I Love My Job: A Career Change Interview with Michelle Schumaker
You don't have to invent your own job to love what you do. I'm thrilled to introduce you to a few women who found happiness, pride, and meaning after changing industries or scrapping their degrees. So many of us feel stuck in the spaces we "committed to" when we were younger. This series shines a light on the women who bravely took a leap into another industry, trade, or craft than they'd paid dues into. If they ran in another direction, so can you.
Editor's Note: Michelle's path has been anything but straight and narrow. I've seen Michelle through California to Brooklyn and back. What I love most about Michelle's story is not just that she's found a job she truly loves, but that she's found something that seems to really reflect her personal style and allows her to be herself no matter where she is. Plus, as a fellow beer lover, I'm kinda jealous.
What career were you in before your "big change"?
I worked in fashion design and production. I studied apparel design in college and moved to New York the day of my college graduation to pursue it. Moving to New York had been my dream ever since I was a kid. I would watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and be completely enamored by the skyscrapers.
How long had you been in fashion before deciding to try a different path?
Eight years. The first two years in fashion were a bit inconsistent so I managed some hair salons in between jobs. Fashion is very competitive so it took a while to get my foot in the door.
What was the catalyst for change?
I have two:
1. I had been working in kid's clothing production for three years and one day during a meeting, we were hemming and hawing over the color of the waistband of kid's underwear. I thought to myself, This is crazy. It goes UNDER the clothing. I promise you parents are not thinking if they're purchasing the right shade of blue undies...
2. I went to a beer event with a friend in the beer industry. She's the sales manager for a large brewery in the Bay and I remember thinking, your job is much more fun than mine. The next day I started applying for beer sales jobs.
What happened next?
Well, no one would hire me without experience, so I applied to a boutique liquor store instead. I took a pay cut of more than half what I'd been making to work there. I was an hourly employee and had to clock out for lunch breaks which was very strange for me. I only stayed five months, but learned a priceless amount about the industry which ultimately helped me land the dream job I have now, at a brewery.
Heck yeah! Tell us where you're working now.
I work as a sales rep for Seven Stills Brewery and Distillery in San Francisco.
Congrats! What do you love about it?
Um, everything! I love that every day is different. I love cultivating relationships and having real passion for what I'm working with. I love the camaraderie in beer, and I love drinking beer! I get to make my own schedule and I'm not stuck behind a desk.
Honestly, I am still making less than my corporate fashion job, but I am so much happier! I have never felt more confident and self-assured going into a job!
What advice would you give to someone who thinks they need to stick it out with an industry they've dedicated a ton of time or got a degree in?
Don't stick it out. Your happiness and well-being are more important. I know it's scary to change your career (I did it at 33!), but as cliche as it sounds, life IS short! I pinch myself every single day. In fact, I drove by my old fashion job recently and absolutely shuddered. I have fashion PTSD!
Take the time to think about back up plans and how to make it work. There is always a way, I promise you.