How Job Hopping Helped Me Switch Careers and Earn a 39% Raise in Months

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I never intended to be a job hopper. I just couldn’t find the right job for me.

I was the first in my family to graduate from college. They didn’t mind that I pursued a film degree or that I lacked real-world skills. They weren’t concerned about my chosen path at all. They were just happy to watch me walk across the stage and get my diploma.

During and after college I did work in the film industry, but the long hours and low pay quickly led to burnout. With no other marketable skills or knowledge — and a competitive job market — I felt lost. I worked as a barista while I figured out my next move.

During a Sunday morning shift I saw an ad on the back of a newspaper: An insurance company was holding a career fair and was going to hire more than 200 employees for their call center. Luckily, I arrived early enough to snag an interview and was offered a job a few days later.

Nearly two years after graduation, I finally had a full-time job, complete with a salary of $33,000 plus benefits.

Working at a call center with row after row of cubicles paid the bills but was not ideal; I knew right away that this job was not going to work out for me in the long run.

Around the same time, my then-boyfriend-now-husband’s band was performing regularly and becoming more successful, but their online presence was small. I volunteered to post their upcoming shows on social media to help them out, and we quickly began to see some results.

After 15 months at the call center, I left to process retirement benefits for a government agency. Now I had a salary of $36,000, and the benefits were even better.

But, I always found myself wanting to learn more about marketing. I read books, listened to podcasts, learned Google Analytics – it was something I did in my free time because I was genuinely interested.

Meanwhile, I kept doing work for the band. I taped shows and shared the videos online. I wanted to create an email newsletter, so I learned how to use MailChimp and got fans to subscribe.

I did all of this for over a year before realizing I could turn this into a full-time job.

Making the Career Change

Getting an entry-level marketing job without relevant internship experience seemed impossible. I did manage to get a few phone interviews but never advanced any further. So, after months of applications (and rejections), I began to explore paid internships.

I knew that I needed to make an impression if I wanted to get a company’s attention. Most job seekers apply for jobs online, so I chose to do the opposite. I mailed my resume, cover letter, and some work samples to a small agency.

My cover letter explained my interest in marketing, why I wanted a career change, that I wanted to take the intern role so that I could get real-world experience and that I wanted to work full time – no long-term obligation required. In exchange, I offered my video production experience and included samples of my work.

The owner of the agency emailed me and said she loved my “tenacity.” Sixteen months into my government job, the agency offered me a full-time intern role for $12 per hour.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

While interning, I knew I had a short amount of time to find a permanent, full-time job, and my savings were depleting. I made a list of ways I could earn more money if this move didn’t work out. I was ready to donate plasma, apply for any barista job or even sign up for a medical study. If I could sell my soul, I would have done it.

I kept my LinkedIn profile up to date. Every blog post I wrote, skill I learned, notable accomplishment went on my profile. I wrote a summary explaining my experience and what I was looking for. I applied for every job opportunity I came across.

Then something unexpected happened: A hiring manager reached out to me.

All of that work I put into LinkedIn paid off. They needed a full-time contractor and came across my profile in the search results. Ten months later, I became a full-time employee.

In 14 months, I went from earning a salary of $36,000 to $50,000 – a 39% increase – in a role I wanted to work in.

Since then, I’ve hopped twice more to land the dream job that I have today.

Each previous job has given me an advantage and increased my income potential: my insurance and personal finance knowledge gave me real-world experience in complicated industries. My two-plus years of agency experience is often a requirement for marketing jobs. Video has also become huge in the content marketing world, so my film degree turned out to be an asset after all.

How to Use Job Hopping to Make a Career Change

Here’s what you can do to leverage your work experience to transition into a new career.

Build Your Portfolio

Volunteer your spare time, and your effort will pay off. Create work samples. If you want to write, start a blog and write. If you want to be a developer, learn to code and build an app.

Do Your Research

Research companies that offer paid internships or entry-level positions, and state your case. Recruiters and hiring managers will want to know why someone with years of experience wants to be considered for a lower-level role.

Be Willing to Make Sacrifices

Don’t expect to get paid the same amount you were making at your previous job. Make sure you have savings (and a plan b) to relieve some of the financial stress.

Make Them an Offer They Can’t Refuse

What will you bring to the table? This is your opportunity to stand out. If you have work experience, then you have something to offer.

Never Stop Learning

Get free training online. Audit classes on Coursera. Learn about Facebook advertising with Blueprint. Tackle coding with CodeAcademy. Add these new skills to your resume, too.

You, too, can make a career change. All it takes is patience, proper planning and a smidge of courage.

Cristy Salinas (@lacristysalinas) is a content strategist and improviser in Austin, Texas. When she’s not writing, you can find her at a comedy theatre or binge-watching Fixer Upper (again!) with her two cats.