Career Transition Tales with Lauren Wiley
We are so excited to introduce the first guest of the Career Transition Tales, Lauren Wiley. Lauren’s transition from working in the museum field to becoming a Content Producer/Strategist wasn’t always easy and she dealt with imposter syndrome, work-related trauma, and uncertainty.
With the support of her Ama La Vida coach and plenty of persistence, Lauren has found a career she truly enjoys. Now, she’s sharing exactly how she did it!
In 2015, Lauren moved to Chicago to study Art Education at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She had worked previously as an Art Teacher and thought she wanted to pursue a career in the museum field.
After grad school, Lauren looked for a museum education job for two years without any luck. She applied for hundreds of postings and eventually, heard back from less than five museums with no prospective offers.
She took unpaid internships to boost her resume and worked part-time jobs for minimum wage to supplement her income. Which at age 29, felt like a step backward for her.
What finally pushed Lauren to make a change was that she realized the museum field was often saturated with well-educated white women. Who can afford to pursue graduate degrees and take unpaid work. While she knew some amazing men and women of color who were actively disproving those pre-requisites. It seemed like a slow and uphill battle. As a white woman, Lauren didn’t feel right about breaking her back to perpetuate that system.
She talked to many empathetic mentors and peers about her experiences, but she wasn’t sharing anything they didn’t already know. Which only confirmed to her that she was making the right decision to leave.
Lauren knew she wanted to return to her creativity. She had a degree in art and had spent her entire life making and writing things. She wondered if she should become an art teacher. But the prospect of going back to school (again) to get her credentials made her cringe. So, she kept her options broad – she just wanted a career which involved making something new.
When she started her search for a new career, Lauren realized she was interested in working with other people who were really passionate about doing their jobs well. She wanted to go to work with colleagues who cared about their jobs. Also, did the best they could. while also being able to talk about other things (beyond work) during happy hour.
Lauren had heard of ALV coaching through Brit + Co. After a little research, she was impressed by the way ALV focused on helping their clients figure out what they wanted to do, rather than helping them land any old job.
With the support and guidance of an ALV coach named Mandy, Lauren was able to process some past work-related trauma. In a kind and respectful way, Mandy encouraged Lauren to reflect on her experiences with her previous boss. Who made her feel like she wasn’t just a bad employee, but also a bad person. Through her reflections, Lauren realized that the accusations of her former boss weren’t really about her, but about them.
The imposter syndrome she also experienced could be painful at times, but if she started to focus on the things she did well. That’s what made her unique. Such as her ability to communicate effectively through a variety of mediums. To create unity around her, she can overcome those imposter feelings long enough to be successful.
It took 6 months for Lauren to transition into her new career. It took her just one interview to land her current position as a Content Producer/Strategist for a branding and e-commerce consulting company. In short; she writes stuff!
During her interview, she found it was really important to sell the interviewer on how the new position would be fundamentally different (as opposed to “better”) than her other role at the museum. She wanted them to know that she wasn’t looking at the new career as a “grass-is-greener” opportunity. But that she was trying to make a definitive, life-altering decision to switch gears.
Lauren’s best interview tip is this: Don’t let imposter syndrome make you feel like you don’t have enough experience to be an interesting candidate. By the same token, be honest about your experiences without being overly negative. You can thoughtfully explain why you left your previous field in a way which makes you sound wiser!
During the transition into her new role, Lauren found it difficult to let go of her seat at the museum “table”. She didn’t want to keep a foot in the door of the museum world – she wanted to let go completely. However, after four years of obsessively thinking about cultural institutions, it was really challenging. She is finally getting to a place where she can just be a spectator in the museum world. She is remembering how much fun it can be as an enthusiast.
Lauren’s advice for other people looking to transition with their careers is to be aware of the two voices in your mind. One voice may be quieter, saying things like “I think this might be a really good idea” while the louder voice may be saying “you’re not good enough to do that.” Lauren says you should listen to the quieter one!