In the past the conventional approach to growing a career was to get an entry-level position job and spend years working your way up in the company. Employees often stayed in the same industry or company, following one career path their whole life. In today’s fast-changing world, this is virtually unheard of, with people often switching jobs and careers to find new and better opportunities.
While changing jobs is one thing, changing careers and having to learn a whole new skills set is entirely another. As daunting as this may seem, Americans have been doing it for years, with the average American changing careers between three to seven times in their lifetime. Post pandemic, people are evaluating what brings them happiness and, according to research in Harvard Business Review, redefining their purpose to seek more meaningful futures.
Today, switching careers increasingly has less to do with better pay, and more with fulfillment, important if you consider that the average person spends 90 000 hours, or one third of their lives, working. According to a survey by recruitment company Michael Page 63% of people looking to change careers are wanting to upskill in new ways, 54% see a possibility in pursuing better vocations, and 52% of respondents want to pursue careers aligned with their skill set and passions.
Changing careers is a big decision, and not one to be taken lightly. One such person who has done this successfully is Prenasha Naidoo, Managing Director at MicroThumbs, who left a career in finance to become the co-founder of a successful microgreens farming start-up.
Naidoo’s career began in finance where she was a marketing specialist and the first graduate financial advisor for the largest graduate professional financial services provider in South Africa. For four years Naidoo worked her way up the finance corporate ladder until she started to lose the fire inside her for the line of work she was in.
“I’m both a logical thinker and a creative person, and even though my career was in finance, I yearned to be more creative in my job. I knew I had to find creative avenues to fulfill me,” recalls Naidoo.
Change came in the form of a hobby. Naidoo and her partner Rick Hein were growing microgreens at home to add a healthy twist to their daily meals. “It was just for our consumption, but as we started we realised how successful we were at growing them, we started supplying local restaurants and retailers,” she says.
Their success prompted Naidoo to re-evaluate her career direction. “I was at a crossroads of staying in my comfort zone with what I knew in finance or taking the leap of faith into a whole new direction as an entrepreneur,” she adds. In 2021 Naidoo resigned from her corporate role and transitioned fully into her urban farming career. Today, MicroThumbs has 28 indoor vertical farms countrywide and supplies large retailers nationwide. If you’re looking to make a career change, Naidoo has this advice.
Do it scared
When thinking about making a big life decision many of us are nervous to make a big leap into the unknown and we put it off with the hopes that one day we will be better prepared, but Naidoo’s advice is to do it scared. “You might be thinking that the perfect time to make this decision will fall into your lap, but the ‘perfect’ time may never come. You have to have some confidence in yourself and go for it,“ Naidoo says.
Take time to reflect
If you aren’t satisfied with your current career and you aren’t sure what specific job you are wanting to pursue, take time to self-reflect on your strengths, passions and skills “I knew I loved expressing myself creatively, but I couldn’t use this talent in corporate finance. When I discovered the joy in combining creativity with growing microgreens I knew it was what I should be doing. Take the time to nurture your talents, as it could point you in the right career direction.”
Challenges allow growth
“It can be daunting facing new challenges in a new career, but these experiences allow you to transform in ways that will only make you more successful and be beneficial to your development,” advises Naidoo. Challenges, while uncomfortable, allow you to make strides in your career. Ultimately when you do decide to make a career change you should look at each obstacle as an opportunity to grow.
Find your support
Committing to a career change takes courage, and it’s during this transitional period that you may experience unfamiliar setbacks you would not have experienced otherwise. Within her own career shift Naidoo had the support system of her business and life partner, Hein, providing encouragement and the safety network of a loved one giving emotional support and advice.
Leverage your skills
It may be challenging for you to anticipate how your existing skills can benefit you in a new career. You may even be questioning if you’re throwing away years of valuable experience, but Naidoo assures that skills you learnt from your previous career can be useful in your new one. Her knowledge of bookkeeping, taxes and scaling a business has been invaluable to her microgreens business.
“When you’re changing careers, think about how your experience can set you apart from your peers who only have experience in that one industry. I have no doubt that you will find at least one skill, even if it’s soft skills like teamwork or time management, that you can implement into your new role,” Naidoo concludes.