Switching Gears: Changing Your Career Path

In life, sometimes what you set out to do turns out to be different than you imagined it. Maybe once you get involved in your career or degree you realized that it doesn’t spark your passion the way you initially believed.  Maybe you’re scared of making the change. Maybe you’re comfortable with what you’re doing and pursuing something new is too much of an effort. Whatever the reason may be, I hope people realize that if you feel in your heart and mind that you want a change, then you should consider it. Making a change towards something that would make you feel fulfilled and satisfied isn’t as hard as you may think.

As I was thinking about this subject, I decided to interview my good friend, Nader Owies. Nader took the plunge and made the change to follow the career path that he was honestly passionate about. Here’s what he has to say about getting courage to take those chances:

Ashley Perez (AP): Why did you decide to change your degree from Political Science to Film?

Nader Owies (NO): “I never actually changed my degree; my game plan while graduating from undergrad was still to go to law school. While in school, I minored in film to fill my elective requirements and I ended up with so many courses I just spoke with my advisor about getting a minor degree, as well. The real decision was after school, when I was applying to law schools. I always had the reservation about what I was getting myself into. The truth was- I hated politics, and law, but working in law or politics paid well and from my experience at school I came to learn that I was good at both, so why not right? That, and my parents chanting the standard,’ Be a doctor or lawyer’ song that all parents learn when they have kids, were pushing me towards it. I don’t remember the exact moment or anything, but my idea of what I wanted out of life kept showing me that I was heading in the wrong direction. Sure, I could be a successful lawyer or politician or whatever else and have enough money to be comfortable. But I didn’t want to sacrifice my happiness for that. I wanted to love what I was going to be doing almost every day for the rest of my life, whether it made me a lot of money or not.”

AP: What are some of the reservations you had about making this change and how did you overcome them?

 NO: “My parents were a big factor: both of them being Egyptian, and anyone with foreign parents knows exactly what I’m talking about when I say convincing your parents that you want to go to film school rather than law school is like pushing a boulder up a hill. Beyond them, the only other reservation was the change in lifestyle. I knew what going to graduate school meant:  I had to leave everything I know behind, pick up everything I owned and chase my dream. Very few people have the guts to do that, and only about 5% of those people actually succeed at it. However, I kept telling myself, there is always going to be a million reasons not to do something, yet there is always going to be one reason do to it- because you want to.

AP: What are some challenges you faced during this transition and how did you overcome them?

NO: “Most of the challenges had to do more with the practical things in life rather than the educational journey I was going on. School came easy because it was what I loved; every day I was watching and talking about films. The challenges weren’t anything different than most people go through. Basically it was just becoming an adult and having to deal with things you never had to worry about before. My only advice for anyone going through that transition: don’t put things off for tomorrow, just do them right now.

AP: What was the one piece of advice that led you to be inspired enough to take this chance?

NO: “I had a professor in college who told me something I’ll never forget. He said in a lecture one day, ‘You will spend the majority of your adult life at your job. If you are simply there to make money you will find that the stress will kill you before you ever make as much as you want and you’ll be miserable the whole time.’

AP: What are some of the most memorable successes and failures you’ve had while pursuing this new degree and career?

NO: “The good thing about working in movies is that your successes and failures are very apparent. You can literally watch them on a big screen. There are a few projects I worked on here and there that while piecing them together in the edit room, I had that realization that I was stitching together a huge dud. And no matter what I did in the end it would still be a dud. But you live and you learn; take the lesson and move onto the next one.”

AP: What advice would you give college students or recent grads in regard to this?

NO: “Always work your ass off. I’m sure it is this way in plenty of other industries, as well, but in entertainment, your reputation is everything. People will hire you on reputation alone, so make sure you leave a good impression with everyone you work with, and do the best you can with what you’re given.”

AP: What are some realistic factors you wish you knew before doing this?

NO: “How expensive graduate school really is. I always knew the amount, it’s just until I did the math and realized that paying back that amount over ten years that I would actually be paying more than double the amount I initially borrowed. I know that no one would give out loans without interest rates attached, but in the name of education and bettering the human race, someone should make it illegal to charge that much for seeking knowledge.”

I’ve known Nader for several years and always held him in high regard. He has a great head on his shoulders and was the perfect person to trust to give advice about this subject. Yes, he’s had reservations, challenges, and failures. But the point is, he faced these situations head-on because he knew that the end result was going to be worth it. He would rather try to obtain the things that he was passionate about than take the easy and safe way through life. If you have a passion, try to pursue it because if not now, then when?

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The Impact of Lost Dreams

Today I decided to do something a little bit different. I don’t normally include “creative writing” pieces on this particular blog, but I felt that this might tie in nicely with some of the topics I discuss. I wrote this short, fictional story a few months ago. Basically, this story discussed how sometimes people get sucked into work and responsibilities that they don’t realize their dreams and life are passing them by. This piece is meant to remind people that you need to sometimes stop, catch your breath, and make sure you don’t lose that deeper part of you completely. I hope you enjoy this break from the typical business blog post:

The Impact of Lost Dreams

By: Ashley Lauren Perez

 

I sighed as I rubbed my hand down my face. My phone was sitting on the passenger seat, beeping uncontrollably. Another voicemail from my mom asking if I’m still alive. A text from my boyfriend confirming that I won’t be home for dinner again. A Facebook comment from my friends wondering when I’ll see them again. An e-mail from my boss giving me directions to the restaurant where a networking dinner is taking place tonight. I’m being pulled in a million directions and even though I extend myself, I’m still falling short.

The sun had already set. I’ve accepted that this has turned into another unexpected day of working overtime. I can’t remember the last time I left work at a reasonable hour and went home to relax. I don’t recall the last time my social activities weren’t a work event. When was the last time I did anything for myself or took the vacation I promised myself? My life has been so filled with engagements and obligations that all these days have blended into one continuous day of rushing to the next thing on my to-do list. I don’t know how I got to this point.

I pulled out of my company’s parking lot and onto the highway. I slowed down to a red light at an intersection when my phone started ringing. It was my boss, most likely calling to confirm that I was on my way. I contemplated ignoring it but knew she would just continue to call until I picked up. I selected the “Answer” button as the light turned green. And that’s when it happened.

I turned my head to my left to see headlights heading straight towards me from the driver’s side. It felt like slow motion.  I knew I was defeated in this situation so I closed my eyes, gripped the wheel, and braced for impact. This couldn’t happen. I barely even got to live my life.

My breathing sounded foreign when I finally came to. My eyes slowly fluttered open and light penetrated my irises causing me to squint. That’s strange- I was driving at night, last I recalled. I slowly sat up and assessed the environment around me. I expected to see the highway, the inside of an ambulance, or a hospital. You can imagine my surprise when I realized I was sitting on a dirt path in some sort of forest. I looked up and saw the sunlight dancing between the fluttering tree leaves. Everything was silent except the faint sound of nature surrounding me. There wasn’t a person or house in sight.

I pushed myself up and tried to search for the best direction to bring me back to civilization but the path seemed to disappear into thick brush behind me. The only direction to go was forward, where I could see a clearing in the distance. I followed the path and enjoyed the feel of the soft dirt under my bare feet. The spring-like breeze lightly blew my hair away from my face and I couldn’t help feeling déjà vu. I felt like I’ve been here before but this version was better. I should have been terrified because I had no idea where I was or how I got there, but strangely, I felt more comfortable here than I ever have anywhere. I walked further.

After a few minutes of walking I had finally reached the clearing and my breath caught in my throat. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. Directly in front of me was the beach and ocean, but the scenery was far better than any travel magazine could ever attempt to capture. An expansion of white sand and colorful tropical flowers led the way to the clearest, bluest, and calmest ocean I could ever imagine. The sound of the rolling waves onto the shore was soothing. But that wasn’t the thing that caught my attention. Every direction I turned had a different landscape. Surely, there could be no place in the world that could combine all of these things in one place. Where was I?

I wandered off to the right side into a deep, heavily treed part of a forest. Ducking under low hanging branches, I stepped carefully on smooth stones to cross a cool-watered creek. Across the creek, I came upon an abandoned stone building. Part of the ceiling had caved in and a tree sprouted out of the opening. It looked ancient and I highly doubted anyone roamed in there for decades. I stuck my head inside and saw a disheveled library hidden among the rubble and vines. Curious, I stepped through the door and traced my hand along the uneven, stoned walls. My fingers felt the dirt and moss that lingered on these walls until I came upon a loose stone. I wiggled it free and noticed a leather-bound book hiding in the hole.

I slowly pulled the book out, careful not to potentially destroy the weathered pages. The cover gave no indication on what it could be so I opened it up. The first page had a statement written in sweeping, beautiful calligraphy. It stated, “Only in the purest solitude will you rediscover forgotten dreams.” I fanned through more of the pages and concluded that it was a diary of someone’s hopes and dreams.

I crossed the creek again with the book in tow and headed towards the left side of the path. This side offered a wide expanse of meadow, peppered with colorful wildflowers and a distant mountain range for a backdrop. Wild horses galloped and played, while others grazed peacefully. I trudged along through the tall grass to a lake surrounded by blossoming trees. The fragrance of lilacs filled my nose and reminded me of an old tree I had in my backyard as a child. Soon, I found a swinging hammock tied under a cherry blossom and decided to lounge in it. The branch shook as I got situated in the hammock and caused the petals to fall around me like slow rain.

I got lost in reading the words on the pages. It seemed as if this author had the same thoughts and hopes I once had. A soft smile spread across my lips as I felt the passion and optimism in the words. I felt something inside of me change, like I was young and innocent again. I was inspired; almost like these dreams were truly within my reach.

I lost that feeling along the way when life’s obligations took away my imagination and only offered a reality that left no room for it. The more I got rejected or told that these things were impossible, the deeper these dreams got buried in my soul, to a place that they would never be found again.

As I read further, I came across a dog-eared page that simply stated, “This is your world now. You will need nothing more and nothing less.” I reflected on those words and quickly decided that they would resonate with me forever.

I didn’t know where I was or if I’d ever find my way back home but there was one thing I knew for sure- I will fight to take back my life and I will never lose that part of me again.

 

Silence the “what ifs”

Have you ever stared at your office wall and just stopped for a moment to wonder how you got there? Do you wonder if this was always how it was supposed to be? Did the months and years pass by in a blink of the eye and now you’re thinking about all of those intentions and dreams that got lost along the way? If not, then I’m happy that you’ve discovered what you’re fated for. If yes, then this is for you.

From our youth we’re taught that we need to decide almost immediately what we want to be when we grow up. Then, as we get a bit older we’re told to “be realistic” about our choices. We go to school for a degree that seems reasonable and gives us the feeling that we could have a stable future. We fall into jobs that we realize we’re “good” at- it’s comfortable and our career paths are clear with it. Comfortable, stable, and reasonable-  sure. But does it truly satisfy you or are you left wondering every so often if there is something more out there?

If you were given the chance to explore your interests and passions, what would you do?

Over the last year I’ve had a lot of time to think about this. I completed my degree in human resources and fought for positions in the field so I could make use of this degree. I’ve been in good situations, I’ve been in terrible ones, and I’ve been in unstable ones. I’ve worked ridiculous amount of hours, weekends, and holidays and I’ve been unemployed for months. After all these changes and my fight to make use of this degree, I had to stop and ask myself, “why?”

I took a degree in business because I wanted to be done with school in a reasonable amount of time, especially since I was working and could only take a few classes a semester. I had experience in administrative and business so taking a degree I had some experience and knowledge in seemed comfortable and I felt I could easily transition into that role. I also felt that it could offer me a stable future for a career. Comfortable, stable, and reasonable strikes again! Is this field all of those things? Perhaps. Is it going to fulfill my life in a way that will make me never wonder what else is out there? Not quite.

I got into this mentality that I needed to go this way because that would allow me to have a decent life and it was something I could count on. After working various roles in this type of work, I realized that it’s not what I thought it would be. All my good intentions of making a difference, protecting my employees, and giving people hope for a better future with a company were out of my reach. Quite honestly, most of the things I’ve done in the field have been quite boring. I haven’t gotten my hands in anything I intended to and even if I did, I’m not sure if anyone would have an open enough mind to make a change for the better.

I gave it a shot but I’m left wondering why? I know what really interests me and what my passions are so why didn’t I go after it from the beginning? Several reasons, really: society tells me that you can’t get a job without experience in it; some of these passions will not make an income unless I was one of the lucky ones; it does not easily allow me to get my life together for an established future. I’m not sure if those excuses are enough for me anymore.

I don’t want to live my life without getting a chance to explore what’s buried deep inside of me. I believe that we need to be true to ourselves and that we should work relentlessly towards the things we honestly want. I’d rather discover what is rather than live my life full of “what ifs.” If it turns out something I was passionate about isn’t right for me, then that’s fine. At least I tried, learned, and I can move on to something that is. I’d rather try, fight, and fail than be old and gray, urging my grandchildren to take the chances I never did. It will be a rough road, full of uncertainty, but it will be my choice. I will not fit into anyone else’s mold of what I should be.

Do not let your heart’s desire be silenced by what you think society expects you to be. The only expectation you should care about is the one you have of yourself. If you’re currently longing to discover what more could be out there for you then this is something you need to consider and pursue. I’m not telling you to go into work tomorrow and hand in your two weeks but I’m suggesting for you to take back your life and dreams. Start creating a plan of action. Follow through. And if you do, I hope you find what you’re searching for and that you never have to question if there’s something more out there again.