Changing careers is not always easy
Joseph Liu spent much of his early life preparing to become a doctor, but once he entered the Georgetown School of Medicine in Washington, DC, at the age of twenty-four, he realized that becoming a physician was no longer the right path for him to follow. After two weeks, he dropped out. “I decided to cut my losses, figure out what I really wanted to do, and more importantly, make room for another pursuit. Making that choice was tough. It was the scariest, most counterintuitive decision I’d made up to that point in my life.”
He also didn’t have a back-up plan, so leaving school without a defined goal sent him straight into a series of jobs that included temping at a law firm, working in health policy consulting, and even teaching salsa dance lessons at a Cuban night club for a while. After eventually getting his MBA and marketing consumer goods for a few years, he still wasn’t quite sure where he would ultimately land professionally.
After moving to London to be with his future wife and marketing luxury desserts for a few more years, he eventually began his consultancy work to help people, often mid-career, find more fulfilling work. In addition to his roles as a speaker, career advisor, and writer, he hosts the Career Relaunch® podcast, where he interviews guests about their often-unexpected career transitions. These include an army sniper who pursued his love of the sleight of hand and became a magician, and a professional tennis player who traded in her racquet for literal trading on Wall Street.
“Transitions are hard,” Joseph says. “The process may be emotionally draining at times, but the fact that it’s challenging shouldn’t stop you.” A couple of years ago Joseph helped a client who worked as a staffing supervisor in the Bay Area. “When she first came to me,” Joseph shares, “she was unhappy, both personally and professionally. She dreaded Mondays. Her work was misaligned with her values, and she was depleted by the end of the day.” She spoke to Joseph about the regrets she didn’t want to have when she would look back on her life. Her family is from Asia, so she made the decision to move with her family from northern California to the other side of the world. “She’s a lot happier now, working as an independent HR consultant, very much at home in both her professional and personal lives, spending more time with her children and old friends.”
“If you feel you have the choice, and not everybody does,” Joseph adds, “you really owe it to yourself to work in a way that matches your natural interests and skills. You’ll then transition from tolerating your job to actually enjoying it. And when that happens, you can go from dreading Mondays to looking forward to them.”
Joseph Liu is a London-based career consultant and host of the Career Relaunch® podcast.
About the Contributor
Howard Kaplan is an editor and writer who helped found Spiral magazine in 2017. He currently works at the Smithsonian and divides his time between Washington, DC, and New York City.