How to Leave the Corporate World to Pursue a Trade

Kim Norton-O'Brien

It’s an all-too-familiar scene: Monday morning comes around, and countless Word docs, meetings, and Excel spreadsheets are on the horizon of your in-office work week. None of it is what you want to be doing.

If this is you, we have two pieces of good news for you: first, know you’re not alone. Job discontent is a massive problem that millions of people face each year. 

Although you could grind your way through your unhappiness until retirement, there is an even better possibility — and that’s where our second piece of good news comes in. No matter your stage of life, with some self-examination and forethought, you can leave that corporate job for a fulfilling career as a trade professional.

If you love working with your hands, creating remarkable solutions and collaborating with other enthusiastic experts, pursuing your dream is more attainable than you might think.

Leaving the white-collar domain for a practical trade takes some planning and commitment. But it can also afford you an an opportunity to fall in love with what you do, and be proud of what you create on a daily basis.

At IYRS, we help students through this transition every single day and we have for more than 25 years. Whether they are career professionals in their 40s and 50s ready to finally do what they love, or recent college grads looking to bail out of the corporate race before it begins, we know the steps involved with helping students to begin a hands-on career where they are the driver of their future.

Step One: Start With Why You Want to Leave Corporate America

Often, many people’s white collar jobs simply don’t match their aspirations. The corporate grind isn’t as fulfilling as they expected. In fact, the Conference Board’s research showed about 46% of people felt unhappy with their jobs in 2019, and only about 33% of people were satisfied with their current job training programs. And just 38% were happy with their potential for future growth in their corporate roles.

Breaking out from being one of these statistics starts with introspection: What don’t you actually like about your current job? For some, it is the uninspired monotony of number-crunching and cubicles. For others, it’s the absence of creating something to be proud of.

As you take stock of how you feel and why you feel it, it’s important at this stage to determine just how far down the rabbit hole you are willing to go. For example, if you find yourself mostly enjoying your current role, but your salary or weekly hours are making you unhappy, items like these can be negotiated via a pay raise or schedule adjustment.

However, if you find the problem goes deeper than that, then the solution will likely require a bigger change.

If you find yourself fundamentally disliking your industry as a whole, your specific role or the perpetual lack of being challenged, then it’s time to start investigating new options for your future. And if you are passionately unsatisfied with your career, it’s time to start thinking about making a drastic change.

Step Two: Figure out What You Are Most Passionate About

Finding a trade you love has everything to do with your passion and motivation. Enjoying a fulfilling career in the trades often means tangibly making your passions your livelihood.

Did you enjoy building or fixing things as a child? Was there a project in school or at work that you think back on fondly, or are particularly proud of? Did you encounter a problem that left others stumped, but for which you built the solution?

To help you narrow down your ideas, think about the projects you enjoy. What specific tasks at work or volunteer events do you like? Consider hobbies, school assignments, or even household activities, as well as the type of work environment where you thrive.

Probing through questions like these can help get the gears turning and enable you to see things which you once took for granted as actual moments of insight into your life’s story.

Consider these three motivators when searching for a trade that might resonate with what you want to do:

  • Play: You engage in your work because you enjoy it. Will the trade you choose align with your passions and keep you curious for continual learning?
  • Purpose: Your motivation is the outcome of your work, and your values parallel the impact of what you do. Does the mission of the job and company match your goals and purpose?
  • Potential: You work because you believe it will lead you to what you think is important. Will the role you pursue set you on the right path toward your true objectives?

Creating a Network for Your Future

As you start addressing your passions and motivations, it’s crucial start building your professional network.

This is an easy step to overlook. Very often, mid-life career changers think they can “think their way out” of their current unhappiness, and maybe some can. More often, however, it is when you surround yourself with others who are working through their journeys or guiding others that you can find the right route for your pathway into the trades, as well.

A great place to start is a career coach. Individuals in these roles can put you in touch with people who are already doing what you are thinking about, giving you precious insight into what the day-to-day of marine mechanic or a boat builder is like, for instance. Seeing what a day in the life of the trade you are considering is actually like is some of the best decision-making data you can come across.

It is no coincidence that 70% of jobs are found through networking as opposed to applying through online posts. When you start exploring potential trades, it’s imperative to look for people, not jobs. Sharing your career goals with like-minded people can help you build connections and learn about opportunities by word-of-mouth.

At IYRS, we know this firsthand. On average, more than 80% of our graduates have jobs in their field by the time they graduate, and this is in no small part due to the efforts of our skilled and connected Career Development team. Starting with our externship program facilitated through Career Development, our students make meaningful connections with employers, and begin building valuable industry relationships. 

Get Involved

Whatever it is you are thinking about, the important thing is to find a way to begin DOING; don’t just stay on the sidelines wishing you could get in the game. Start participating in activities similar to the trade you want to pursue. Within your network, ask if you can shadow people at their jobs and discuss the ins and outs of what they do.

Not only does this give you experience and networking, it also helps you discover that your first idea may not actually be what you expected. That’s okay! That’s progress. Trying something new helps you test the water before diving headfirst into a new job.

You don’t have to sit at your desk analyzing how you can get out. You can choose a path and you can course-correct along the way. Always strive to learn more when you’re in the transitional period and get involved as much as possible.

Consider Your Finances

Making a career change often revolves around a monetary figure. Your finances are a substantial factor you need to consider — especially if you have a family, mortgage, and other financial commitments.

Consider the following:

  • Building a monthly family expenses budget
  • Cutting things that you don’t need now (but can return to in the future)
  • Creating a realistic savings account and practicing a savings mindset
  • Investing in further education

Habits are tough to break, and the same goes for financial habits. But if you want to make a career change, you’ll want to make sure you provide yourself with the financial opportunities to do so. Research how a career change can affect your situation, then make a budget. See where you can save money on necessary expenses and cut unnecessary expenses. Buy what you need and find ways to do what you love for less. Consider saving a percentage every paycheck to prepare. Many trades offer higher pay than office-based or other occupations. Do your research.

Making an exciting career change doesn’t mean you have to sit at home until you’re ready to make the jump. Understanding your situation and saving money can result in long-term security when switching into your dream job.

Step Three: Look for Trade Schools

Hopefully by now you are picking up on a theme: that once you've discovered your true passion, it's time to plan and act. However, there is a right and wrong way to execute step three.

Breaking into the trade you’ll love isn’t like the traditional way of finding a new job. You likely won’t have the skillset or experience necessary to be hired immediately for a skilled trade position. While passion can occasionally override limited experience, many trade industries require more background knowledge.

Enter trade schools. Enrolling in a trade school not only gives your knowledge and experience an enormous, marketable lift, but it will also connect you with trade industry leaders who have meaningful connections with employers in their regions.

Leaving The Corporate World To Enroll in a Trade School

Gaining relevant experience is one of the best things you can do to advance your new career. Education, licensing, and certification in your chosen field proves you have the necessary knowledge for the trade you’re pursuing. Working one-on-one with experts in the field, learning hands-on, marketable skills, and obtaining classroom knowledge is the basis of moving forward.

Trade schools like IYRS are career-focused with programs which train you to begin a meaningful hands-on career - and do it in far less time than is required by the standard four year degree. In as little as six months, you could be embarking on a new career you are passionate about. Our students are aspiring craftspeople, designers, makers, and technicians who come to IYRS to learn advanced craftsmanship and technical skills to create successful careers and richer lives. IYRS students go on to careers across a wide range of industries, including yacht building, historic restoration, fine furniture making, wind energy, aerospace, sporting goods design, consumer goods prototyping, and more.

The trade school you choose should be accredited by a state or national accrediting agency, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). This ensures that the knowledge you are gaining is coming from instructors who are continually pushing the envelope of their own knowledge and staying current with cutting edge industry trends.

Communication With Your Family and Friends is Key

It’s intimidating to turn your life 180 degrees. You may feel scared, embarrassed, confused, or lost, and that is normal for starting out on this journey. Most importantly, this is not a journey you have to take alone.

In addition to the career coaches and mentors we mentioned earlier, it is paramount to include your family in on this decision. Family may need time to adjust to a “new normal,” especially if you are relocating to attend trade school or will be seeing different hours or pay structure. These are important items that impact more than just you, so it’s crucial that everyone affected understands why you are making this important decision.

Additionally,  communication will help you commit to your dream. Your friends and family can hold you accountable to finding your personal career satisfaction. When you put in the effort and surround yourself with the right people to cheer you on, you’ll get to where you want to be, whether you are a recent graduate or a mid-career professional ready for a change for the better.

Several strategies for communicating your plan can include:

  • Cherry-pick your favorite supporters
  • Relay your reasoning and your “why” factor
  • Listen to their reactions before giving all the details
  • Don’t rehearse what you’ll say — speak from the heart
  • Show your commitment and seriousness

You know better than anyone why a career change is the best next step for you. Communicating it is an exciting step in the process to your new career.

Employability of Graduates Is a Hallmark of IYRS

IYRS has been training students for hands-on careers for more than 25 years. More than 400 companies from around the United States have come to IYRS to hire our graduates. Our students' externships, which are a program requirement, ensure you have hands-on, marketable industry experience prior to graduation. In fact, many of our students go on to full-time positions with their externship employer after they graduate. We take our job of successfully training students for craftsmanship-based careers very seriously: it is the very core of all we do.

IYRS School of Technology & Trades may be the next step in your search for career satisfaction. Discover our accredited programs or apply to become an IYRS student today. You can also reach out to our helpful Admissions team to learn more about how we guide you through a career change.

If you’re ready to make a change, we are ready to help you get on the right path to success in a hands-on field.