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As a freshman in college, I struggled to choose between two very different majors: chemistry and English.
I thought I loved them both. Since I was attending the U.S. Air Force Academy, I knew I'd have a job after graduation regardless of what I picked.
Chemistry certainly sounded more practical, and for a bright, over-achiever like myself, a professional track also seemed more appropriate.
Over the years, the Air Force funded my master's degree and then a Ph.D. The military culture, which encourages officers to change positions every two to three years, allowed me to explore a series of diverse jobs including nuclear treaty monitoring, teaching college chemistry, grants management, and corporate communications for the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Me visiting Air Force Research Lab scientist Chris Muratore while I was still working as a USAF grants program manager.
Sounds dreamy. But it took nearly 18 years before I realized that science just wasn't my passion. I was good at it, I had a bright future in front of me, but every time I took a coveted day off, I found myself wanting more.
In fact, what I found myself wanting was to write.
Almost $1 Million Gone and No Regrets
After my second miscarriage in less than 12 months, I decided life was too short to stay. I left the service four years short of retirement and gave up nearly $1 million in pay and benefits to find my dream career. I had a list of potential careers, and eventually developed a way to test them systematically to see if I liked them (I guess that science background came in handy after all).
That's how I came to start a blog.
The blog was a way to test how I liked writing on a regular basis, to make sure I didn't have some romantic notion about writing as a career as opposed to a hobby. I soon realized not only did I love blogging, but I was pretty good at it. After two years, I have nearly 6,000 subscribers and a thriving career coaching business that developed organically from my blog.
Blogging can help fuel your career reinvention by helping you:
1. Develop your communication skills.
No matter what field you decide to work in, you'll benefit from the better communication skills a blog can give you. A blog is a way to clarify ideas and refine them with a larger, potentially more experienced community. Then when you do talk to people in the real world, from cocktail parties to interviews, you'll sound smart and polished.
2. Establish a new network.
Networking for a job when you're changing careers sounds like a catch-22. If you've never worked in the field, you don't have a network, so how are you supposed to get a job through networking? One way is blogging. Although there are millions of bloggers worldwide, the top bloggers on any one particular topic usually all know one another. Offering to write guest posts allows you to mingle with these industry leaders and their readers in a natural way, where you are a peer, not just a job seeker.
3. Become a thought leader.
Many career changers worry that their lack of experience will prevent them from getting hired, especially in a down market. One solution? Become a thought leader who clearly has new ideas on how to improve and ramp up business. To get started, think about doing book reviews or interviews with industry leaders, and ask insightful questions. As your knowledge grows, post your own big ideas and share them with the thought leaders you previously interviewed, asking for their feedback. You'll quickly get noticed for what's in your head, not necessarily what's on your resume.
4. Start a business.
One of the biggest myths of blogging is that you'll be able to quit your job and live off your blog's income. Not quite. What a blog can do is serve as a fantastic tool for market research, lead generation and building brand loyalty for a new business. It's also a simple and economical way to pinpoint exactly what kind of business you'd like to start as you write about different topics.
Blogging is a lot of work, but if you enjoy sharing your ideas and connecting to the wider world, it's also a lot of fun.
Question: Do you plan to use blogging as part of your career reinvention strategy?
Jennifer Gresham is a biochemistry Ph.D. and 16-year military veteran turned writer, speaker and coach. She is the author of the popular blog Everyday Bright, and the founder of No Regrets Career Academy, an online course for career changers. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.
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