How to Switch Careers

Kayla Kirshenbaum, a writer, shares her experiences studying poetry and, now, professional writing.

1. What is one sentence you would use to describe who you are and what you do?

I am a creative thinker who uses communication and the written word to enhance the world around me. 

2. Did you take the GRE? If so, what was your experience studying for the GRE like?

I did take the GRE. I took prep courses at Northwestern University which were very helpful. The one thing I wish I had done during prep was online practice tests. We were encouraged to do paper tests but the test was an online/screen test, and  I had never practiced that way. It was very disorienting. 

3. Why did you decide to attend Sarah Lawrence for your MFA?

Like so many others who graduate from undergrad, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up’. I knew I loved writing, and I had professors at Queens College who encouraged me to explore poetry. I was curious to see what the world of living poets was like. Enrolling in Sarah Lawrence’s MFA program was one of the best decisions for me and my writing skills, though I don’t think every writer needs an MFA to excel in the writing world. 

4. What made you decide to shift focus and go back to school more recently?

After graduating from Sarah Lawrence, I had advanced my writing skills but was still at a career-crossroads. I knew I loved writing and sharing my craft with others, but I was unsure of how to apply those things to jobs that I would find fulfilling. While I was working as the Assistant Director of Education at a private school program in Manhattan, a friend told me about Northwestern University’s Specialized Studies for Career Advancement program. The program is for career changers who are looking to advance their skill set and meet new or existing professional goals. After taking courses in business writing and communications, I realized that new opportunities and professional paths I had never considered before were available to me.

5. Do you have any advice for someone looking to make a career change? 

Don’t be afraid of the risk that comes with change. Change is uncomfortable and I resisted it for so long. I let my fear of all the ‘what ifs’ and uncertainty hold me back for so long. The anxiety that comes with uprooting yourself from a job, with imagined disappointment from coworkers you’ve worked with for years, with leaving a city you’ve lived in for 10 years- the fear can be paralyzing. I knew I had to go through a tunnel of unknowns and it made me uneasy. But what was waiting on the other side- a new job, maintaining friendships with old coworkers, feeling at ease in a beautiful new city- made the risk-taking feel worthwhile. Take the risk. I promise whatever is waiting on the other side for you is worth it.

To learn more about Kayla, check out her Facebook page.

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