From event management to employer branding: how I reshaped my career in my early 30s
Two years ago, I shifted my career from event management to employer branding. In the process, I learned a lot about myself, how I wanted to use my skills and discovered that motivation always trumps experience.
I always admired the people who knew the profession they wanted to be in since they were young. I have a very good friend who is a film director and he knew his passion for film from a young age, so he basically directed his life towards it. It was not my case. I wanted to be a doctor until I had an operation at age seven. Then I decided to be a flight attendant because I loved airplanes, but I never really got into it for an unknown reason. One thing I knew for sure, I wanted to work with people doing something creative. In school and university, I did many personality tests intended to help you find your path. They always told me something I already knew: I have a great ability to socialize easily, am creative, have a passion for helping others, and absolutely dislike conflict. Great! But what do I do with it?
The first job that I had that really motivated me was as an event manager. I was responsible for designing the program for HR conferences and inviting speakers for each topic. To do that, I had to research a lot: read articles, watch workshops, review other events and interview many HR professionals. As I dug deeper into the different topics, I discovered a new passion. For three years, I learned a lot about the various aspects of human resources, trends, and companies doing a great job. Among these topics, employer branding was what caught my attention. I learned a lot about culture, values, engagement, motivation, and purpose. I realized that work is one of the most significant dimensions of our daily life, so companies should ensure that employees are doing something more meaningful than clocking in and out. I soon found a job in Berlin as a community and events manager, where I slowly started combining my experience in event management and my little knowledge in HR. I was 32 years old, and this was the first step to get into employer branding.
According to a survey conducted by Indeed in 2019 in the United States, 58% of workers are willing to accept a job that pays less to completely change industry. Not only that, 49% of the people said they already did a major career shift. This same survey reports that being unhappy with their previous job sector is the main reason for shifting careers, followed by a tie between higher pay and flexibility. The average age for people to shift their careers is 39 years old, undoubtedly because of financial security compared to younger people.
For me, changing my career was a gradual process. I started finding interest in new things, which led me to connect them with other things I was passionate about, and then I noticed that I was already looking into making it my profession. In this process, I had to break three myths that would prevent me from going anywhere:
- Changing career means starting from zero. We assume that when we decide to change our career direction, we need to start all over again. It may require you to retrieve a few steps back, but I believe that all the experience and knowledge gained in the past can and should be applied in the new journey. Whether the switch is from marketing to finance or from operations to human resources, some values and experiences within us do not differentiate the industry we are working in. Skills like creativity, prioritization, sociability, teamwork, accountability, commitment, and leadership can be applied in any field. Strengthen and gain confidence in what you already know.
- You have to go back to university. Starting a new career will require learning many new things, but that does not necessarily mean that you need to go back to university. A few professions will require you to go to university right away, like a lawyer, a doctor, or a teacher, but you can start small in most cases. In my case, before I decided to get a certification in employer branding, I started to learn smaller concepts that would help me take smaller steps: connecting brand, business, and behaviors, recruiting, managing people, HR history, project management, etc. For me, it was essential to connect the dots one step at a time. Learn and investigate what you don’t know.
- A profession is for life. A career should be about motivation, and I am sure we all have more than one thing that motivates us, so why do one thing for the rest of our lives? When I started noticing my interest in engaging people at work, I first thought that this would take me into something like corporate social responsibility. But the more I looked into what excited me and how I wanted to use my skills, I realized that I wanted to work in employer branding and employee experience. Find what motivates you and give it a purpose.
Finding my motivation was the starting point for my new career. In his book Drive (2009), Daniel Pink breaks the myth that the best way to motivate ourselves is with rewards. He describes that the secret to satisfaction is the human need to direct our own lives. Yes, I am a millennial, and according to Gallup, we change jobs three times more than the non-millennials. But the truth lies in what motivates millennials to do so. We are way past the days when people worked for the same company for decades. Days when people were frustrated with their jobs and only motivated by salary and promotions.
We are in a new era of work, and whether you are a millennial or not, find what motivates you and go for it.
- Are you motivated in your current job?
- Are you using your skills in projects that excite you?
- What skills and experience can you use in a different profession?
- What do you need to learn to excel in a new profession?