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Four Things I’ve Learned From Switching Career Paths


Chelsey Van Weerden | April 14, 2016

After being in the workforce for a few years, I made the decision this year to return to school full-time to complete MacEwan University’s 10-month Public Relations program.

It wasn’t an easy decision to temporarily give up my comfortable job and employment security, but ultimately I’m happy with my decision and grateful for the opportunities the program has afforded me.

As the school year winds down and I head into what will (hopefully) be the last set of final exams I’ll ever write, I’m reflecting on what I learned this year from making a career transition.

Here are four things I’ve thought about most over the last few months:

1.  Stay humble about what you have to learn. Having some knowledge and background in another field is a definite asset – especially in communications! However, this doesn’t mean you don’t have anything new to learn. I found that I got the most out of my classes when I kept an open mind and stayed receptive to new ideas and methods.

2.  You have more transferrable skills than you think. Since my previous work experience is unrelated to communications, I was worried it would be rendered irrelevant, and I would start from scratch after graduation. I quickly learned that you can always draw from life experience. In my previous roles, I’ve worked in a team environment, prioritized tasks, learned new software, and worked on deadlines – these are all valuable skills to bring into future roles.

3.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Here’s the thing about networking – I had always assumed it was an insincere, self-serving pit of awkwardness, designed to make students feel uncomfortable. After attending a few IABC events, I quickly learned how wrong I was. When you start building a network of genuine, like-minded people, everything seems so much easier, and you are truly never alone.

There is always someone willing to review your resume, give interview tips, or feedback on an assignment. I’m now looking forward to helping future students when I’m in a position to do so. If I’m being honest, ‘networking’ still makes me slightly uncomfortable, but the best things happen when we’re pushed out of our comfort zone, right?

4.  Take advantage of resources available to you. As a second-time student, I made a decision to take full advantage of every student resource available to me, because I knew they wouldn’t be around forever. I became a student member of IABC and CPRS, joined the IABC mentorship program (Hi, Marcie!), utilized the university’s career services office, and attended countless events. A lot of student resources are free (or available at a reduced cost), and you can’t always access them after graduation. So take advantage now!

Now that I’m in the final stretch of the program I can honestly say I got the most out it, while adding to my tool belt of life experience. If you’re considering making a career transition, I say don’t hesitate to jump in and get ready to reap the rewards!

Chelsey is a full-time Public Relations student at MacEwan University and part-time Communications Assistant for MacEwan Career Services. Having graduated with a BA in Art History from the University of Alberta (2012), Chelsey continues to maintain an acceptable level of Art History nerdiness. When she's not completing assignments or group projects, Chelsey is probably in the kitchen trying out a new recipe or tracking the latest Internet meme.

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