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How To: Change Your Life

By Jacqueline Holness

Although Terrell Dinkins wanted to be a stockbroker at 18 years old, and even majored in finance at Georgia Southern University, she drifted into a career in pharmaceutical sales after a stint in banking. “I felt like I was overworked and underpaid,” says Dinkins. “I thought about working in the finance department at a hospital. But with pharmaceutical sales, I thought I could still help people and make more money.”

Nearly 20 years later, when her company downsized, Dinkins rearranged her résuméto emphasize her financial planning experience following her layoff. The next month, a recruiter contacted her about working for a financial services company. “I never had to look for a job, but it was a job in which you were paid by commission. The very thing I feared doing when I was 22 years old — the fear of not having a steady paycheck — I ended up being recruited to do,” says Dinkins, who ultimately opened her own business OBN Wealth Advisors in 2016.

The decision to choose or change a career is major in an array of life-long choices one might face, such as whom to marry, where to live and when to sell the business, according to Ruth Chang, a Rutgers University philosophy professor. Chang is known her viral TED Talk “How To Make Hard Choices,” and her paper “Hard Choices” was published in the Journal of the American Philosophical Association in 2017. However, Chang admits to making the wrong choice when she initially chose a career in law rather than philosophy in her TED Talk. “I came from a modest immigrant family where my idea of luxury was having a pork tongue and jelly sandwich in my school lunchbox, so the thought of spending my whole life sitting around in armchairs just thinking … well, that struck me as the height of extravagance and frivolity.”

However, Chang, like Dinkins, returned to her original field of interest. “Fear of being an unemployed philosopher led me to become a lawyer and as I discovered, lawyering didn’t quite fit. It wasn’t who I was. So now, I’m a philosopher and I study hard choices.”

Atlanta-based career counselor and psychotherapist Mary Jane Murphy-Gonzales says the average person changes careers seven times in a lifetime. Still, she advises against the popular phrase, “Jump and the net will appear,” in making career changes. “No career counselor will advise you to do that unless the jump is four feet or less. Slow down and think things through.” Murphy-Gonzales says one of her clients, who had a comfortable, corporate job, wanted to leave his job before working with her. “He discovered he was depressed, and once he was treated, he was extremely glad he didn’t leave his position.”

Another big life change is deciding when, or if, to start a family. Shiketa Gresham and her husband met while students at the University of Georgia and married in 2002, after they graduated from college two years prior. However, it wasn’t until 2009 that Gresham got pregnant with their first child. “We waited seven years to have children because we wanted to be debt free first,” says Gresham. “Both of our parents were teen moms so we wanted to make sure that we were okay financially first.” During that seven-year period, the couple paid off roughly $70,000 in debt which included student loans, wedding expenses and more.” Now in 2018, two children later, the couple is still debt free except for a home mortgage.

Married in 2015, Marchele Nelson and her husband are now considering starting a family. “During our first year of marriage, we purchased a home together. The second year we focused on building my husband’s business and we also wanted to travel.” Now, Nelson, who will be 40 years old soon, is ready to consider parenthood although she admits to being fearful about it. “I’m scared to death. I work in education, and I see so many children struggling and making wrong turns.”

The decision to sell a business is a big life change as well. Donna Atkins, a certified business broker with Coldwell Banker Commercial Metro Brokers, recommends that Georgia business owners start with the Georgia Association of Business Brokers. “We’re the only business brokerage association in the state of Georgia,” says Atkins, who specializes in the health and wellness industry.

Whatever decisions are to be made when you’re looking to make a life change, inner reflection more than external research should be the deciding factor, particularly with “on a par” decisions, according to Chang. “So the lesson of hard choices: reflect on what you can put your agency behind, on what you can be for and, through hard choices, become that person.”

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