“How Do I Shift Into My Dream Career, When My Only Qualification Is Passion?”

Stefanie’s worked hard to achieve impressive qualifications and career success, but now a long-lost childhood dream is calling her. How do you shift into a career you know you’ll love, when your hard-won qualifications and experience don’t apply?

What’s your career history and current job?

I’m currently working in customer experience, for a non-profit organisation that provides hardship and disaster relief around the world.

Before that, I was a full-time homemaker for years, caring for my children as they grew up. In my early thirties, I decided to go back to college and start learning new skills.

I completed three degrees, including a Master’s, within four years. I was eventually hired by the college I studied with, where I worked my way up to a director’s role.

After a while, I moved away with my family, and I’ve been in my current job for the past three years.

How do you feel about your work?

I feel grateful to work for an organisation that makes a genuine difference to the world. I also get to collaborate with an intelligent team of dedicated people every day.

But the environment I work in is very stressful – in fact, the stress never seems to let up.  My workload is so demanding and constant, that I often find myself working into the evenings and at weekends.

Also, my natural skill set is highly analytical.  But my work demands high levels of empathy and emotion, so it’s often difficult to balance my way of thinking and doing with what the job needs.  That makes me feel drained and unhappy. 

What would you like to be doing instead?

I’ve always loved science and history, with a particular fascination for space and the stars.  

My ultimate dream was to work for NASA one day!

Although my dreams are a little bit tamer these days, I’d still love to do something in a scientific realm.  Ideally, I’d work for a science-focused company, using the skills and qualifications I’ve already worked hard to achieve.

What’s the biggest obstacle in your way?

I haven’t got any of the qualifications or experience needed to shift into a science-related career.

At college, I decided to focus on commercial degree subjects that would help me find regular and successful employment quickly, so I could provide for my family.  

While that strategy has worked well, I let my own career dreams fall by the wayside.  Now I’m wondering if I’ve left it too late to change.

It doesn’t help that science is a field in which traditional qualifications and experience really matter, and some people work hard for many years to achieve a successful career in that field.  I’m completely committed to learning new skills, and I’ve got a lot of passion for science, but is that enough to make a successful shift?  

I’ve looked into continuing my education, but I know deep down that I haven’t got the time, the energy – or perhaps most importantly, the finances – to study further.

I also struggle with impostor syndrome.  Although I’ve worked hard, every time I achieve something, I tell myself it must have happened by accident.  That makes it difficult for me to believe I’m capable of changing my career.

But I also know that time is running out.  If I want a career that really lights me up, then I’ve got to do something now.  I feel like the only way to make a shift into science would be through a strong and creative approach, but I’ve got no idea where to begin. 

How do I circumvent that ‘traditional’ combination of skills and experience, so I can begin the career I’ve always longed for?

Can you help Stefanie?
  • Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
  • How do you think Stefanie could move her shift forwards?
  • Do you know anyone she could talk to?

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