How to change careers

How one employee went from waiting tables to providing HR support at Progressive

3 min read

Adult male shakes the hand of an adult female across a table

Before beginning her Progressive career, HR Specialist Sarah didn’t have insurance experience. She wasn’t even in HR.

Sarah waited tables at a restaurant.

And while she enjoyed interacting with people, she didn’t feel fulfilled. “I was looking for a workplace where I could see myself long term,” she says. “Somewhere that felt right … that felt like home.”

For Sarah, that place was Progressive. But how did she go from taking dinner orders to providing HR support for a Fortune 100 company? Here’s Sarah’s advice on how to change careers.

5 tips for changing career paths

1. Get your foot in the door

It’s rarely a straight line from one career to another. But Sarah found that getting her foot in the door with Progressive helped kickstart her career change.

“Early on, I knew there were other opportunities I wanted to pursue within Progressive,” she says, “but my background was solely in customer service. So, I started as a Customer Service Representative.”

Taking this job opened a world of possibilities for Sarah to explore. Sometimes all it takes is to start somewhere and work your way to the position you want.

2. Perform well in your current role

Although her sights were set on other positions, Sarah made sure she performed well in her role as a Customer Service Representative. Her drive for going above and beyond served her well when she was considered for other roles, gave her experience to discuss in the interview process and ultimately changed her career path. “Don’t miss out on opportunities to shine!” she says.

3. Be up-front about your career aspirations

Sarah encourages anyone who’s making a career change to let their boss know their intentions. That way they can be on the lookout for opportunities to advance your career.

Sarah experienced this firsthand. When she attended an internal career fair, her supervisor encouraged her to talk with one of his peers in an area she was interested in.

This was a game changer. “Meeting this person helped me make connections which led to my next opportunity,” Sarah says.

4. Maximize your employer’s career opportunities

Good companies invest in the careers of their employees. Sarah encourages people to learn about the career opportunities your company provides. “Taking advantage of these opportunities is a great way to figure out how to shape your career path,” Sarah advises.

Check to see if your company does the following:

Sit-withs

These are opportunities to shadow people in other business areas for a day. It’s a great way to see for yourself the work they do. If it’s interesting, it might prompt you to make a career change.

Loan-ins

Sometimes departments have business needs that require more help. If there’s an opening, you can apply to be “loaned” to one of these groups for a limited time. Although temporary, a loan-in position gives you hands-on experience which might help you land the role in the future.

5. Own your career path

Whether it was talking with her supervisor about her career aspirations, performing well in her current role, or being a loan-in, Sarah says taking ownership over her development was what helped her switch careers.

“You’re your own best advocate in life, and this rings especially true when it comes to your career,” she says. “In the end, what you put into your career is what you will get out of it.”

If you’re interested in making a career change like Sarah, you can learn more about our teams at Progressive and what to expect during the application process.

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