Yes, it’s possible.
The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What’s your best piece of advice for someone looking to change career paths? is written by Linda Celestino, vice president of guest services at Etihad Airways.
Changing career paths isn’t always as difficult as people think, and there are so many benefits to learning new things and exploring new opportunities.
We can miss out on potentially great opportunities by believing we need to follow one particular career path. Your next “dream job” may look and feel very different at first sight. But don’t say “yes” to every opportunity that’s offered to you either. Use your network, colleagues, sponsors and mentors to sense check directions and provide a fresh perspective.
If a change is where you see yourself heading, it’s important to take time and explore all options, even within the same industry. Changing careers paths doesn’t mean leaving the company or organization where you currently work. Many times, it can be done most easily where you currently are.
The aviation industry is a great example since it is so multifaceted. My personal journey began as a planned gap year. An opportunity to travel the world and meet people soon became an opportunity to progress through the ranks of cabin crew, discovering I really did have a passion to travel the world, and that meeting people was an opportunity to lead, inspire and motivate my teams on so many levels.
Opportunities soon opened up in training, and whilst I didn’t possess the formal training experience required in the job ad, I certainly had an incredible passion for our business and many years of experience delivering products and services to passengers. The thought of being able to bring this together in a motivating and engaging way as we trained future cabin crew absolutely excited me.
Those incremental career changes continued over the years, into various roles at Etihad Airways in recruitment, product development and airport operation management. As vice president of guest services now, I have the ability to bring all my previous experience together in an executive divisional leading role. I now have the opportunity to support my teams in their progression from cabin crew or service positions into core staff positions in finance, performance, human resources and recruitment.
The finer details and insider knowledge of an overall industry can provide a solid footing for a new “type” of career; a new role that exposes you to a different aspect of the same organization. Inside knowledge can help you establish and maintain trust and cooperation with stakeholders.
It also helps you to examine the roles and responsibilities to be fully prepared. The importance of acquiring this knowledge before you make the change can’t be underestimated. Knowledge can and should be continually refined and perfected, the journey to greatness is a continuous one! Combining subject matter expertise and a solid understanding of varying positions is extremely attractive to potential leaders and recruiters. In the current business climate, where roles and responsibilities are continually being redefined, you never know, your next big opportunity may be just around the corner!
As a leader, I always look for people with the courage to admit to wanting a change of scene and who are “future-ready.” I encourage people to be open and honest and to have ongoing conversations with their peers and management team, to constantly look for possibilities. The ability to thrive in a constantly changing landscape, drive change, collaborate and solve problems are universal requirements and will often take precedence over specific experience.
Prepare yourself. Think through all options. Focus on transferrable skills. Go get it!