Born again

Some people are in the same careers for their entire lives, working their way up the ladder with ease. Others decide midway through one career that they are destined for another, leaving them with the question, “What do I have to do to continue my education in order to achieve my new career goal?”

Karen Chopra is a career counselor on K Street. Working in a private practice, Chopra works with clients who want to change their careers. Chopra’s average clients are those in their 30s and 40s who are professionals working in nonprofits or in government on Capitol Hill. They have either lost their jobs or are looking to change careers.

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“I also see some in their 20s, 50s and 60s,” said Chopra, who has been in practice for 10 years. “Each person is individual, that’s the beauty of my work; for instance, one person’s dream job could be another’s job from hell. It’s a very individualistic process.”

Chopra’s average appointment lasts about 50 minutes. “First we have what I call history-making, understanding how we got to this point,” she said. “Then, depending on what they want to do, we do a series of exercises that lets me know what types of careers they would enjoy doing.”

After that, Chopra discusses the client’s dream job with them and then helps with interview preparation. She said that most clients come for multiple sessions and some could come for up to 20 sessions.

“To a certain extent, this is how I see careers,” Chopra said. “In my view we spend so much time working, it happens soon that we know what’s wrong with a career.”

Chopra said it is then that individuals should think about making the career switch. “Life is short; you might as well make the most of it. As soon as you know where you are isn’t right, figure out what is and how to get there,” she said.

Alexandra Kendrick felt that a different career was meant for her after she spent years in real estate and volunteering in politics. A Realtor for nine years, she put herself through college practicing real estate and is now happy as a field representative in Rep. Jack Kingston’s (R-Ga.) Savannah office.

“I already had a B.A. when I decided to work for Rep. Kingston,” Kendrick said. “However, what really helped me was being a Realtor and involved in the local political scene.”

Kendrick said that having politics as a hobby really helped her transition to her second career when the real estate market crashed. She has been with Kingston’s office since July of last year.

Kendrick’s ultimate career goal is to get into the more legislative side of things. “I’ve thought about going back to school to continue my education. I’ve looked at a couple of local MBA programs,” she said. “It depends on what happens in the next couple of years and whether or not I would have time to go back to school.” She said at some point in her career she does plan to get a master’s.

Chopra’s best advice for those looking to change careers and potentially continue their education is not to worry about what they think they can do, but rather, to focus on what it is they would really like to do. “Do you like going into the office and working on something every day?” she said. “Most people start with what they think they can do, then they get stuck.”

Kendrick works on furthering her new career through networking and social events. “When the market slowed down, Chris Crawford in Jack’s office already knew me through volunteer work I had done,” she said. “He gave me a call and we set up an interview. I didn’t even put a resume out. It was nice.”

“These things happen in Savannah, not D.C.,” Kendrick added. “I just don’t know ultimately what kind of job I would end up with in the current legislative realm of things, although I would love to move to D.C.”

Kendrick doesn’t see herself going back into real estate or wanting to leave congressional work. “It was embarrassing to start a career at age 28. I feel as though I have to start all over again,” she said. “However, I will say that trying to find some type of volunteer work or internship and building personal relationships with people who can point you in the right direction is a good way to go.”

Chopra is not taking any new clients right now, but if you’re interested in changing careers and unsure how to do so, her website, www.chopracareers.com, has other career counselors listed. She may open up her schedule in the fall as people finish up their job searches.