and passion for sales and marketing helped lead her to a new opportunity: operator of Infinity Dish, a subsidiary of television provider DISH Network.

Takeaway: Remember that you're in control of your career.

Fuentes: "I can't overstate how stressed out I was about this, and it caused me to prepare for my interview two-fold. Thankfully, my preparation paid off, and I was recruited within a week. Through it all, I learned that I am in control of my own career and that nobody can take that away from me."

Feature Image: DjelicS / E+ / Getty Images is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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