How to Put Your Career Transition into Flight

6 years ago

[Editor's Note: Each Thursday in the Reinvent Yourself series, we'll hear from someone who's changed careers. This week, meet Jen Vondenbrink, a one-time Starbucks manager who turned 43, realized she wanted a new challenge, and traded in corporate life for entrepreneurship. Vondenbrink's experience and her current work as a business life coach make her a perfect pick to kick off the series. -- Michelle V. Rafter]

"We'll be landing at SeaTac International airport in 10 minutes," the pilot announced. After 24 hours of flight delays, it was music to my ears. I stretched in my seat and smiled at the gentleman next to me.

Those 24 hours gave me plenty of time to think. All that contemplation brought me to one conclusion: it was time for a career change. I didn't know then I would eventually leave my corporate job. The only thing I was sure of, I couldn't go into the office on Monday morning. I needed some time to find out what was right for me.

Image: PicoP via Flickr

Fast forward six months. I'm at a car rental agency. As she fills out the rental agreement, the clerk asks for my employer. I answer, "Life Simplified." There was an audible sigh from the others waiting behind me. That's when I knew I'd chosen the right name and focus for my new company.

Maybe you're thinking about making the same kind of career transition. There comes a point in your life when you begin to weigh where you are versus where you want to be.

If you find yourself asking, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" here are three things to consider:

1. What did you like to do as a child? Kids play games they like. At seven years old, you didn't say, "I think I'll play this because it will look good on my resume." Think back to all the things you loved to do. Make a list. Now see how those passions translate into career or business choices.

2. You have skills, lots of skills. When I left my corporate job, it took me several months to recognize I had skills. I felt empty. I felt I knew nothing. How could that be after 10 years? Since then, I've heard the same thing from stay-at-home moms and company vice presidents. They felt like I did, that they didn't have anything to offer the outside world. Look at what you do or did every day through a different lens. Translate those actions and skills to your new career choice. You'll find lots of talents you didn't realize you had.

3. Know where you are financially. If you're contemplating starting a business, writing a book or changing careers, it always takes longer to generate that first pay check than you think. I've watched too many people suffer or go back to what's safe. I know first-hand when you have a handle on your finances you make better decisions. Review your savings, retirement accounts and current debts. Do you have enough to survive if you don't get paid for a while? How long? Do you need to get a part-time job while you move from one career to another?

A consciously thought-out transition can jump start the next phase of your work life. Remembering your passions, redefining your skills and knowing where you are financially can set you on your new path in a healthy, balanced way.

You don't have to go through a 24-hour flight delay to make a career transition decision. Instead, listen to the small voice inside when it says it's time to change. Then begin the work.

Jen Vondenbrink runs Life Simplified, a Massachusetts business life coaching firm. Her Life Simplified Blog helps business owners grow personally and professionally. For Jen's personal insights, check out Appetite for Life: A blog about Life, Love, Laughter and the Lessons along the way.


Kaplan University provides a practical, student-centered education that prepares individuals for careers in some of the fastest-growing industries. The University, which has its main campus in Davenport, Iowa, and its headquarters in Chicago, is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission ( It serves more than 53,000 online and campus-based students. The University has 11 campuses in Iowa, Nebraska, Maryland and Maine, and Kaplan University Learning Centers in Maryland, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Florida.

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