Our career is one of the most important choices we ever have to make. That said, it’s okay to take your time finding the right path, or to change your mind once you’re already on it — no matter your age.
In a 2019 survey by the career site Indeed.com, 49 percent of adults reported that they’ve engaged in a dramatic career switch since they started working. And the average age for those who switch careers is a surprising 39 years. The top reason for switching jobs, according to survey respondents, was unhappiness that they experienced in their first career choice — with higher pay and career flexibility tied for the second most popular reason.
We spoke to five career changers working or living in Westchester — who range in age from their 20s to their 60s — to find out what inspired them to switch careers and seek greener job pastures. Here’s what we found.
Nydriana Taylor is a 26-year-old Bronx resident who currently works as a calibration engineer at PTI Inspection Systems, a packaging manufacturing firm in Hawthorne. But her career path to Westchester has included stops in Brooklyn and Times Square, spanning roles in healthcare and retail along the way.
While pursuing an associate’s degree, Taylor took an internship with NADAP, a nonprofit that helps connect needy individuals with healthcare and other social services. The internship led to a full-time operations management role that allowed her to work coordinating schedules and workflows with multiple social workers and healthcare workers in the emergency department at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn.
After that project concluded, Taylor left NADAP and took a job as a retail associate at the American Eagle flagship store in Times Square — a challenging role in a chaotic environment that allowed her to sharpen her people skills. “I gained the ability to sell over a hundred dollars worth of products to somebody that you really don’t know,” Taylor explains. “I would try to get to know them, to understand who they are, and what they want to represent when they’re out in the world. It was a very high-velocity environment. But it really shaped me into who I am now.”
She soon realized that she needed to leverage these skills in an environment that would allow her to grow and came across an online posting for the PTI job. “I was tired of the rat race [of retail], and ready to take my life and career seriously, and find something that would allow me to fit in and grow as a person and professionally as well,” Taylor recalls. “And I was very intrigued by the technology they developed in medical and food packaging.”
These days, Taylor taps into her retail training to connect with PTI’s customers, taking the time to learn more about their individual needs. She has even transitioned from sales to R&D at the company. “It is a demanding role, and it feels like what I do plays a really integral part in what PTI is doing,” she says.
Stamford resident Michelle Mcintire, had a similar round-about career path to the firm – with stops in Florida and Manhattan before arriving in Westchester.
After graduating from Georgia Tech in 2018, Mcintire took a job in Florida with an HVAC manufacturing firm. But she soon discovered that the industry was not the best fit for her and began searching for new opportunities in December 2019. She found a job listing for PTI and interviewed for a role with the company – but ended up taking a role with New Line Structures, a construction management firm that supervised high-rise projects in Manhattan.
“It was really interesting work,” says Mcintire. “Most of it was focused on document management and scheduling. I thought to myself that I could see myself going down this route. But it ended up being not what I pictured. I came to realize it wasn’t as technical a role as what I wanted for my career, so I wasn’t a great fit there.”
She ended up reaching out to PTI again – and finally joining the firm soon after. These days, she works as a mechanical engineer, leveraging the document management skills she gained in her previous role but also expanding into project management and redesign following PTI’s recent acquisition of another company.
“Looking back on it, I thought I was gambling my life away,” Mcintire says about the career transitions. But “I love where I’m at now, and it’s pretty much right in line with what I want to do for the rest of my career.”
Victoria Weisel, a 62-year-old Tarrytown resident, has experienced a “zig zag of careers” during her life – leading her to take on increasingly more fulfilling roles, and forging new paths in the process. After working through college as a typesetter, she worked a brief stint in PR for Jim Henson and the Muppets – and then went on to produce commercials for an animation studio.
“In a major turn of direction, I returned to grad school, where I earned my MS in Special Education and MSW in Social Work,” recalls Weisel. “I worked as a mental health counselor at a clinic in Jamaica, Queens, and later went on to teach children with learning differences in Harlem and the Bronx.”
Her passion for teaching and tutoring led her to eventually explore opportunities in English as a Second Language (ESL) through classes at WCC. “Initially, I sought simply to update my resume and conquer my fear of technology changes by taking the WCC Office Technology Training course,” she says. “This led me to WCC’s TESOL certificate course, where I became enamored of finding meaningful ways to teach relatable English to ESL college students and adults.”
Connecting with people through language helped shape her passion for these new branches of her career. “I’ve tutored people of all ages and realized that it was always about motivating them to tell their unique tales through writing and speaking,” she adds. “While coaching high school students on their college essays, I also worked as an adjunct ESL professor at EF International School and at the English Language Institute at WCC. ESL adult learners are absolutely awe-inspiring.”
These days, Weisel is lending her hand to the battle against the COVID pandemic as a contact tracer for the New York State Department of Health – and credits WCC’s technology training with her mastery of the computer skills required for the position. “Consolidating these skills has made me braver, and as fortune would have it, I often interview contacts who do not speak English,” she says. “I am grateful to my professors at WCC as well as the ESL learners who allow me to keep listening, learning and helping them uncover the hidden magic in the stories so many yearn to share.”
Leaticia Osuagwu, a 39-year-old New City resident, has also taken advantage of numerous resources at WCC during her career shift. While she started her career in human resources, she was always intrigued by the tech industry.
“I have always been interested in technology, but I have always been deterred that it was a male-dominated industry,” she notes. “But I was unfulfilled with my previous career choice and always felt like something was missing.”
After taking courses in cybersecurity at WCC, she knew she had found a welcoming place – and a foundation for a future career that she would love. “You always hear the phrase ‘Do what you love and you never have to work a day in your life,’” says Osuagwu. “Working in cybersecurity is very fulfilling for me, and I enjoy the problem-solving aspect and daily challenges.”
Having earned an associate’s degree in cybersecurity at WCC and a bachelor’s degree in 2020, Osuagwu is now working on a master’s degree in the field at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry. She expects to have her master’s completed by the end of 2021. “I wish I had made this decision a long time ago,” she says of her career transition. “I love solving problems, and cybersecurity is intellectually and financially rewarding for me.”
For 37-year-old White Plains resident Siobhan White, her first career was a reflection of one of her greatest desires in life. “Out of college, I knew I wanted a family,” White recalls. “I decided to start my career as a nanny for other people’s children so that I could eventually have a child of my own.”
White has now been a childcare provider for 15 years and says she has enjoyed it immensely – especially after giving birth to two children. But an unexpected event in that role led her to consider another career entirely.
“A few years ago, one of the children that I cared for ended up in the ICU at Boston Children’s Hospital,” White says. “I wanted nothing more than to be able to physically care for him but because his situation was so precarious, only the nurses and doctors were able to care for him. He unfortunately passed away at the age of three, and ever since then, I have felt the pull to become a nurse myself.”
As an adult with two children of her own, White was nervous to jump back into the life of a student – but soon found a welcoming environment at Westchester Community College (WCC) in Valhalla. “I shortly realized that I was one of many adult learners at WCC, and there is so much that WCC has to offer an adult student in terms of flexible online classes, affordability and even counseling for difficult times,” she notes. The college even offers an on-campus childcare center to help adult learners with children.
Currrently, White is a third-semester nursing student, transitioning to a new full-time career as a registered nurse (RN) – and scheduled to graduate this December. She is especially grateful of her choice to change careers today. “I never imagined when I started the process of taking pre-requisites for nursing, that we would be thrown into a global pandemic and suddenly become frontline workers,” she adds. “This adversity has only made me more proud to become an RN.”