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As someone who has left the service industry and built my dream job over the course of the past 6 years, I can say that this dream is 100% worth pursuing. Leaving the service industry and pivoting into your dream career might seem daunting at first, but there are some very tangible steps to help you get on your way. I’ve packaged up the process I used myself plus some tools I’ve learned from coaching others to successfully pivot into their dream careers after leaving their previous careers as hairstylists, customer service reps, bartenders, and servers, and more.
Step One: Explore your options.
The first step to leaving the service industry is to explore your options to clearly identify your dream career path. Service industry jobs are exhausting in more ways than one, and one of the downsides can be having very little downtime or energy to explore what else might be out there. Here are some easy ways to start:
- Begin by understanding your energy to determine what type of job might suit you. Many people who are in the service industry are actually sensitives and introverts who just like to help people. You might find that your energy would be better used in a virtual environment or with the opportunity to work from home. Conversely, you might gain your energy from face-to-face interaction with people, in which case you’ll want to explore careers in a team or office environment.
- Chat with friends or friends of friends about any jobs that are potentially interesting to you. If you’ve worked in the service industry for your whole life so far, it can be hard to imagine any other way to live and make your money. Chat with some of your friends who live a different lifestyle than you do. What are their jobs? What exactly do they spend their days doing? Even if their job isn’t directly interesting to you, this type of exploration can help you discover what you like and what you don’t. These conversations can be really beneficial as you create your game plan for leaving the service industry.
- Take a look at your finances. How much can you cut back on work hours to give yourself space and time to explore your options, learn a new skill, or take an online course? When I was eyeballs deep in my hairstyling career, I would work ten-hour days, come home, eat, zone out, and go to bed. With this type of schedule, there’s no SPACE to discover something new or cultivate new skills. When I was making my transition out of the service industry into my dream career, I looked at my lifestyle and the hours I worked and realized I could cut back my hours by 20% and still live fairly comfortably. It was tight, sure, but I was getting one foot out the door in order to pursue my passion, so it was 100% worth it. Take a look at your finances and your lifestyle and find ways you can cut back on your current work hours so you can create the mental and emotional space to learn something new.
- Expand your community (a nice way to say network). At EVERY networking event I’ve ever attended I’ve met someone who I have collaborated with in the future. Getting out of your current bubble may sound uncomfortable, but it’s one of the BEST ways to create new opportunities for yourself! We’ve all heard the old adage: we are the sum of our 5 closest friendships, right? Well, if all your friends are in the service industry, it’s time to infuse your life with some new people, which will ultimately result in new ideas! My favorite networks are free- if you’re female and living in the Twin Cities, GirlCreative is an awesome place to start.
Step Two: Make friends and connect with others who are doing the thing you’re interested in SUCCESSFULLY.
Once you’ve begun to expand your network and you’ve connected with some possible career path options that light you up, it’s time to find the people who are already awesome at what you want to do. Find helpful ways to connect with these people – and remember, do NOT EVER lead with the question, ‘can I pick your brain?’
Here are some great ideas for making yourself useful and befriending a new connection that’s already in your dream career:
- Offer to assist them with what they’re doing. Do your research here, and drop them an email specifically offering to help them out with something they’re working on. You can treat this as an unpaid internship, you will learn SO much from working alongside someone in your dream career as you’re preparing to leave the service industry.
- Network. Ask to meet these people for coffee (and buy their cup). Always lead with the intention of finding ways to help them.
- Never ask ‘can I pick your brain?’
- Focus on ‘palm-down giving’. My old boss from my service industry days talked about this concept called palm-down giving. It was the model he wanted us to use with our customers and each other. Palm-down giving means you give and ask for nothing in return. Everything you give is just that, a gift. If you give the gift of time to someone who you admire and would like to emulate, you do NOT want to make the interaction feel transactional, like you would expect them to give something back to you. If you’re giving your time or energy with a palm-up-what-are-ya-gonna-pay-me-back-with energy, it’ll be awkward for both of you, so just don’t do it.
Step 3: Begin healing from the trading time for money cycle.
This step is crucial in being able to wrap your mind around leaving the service industry to pivot into your dream career. In the service industry, you trade your time for dollars. If you work more hours, you make more money. Do more haircuts, serve more drinks, just work a little more and there’s quick cash in your pocket. In MOST cases, when you leave the service industry you will not make money in the same way right away. It will almost always be a step ‘down’ from what you are used to. It’s essential to anticipate this and to find ways to be okay with it, otherwise, the quick-cash mentality could keep you in the service industry forever. It may be comforting to remind yourself that you can always go back if you decide to ditch your dream career.
I like to ask my clients the question: if 5 years from now nothing has changed and you are still in the same job, how do you feel? If you’re upset at yourself for not trying something different, it’s worth making your transition a priority, even if that means making less money.
Step Four: Build a bridge.
Making the decision to leave your service industry career and pivot into your dream career is just the first step. While it might be tempting to quit your job and dive into your new career really quickly, this doesn’t always work. In many cases, you’ll need time and space to acquire new skills, work your way up, create a website, or go back to school in order to do what you want to do.
Give yourself permission to build a bridge between where you are now and where you want to be.
For example, I decided about 6 years ago I wanted to leave my job as a hairstylist. I was working for someone else at the time and wanted to just quit my job and have a friend build me a website so I could start promoting myself as a coach STAT. Most businesses take YEARS to build, and I hadn’t taken the time to build my network, reputation, or anything else. Since I realized I couldn’t support myself fully right away, I built a bridge. I left the salon to rent a chair and started doing onsite hair and makeup for weddings as my own boss. I knew I could work a fraction of the hours and make MORE money this way, and the skills I’d learn from running my own business would help me build my coaching practice. This bridge served me for 3 years while I got my ducks in a row, and now I’m fully transitioned.
(If you’re someone who’s looking to start your own beauty business, I’ve packaged up all my best advice from my award-winning beauty biz in the course linked below:)
Step Five: Set goals and take small steps toward your big picture every day.
It’s important to keep your end goal in mind when it comes to leaving the service industry and pivoting into your dream career. You’ll want to remain connected to why you’re doing what you’re doing because this will help you take the steps towards your dream every single day. New careers are rarely born overnight. Break your transition into small, actionable steps and execute on them every day.
You might feel some resistance to this step. If you’re like a lot of people (including me!) once you’ve made the decision to leave you want to do it NOW. You might also be feeling fear about how you’re going to make your dream career work. These feelings are your new friend, and they will be a part of your journey every step of the way. These feelings are resistance, and you’ll feel them often as you navigate this sometimes messy path. If you can understand what’s happening and move forward with consistency rather than letting that resistance dictate your action, you WILL get to where you’re going.
Steven Pressfield says, “overcoming resistance is more important than talent or anything else” , so when your inner critic starts going off about how you don’t know what you’re doing or you’re so far behind, just breathe, let it go, and take your next step.
Step Six: Open yourself to learning/being the newbie.
The most important thing to remember here is that you’re going to go from a career where you knew the ropes to be the total newb. This is something to embrace! Let yourself learn, give yourself space to grow, and find ways that you can enjoy this process along the way.
Want some more support as you navigate this transition? Let’s talk!