Animal and Food Sciences student John Boney meets with mentor Joel Newman, President, CEO and corporate treasurer of the American Feed Association at their headquarter offices in Arlintgon, Va.

Strength and Inspiration for Career Changers: Tips From WVU Online Advisers


Maybe you are working in an industry that is becoming obsolete, or you have become bored with your daily routine. Maybe your view of the world has changed, and you want to move into a career with a future that fits in with your values.

According to the latest Department of Labor statistics, most workers in the labor force right now will change careers 5 to 7 times during their working life. By age 42, you may have had about ten different jobs, and there’s a good chance that you may end up working in a completely different field altogether.

In any event, it will probably mean that you need additional education and training or maybe to get another degree entirely.

Are you thinking it would be difficult to change your career or major right now? Think again! It is not only possible, but it is also easier than you expect. It just takes a little planning.

Dedra Cobb, senior academic adviser in the WVU School of Nursing, says there are many things to take into consideration if you decide to change your career.

“The most important factor to consider is how much time you have and how dedicated you are to switching careers,” she says. “However, if you are not happy in your current situation there is nothing wrong with exploring different opportunities. I suggest reaching out and talking to the experts in the area.”

Cobb is someone who changed her own career path. She holds a master’s degree Criminal Justice, but along the way she also found that she loves working with students.

“I am now an adviser,” she says. “I love advising students! Because I changed my own career, I am a firm believer that everyone can have a positive outcome, depending on how hard they are willing to work to achieve their goals.”

“The first question for students still in school should be ‘Are you enjoying your major-specific classes?’ I would also recommend that a student try job shadowing, volunteering, or interning in the area they are interested in. They may also want to interview someone who works in the field.”

Alex Jarvis, former graduate online student success advisor in WVU’s Reed College of Media, says you can determine if a career is a good fit for you by thinking of three things: 1) What are my long-term career goals? 2) Is this major aligned with those goals? 3) Am I enjoying working on this major, and the courses required?

“If the answers are yes, then stick with your major,” he says. “But, if the answers are no or maybe, reach out to your adviser and talk about your options. We are here to help students find what is best for them, even if that means switching majors or careers.”

Susan Maczko, program director in WVU’s John Chambers College of Business and Economics, agrees that you can determine if a major is the correct fit for you by how well you are engaged in the classes.

“For example, are most of the classes in your major too difficult, or are only one or two more difficult? If you do not like most of the courses in your major, it probably is not the correct major for you.”

If you are considering a career change, or changing your major – even if you are far along in it–consider these tips from our WVU Online advisers to start thinking about making your future the best it can be:

Tip #1: Follow Your Passion

Ciara Kimbrough taking a selphie for WVU Magazine.

“Make sure that this is the best route for you. Pick a career that is going to bring you joy. If you are not finding joy in the courses you are taking, or successfully passing your courses, this is usually an indication that the major may not be a good fit for you.” – Damia Dobbs, Developmental Advising Specialist, WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics

Tip #2: Use Your Talents

Female student singing in front of audience.

“Follow what you’re interested in and what you’re good at. There is no perfect career out there, so find something that is a good use of your day and that leaves you feeling satisfied and fulfilled. You are in control of your own education and you should make sure your major is aligned with your interests, personality and career goals.” – Aaron Hawley, Multidisciplinary Studies & Minors Coordinator, WVU Reed College of Media

Tip #3: Overcome Your Fear

Male student climbing a rock wall.

“Changing careers can be scary, but you should pursue what will make you happy.” – Jayne Gilbert, Director of Retention Initiatives, Potomac State College of WVU

Tip #4: Do Some Research and Talk to Someone in the Field

Animal and Food Sciences student John Boney meets with mentor Joel Newman, President, CEO and corporate treasurer of the American Feed Association at their headquarter offices in Arlintgon, Va.

“Researching data about the career you are interested in can help you make an informed decision. It is always a good idea to speak with those who completed the career or major you are considering. Will completion of the major lead to a career you are excited about? Can you actually see yourself working in that field?” – Anita Garten, Developmental Advising Specialist, WVU College of Education & Human Services

Tip: #5: Do What You Need to do to Prepare Yourself

Two students talking in the Mountainlair.

“Our program does not facilitate students coming in from another career. In a few instances, where some of our students had sufficient experience or education to be accepted into this program, they had already decided to move into this career path. For those not qualified, I recommend additional undergraduate education to obtain a second degree in this area.” – Dale Dzielski, Program Director of WVU Online Software Engineering Graduate Programs in the WVU Statler College of Engineering

Tip# 6: Take a Class in the Field

Teacher standing in front of her class.

“Look at the requirements of a program to see if it sounds like something you want to do or learn. Take a class that is representative of that major and see if you like it.” – Jayne Gilbert, Director of Retention Initiatives, Potomac State College of WVU

Tip #7: Choose Your Electives Carefully

Voting students in Mountainlair.

“Choose you electives carefully to help you achieve your future career goals. Also, take electives that interest you, as this may lead to a surprising career opportunity in the future. Graduate programs are constantly being developed and revised to reflect the needs of a continuously changing business world.” – John Mullins, Graduate Development Academic Adviser, WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics

Tip# 8: Look at the Availability of Jobs

WVU student wedding steel.

“Look for a major that leads to a career where you can find a job currently and in the future. Employment rates are a big factor in your choice. Look at the availability of jobs in that area now and keep abreast of changes in that field.” – Anita Garten, Developmental Advising Specialist, WVU College of Education & Human Services

Tip# 9: Do Something to Move Forward

WVU student walking into a building.

“Career changers need to know that, depending on any previous college coursework, it may take time to realize your goals. But, if you do not do anything to move forward, you will be in the same place in a few years that you are in now.” – Susan Maczko, Program Director, WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics

Tip #10: Don’t be Intimidated and Have Fun!

Student throwing ball at Summer Term party.

“Many of our students are career changers and don’t have a Safety Management background. I know some of them may not know much about the field, so I incorporate opportunities in the program to help bridge any gaps. I, myself, had no idea Safety Management was a career path when I started college, but now it is my life passion.” – Jenny Fuller, MS, CSP Teaching Instructor, Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources Industrial Management Systems Engineering (IMSE) Safety Management (SAFM)

Tip #11: Be Patient

WVU student smiling and studying in a classroom.

“Career changes might not pay off overnight. Yet, earning your degree online can help propel you and prepare you for that change.” – Alex Jarvis, former Graduate Online Student Success Adviser, Reed College of Media

Tip: #12: Know Your Worth and Help Others

Two WVU students working together in a classroom.

“Know that you bring to the college a tremendous amount of work experience that will not only benefit you in your program, but will heavily influence your fellow students. Take this opportunity to grow your own skills and also help others get a little bit further ahead, thanks to your experience.” – John Mullins, Graduate Development Academic Adviser, John Chambers College of Business and Economics

Tip #13: Talk to Career Services

Three people talking at a Career Services fair.

“I recommend that students take advantage of their College’s Center for Career Development (CCD) whenever possibly, and as early as possible, even before they choose a major and definitely if they are thinking of changing their career. The CCD offers resume reviews, virtual mock interviews, virtual career fairs, and much more. There are many students who are already employed and looking to move forward in their career, or to change their career, by completing a degree and the CCD can assist with this too.” – Susan Maczko, Program Director, WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics

Tip #14: Work With Your Adviser

A female student talking with her advisor.

“One of the reasons I love to talk with students interested in the Safety Management major is that I can give them a program overview, personal experiences, and answer questions. Most students know after our meeting if the program is a good fit for them.” – Jenny Fuller, MS, CSP Teaching Instructor, Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources Industrial Management Systems Engineering (IMSE) Safety Management (SAFM)

“My advice is to think about the career field, both now and later,” says Jenny Fuller. “Write down your life priorities (work/life balance, money, vacation time, travel, etc.) and see if the major aligns with those personal priorities.”

“In addition to this, write out your professional and personal goals and see if any of the elective options you have available to you will help achieve those goals. You can use an elective to step outside your comfort zones!”

“For example, you may be not be interested in the construction field, but you might find after taking a construction elective course that it is interesting. Even if you don’t go into construction, the information is still valuable.”

Fuller also works with students to find good employment.

“Advising plays a role in this because I send out job announcements regularly, organize information sessions with various companies from various industries, invite guest speakers to discuss various employment fields with students, and facilitate a mentorship program,” she says.

“I work with students to determine what constitutes a ‘good’ fit. To determine if a specific type of job will fit a student, I have them write out personal priorities and goals to keep them centered during the job search. Many of our students have multiple job offers and it helps a student to know their own worth and personal values.”

Ready to get started? Need more information? Check out the resources below.