How Social Media Helped Me Change Careers

BlogHer Original Post

I know. I'd roll my eyes at that cheesy title too ... but it's true, social media did help me reinvent my career.

I spent 14 years in human resources. In 2008, I was the head of HR for a small airline that was going under. When the time came for me to make a list of people to lay off, I put my own name on the list. Then I took my severance, pulled my infant and toddler out of daycare and went home.

I had no idea what was next, but I knew I'd had enough of corporate HR. After a few months, I got a little antsy, so I started a blog that gave advice for job seekers. I wasn't excited about the topic, but I was scared to let go of HR completely.

A year later, I was finally ready. I told my blog readers that I was dumping them ... for dead people. I'd been into genealogy for years and I'd often thought about trying to make a living from it. I still wasn't sure how that would work exactly, but I was ready to try.

That was in January 2010. In August 2011, I had another announcement for my readers: I’d taken a full-time job as the online community editor for Family Tree Magazine. In a little over 18 months, I’d completely changed careers without leaving my house.

Clue Wagon business card
My social media-savvy business card.

Here's how social media contributed to my transformation:

  • It helped me make connections. I didn't know any other people interested in genealogy when I gave up my old career. Through Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, I met hundreds of genealogists and genealogy company employees. Those relationships helped me become established in a brand-new field and made me a far more attractive candidate to my present employer than someone who didn’t know a soul.

  • It helped me figure out who was who. There are a number of genealogy product and service companies out there. Connecting to individuals and companies in advance of my job search helped me figure out which ones I liked best, and which ones might not be a good fit for me. That saved me -- and potential employers -- a lot of time and grief.

  • It helped fill the gap on my resume. Most stay-at-home moms worry about that gap. My blog allowed me to list a real activity during those years I was home with my kids. Since I built my blog's traffic entirely via social media, it also gave me some new skills to list. In fact, if I wanted to go back to HR, I’d have a wealth of new ways to do my job thanks to my greater understanding of how people use social media.

  • It kept me sane. I love my kids, but they aren't adults. They weren't interested in helping me figure out how to change careers; in fact, they were laser-focused on how to get me to play Candyland with them 24/7. Staying connected with other career changers helped me keep my goal in front of me, and gave me people to turn to when I was losing my nerve.

Career change can be hard. It can also be lonely and scary. I don't think I would have made it without the tools social media gave me.

Kerry Scott blogs about dead people, career change and other stuff at Clue Wagon. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Ravelry, and occasionally in the genealogy room at the Milwaukee Public Library.

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Kaplan University provides a practical, student-centered education that prepares individuals for careers in some of the fastest-growing industries. The University, which has its main campus in Davenport, Iowa, and its headquarters in Chicago, is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (www.ncahlc.org). It serves more than 53,000 online and campus-based students. The University has 11 campuses in Iowa, Nebraska, Maryland and Maine, and Kaplan University Learning Centers in Maryland, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Florida.

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