Career transitions are hard. The decision to leave the comfort of your career, job, colleagues, and work that you know can be challenging, and well, downright scary.
We were intrigued when we read one of our newest team member’s post in Medium about her career transition from digital marketing to UX research. Vicki Lim’s article brilliantly outlined her strategy and the hard work she put into making her transition a success. But we wanted to delve deeper into her inner resolve to take the plunge.
We asked Vicki some questions about how she coped with the decision to change careers and what it felt like to go through the process.
Allovus: Your strategy to change careers was so well executed! How did you feel when you made the decision?
Vicki: Overall, the journey was an emotional rollercoaster—it was scary, exciting, and humbling. Professionally, it’s the biggest risk I’ve taken. At the very beginning of my career change, I didn’t know which field I wanted to transition into. I started by considering other careers within marketing (like product and brand marketing), but I still felt unsure about those options. They didn’t feel like the right fit.
I then realized I wanted to leave marketing entirely—this is when I started to feel overwhelmed by what to do next. I tried to combat this anxiety by doing a lot of research about what career paths I could pursue, how realistic they were, and how well they would mesh with my personal interests and strengths. I made a very extensive Google doc with all my thoughts and updated it throughout my career transition. I finally narrowed it down to about three career paths before choosing to pursue UX research.
From there, I made a list of different ways to break into the industry. In the back of my mind, I knew that it was also entirely possible that I could totally fail at breaking into research, which caused me a lot of anxiety at the time. But I decided to take the leap anyway, since you never know until you try!
Allovus: What was the turning point? When did you know that your original career wasn’t what you wanted to do?
Vicki: Honestly, I think I had doubts about digital marketing starting from day one of my first job. When I graduated with degrees in Economics and Music, I didn’t really know what I wanted to pursue and thought marketing would be a great fit for me. I always had interests in psychology and human behavior, so marketing seemed like a natural career path at the time.
Although digital marketing is crucial for a business, I realized it wasn’t for me. Great digital marketers are very analytical, have strong quantitative skills, love to learn about the newest marketing tech, and can be quota-driven. I didn’t have these strengths and passions that I needed in order to be an excellent digital marketer. I was a digital marketer at four organizations, ranging from eCommerce to politics to payroll software, before officially deciding it was not the right career for me.
I never hated marketing, but I wanted the opportunity to talk to users and understand them rather than sell to them. From day one at my first job in marketing, I found myself asking, “What does the user think about our product and what we’re selling?” Over time, this curiosity grew stronger and I knew I had to find a career that allowed me to answer these types of questions.
Allovus: Did you have a support system in place to help you through this? (Family, friends, significant other, etc.) Or did you tackle this on your own?
Vicki: I wouldn’t have been able to do it alone—I’m so fortunate to have an incredible support system of loved ones who have been there for me every step of the way. As soon as I felt confident about my decision to transition into UX research, I told almost everyone I knew about it. Some connected me to their friends in UX, and others allowed me to vent at them for hours about the stress of my career transition. Almost all the resources I mentioned in my Medium article came from my friends and network. Everyone encouraged me to follow my dreams, and I’m forever grateful for those who supported me along the way!
Allovus: What did you learn about yourself during this process?
Vicki: I learned so much about myself during this process. First, I learned to be patient. There were definitely weeks (maybe even months) during my career change where I felt hopeless and completely lost. It was so bad at times that it was affecting my overall mood and relationships with other people. I mentioned this in my Medium article, but I decided to officially pursue UX research the week San Francisco shut down due to COVID-19. All my job prospects evaporated due to this understandably uncertain time. A few months passed, and I still had no luck with finding a new role. It was very tempting to give up, but I had to remind myself that good things can take time.
I also learned that I can step outside of my comfort zone. I’ve never been one to enjoy networking, for example, but I really pushed myself to talk to as many UXers as possible during this time. Pre-COVID, I attended every meetup and UX event in the area. At first it was nerve racking for an introvert like me, but I proved to myself that I could do it!
Allovus: What has been the most rewarding thing to have come from your career transition?
Vicki: It might sound a bit cheesy, but it’s so rewarding to wake up in the morning and be excited about work. Knowing that I’m making a positive impact with my career and that I enjoy doing it—that’s super rewarding to me!
Allovus: Would you do anything differently? If so, what changes would you make?
Vicki: I’m not sure that I would! I believe everything happens for a reason. For example, it’s easy to say that I would have pursued UX research right after graduating if I had known about it. But I’m not sure that’s a good mentality to have. I’ll never view my experience in marketing as a “waste”, since it taught me many valuable lessons about myself and my professional goals. I like to stay positive and learn from my experiences. I don’t believe in mistakes.
Haven’t read her Medium post? Read Vicki’s Medium article here.