I'm so excited to tell you about my latest Career Change Spotlight interview! I met Nicole virtually earlier this year during the pandemic (...proving that networking doesn't have to stop just because social distancing is in place!), connecting with her on LinkedIn to chat with her about her career. She has a great story about her journey starting in one field, then going to law school and moving into another field, then making the decision to return to her first love: advocating for the most vulnerable in her community.
Nicole is a fantastic example of someone who has used her diverse experiences as well as formal education to not only make a difference, but take it to the next level. She's also seen the assumptions made by employers that had no bearing on her abilities to do the work, and learned a lot through her career evolution.
Here's what she shared with me about her journey, with some awesome nuggets of inspiration for career changers everywhere...
What do you do for living these days?
I work for a leading child welfare agency in Florida, training our staff in all areas, from informed trauma to documentation to leading those difficult discussions that case managers will all have in their careers. In addition, I conduct case reviews, which promotes child safety by ensuring there are no concerns overlooked by front line staff, and that any critical issues are followed up on promptly.
What career were you in before this?
I primarily worked in more traditional areas of law, including working for the Public Defender's Office, the State Attorney's Office, and conducting legal document analysis.
What inspired you to make the transition from law to child welfare?
My goal was always to work with at-risk populations, whether it was law-related or within child welfare. I've always had a passion for working with children and had worked in the field in a different capacity in the past. When I was younger, I'd heard child welfare stories, watched the news and read the headlines but never fully understood the system until I became professionally involved. During my earlier years in the field, the demanding nature of the work and the feelings of being underappreciated made it a love/hate relationship. However, something in me knew that I belonged in this field.
What were your biggest challenges in changing careers?
One of the many challenges I faced was being pigeonholed in one career field (as a JD) and not having someone willing to take a chance on me. I lost count of the number of jobs I applied to over the past two years, let alone the past few months. Either I did not get an interview or I was told my law degree was actually an issue! I think it is hard for many to grasp and understand that not everyone with their JD wants to practice law in the traditional sense (i.e., in a courtroom). There are SO many occupations that can be performed with a JD that do not require you to take the bar. In fact, many attend law school with no plans to set foot into a courtroom, and others discover along their journey that they want to use their legal education in a different way.
What advice can you share with others thinking about moving into a new line of work?
Keep on applying and networking! I have met a lot of wonderful and amazing people during my journey who have reached out and offered me encouraging words and a listening ear. Create a LinkedIn account and become active on it! We all need one person to give us a chance and that person is out there. Keep pushing on - you got this!