7 Rule-Breaking Women Share The 'A-Ha!' Moment That Led To Their Career 180

In an era where “Busy!” is a standard response to a friend asking how we're doing, it feels easier than ever to get caught up in life's fictional timelines that tell us when to start a career, when to settle down, and everything in between. In fact, we’re often so busy trying to keep up with what we think is expected of us that it becomes much more difficult to think outside the box and go after our real goals. I would know, because that's exactly what happened to me.

It wasn’t until an injury forced me to literally and figuratively slow my roll that I realized my often exciting, mostly hectic schedule wasn’t actually bringing me joy. Though my mandated rest was tough to stomach at first, it ultimately helped me sit back and think about my future happiness — something I was currently only associating with my next social engagement or meal.

I can’t pinpoint a single moment that led to me resigning from my job, moving out of New York City, and going back to school to study a totally new industry, but I can recall several significant moments that reinforced my new goals. For one, there was the night I excitedly shared my thoughts with my parents, making the whole idea seem real. Then there was the day I purchased an HP Spectre x360 — a sleek, high performance laptop featuring privacy screening and fingerprint reading for quick unlocks — to ensure I’d have the right equipment along the way.

If you’re feeling stuck in your career, you should know that while the idea of making a big life change is scary, it’s not unprecedented! To help and inspire women who are ready to reinvent themselves, Bustle partnered with HP to talk to seven women about the life-changing moment that led to their own career 180.

The Accountant Who Completely Changed Gears

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“Admittedly, I didn't have one big ‘a-ha’ moment — I had a lot of moments over a long period of time that told me something needed to change. My career made me constantly stressed and sleep-deprived. I actually even developed ulcers! Professionally, my plan was to move up to management in my current role so that I could make a certain salary. Once that salary was obtained, my plan was to leave my company but stay within the accounting industry so I could make even more money!

"At some point, it clicked that I was wasting good years of my young adult life, all because of a chance of a monetary reward someday. Once that thought came to fruition — that I was sabotaging my health and happiness for a paycheck — it was an easy decision to leave my company and my accounting background and train for my current role. Today, I'm a (much happier) software consultant!" —Laura, 28

The Brand Director Turned Fitness Entrepreneur

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“I knew I wanted to start my own business, but I didn’t know what [that business] was. One day in mid-March, I was running down the Williamsburg Bridge, and it hit me: boxing and yoga! The combination is how I started my day every day for the past 15 years. Boxing gave me strength, focus, resilience and confidence, while yoga forced me to slow down and feel [my emotions]. I needed to bring the combination to the world.

"As I ran down the bridge, I knew I had my answer: I wanted to force people to feel through [a workout called] Box + Flow. I’m so glad I went running that morning.” —Olivia, 31

The TV Producer Suffering From Burnout

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“Before my career change, I was working as a post-production manager in television. My days were long and stressful, and on top of that, there was always the hustle of finding the next gig with just a few weeks notice. I came down with pneumonia in the winter, and even though my company was flexible about working from home as needed, it was impossible to do my job remotely. It took months to heal because I wasn't getting proper rest! I realized that the industry just wasn't for me anymore.

“I took some time off to think about my next move, and remembered how I loved to code the student activities website in college. I started playing around with code at home and found a scholarship for a web development coding bootcamp, which I applied for and won. The bootcamp took 14 weeks to complete, but when I finished I had this brand new skill and learned a new way to think about problems. My dream company recruited me about seven months after graduation, and I am now working as an associate software engineer with a really great team on a product that directly ties to my past experience in television.” —Aileen, 32

The Public Relations Exec Who Hated Her Job

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“I was working in public relations and decided to go back to school part-time to pursue a career in nutrition, which required getting the equivalent of (another) bachelor's degree, completing a dietetic internship, and a master's degree. It was a very long undertaking, to say the least.

“It was about three to four years into my schooling when I had a particularly miserable stretch at work, making it extremely clear that I no longer wanted to work in PR full-time and go to school part-time. I thought, 'Why am I doing this?! I hate it!' Instead, I wanted to go all-in on school and my new career. In the span of a few days, I made the decision to quit my job, take out some massive student loans, and get a part-time job at a running store so I could complete my dietetic internship and become a Registered Dietician. It was one of the craziest things I've ever done, but it was totally worth it! Now I'm doing what I absolutely love as a nutrition coach and couldn't be happier.” —Kelly, 36

The Social Media Director Inspired By Tech

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I knew I was going to make a career change when I attended a notable tech company’s developer conference in April 2017. At that point, I had spent six years working in the magazine industry. I was at the conference because I was the head of social media for a publisher. For months, I had been having doubts about the direction my career was heading. It was disheartening to see magazine after magazine fold and I knew it was only a matter of time before I was caught up in a round of layoffs like so many of my talented coworkers. On top of that, I had become more drawn to the tech behind social media rather than producing the content.

"At the conference, I sat in on some talks for developers and I said to myself, ‘I can do this.’ Four months later, I left my job and started at a 17-week immersive software engineering course for women, and I'm now working as an analytics solutions engineer.” April, 29

The Miserable Careerist Turned DIY-er

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“I was in my early 30s, in an unhappy marriage, and miserable in my corporate fashion career. I knew something had to change. In a matter of a few weeks, I separated from my husband and went back to school to study nutrition. While in school and going through a divorce, I wasn't interested in going out to socialize — I needed a little ‘me’ time to think things through. So I'd spend many evenings at my dining table in my one bedroom apartment, making jewelry and drinking a glass of wine. I also took up running in a more serious way.

“While my friends were having kids, I was signing up for one race after another. So when they started buying jewelry with their kids' initials, I started making myself jewelry with my race details to celebrate. Soon, friends were asking me to host trunk shows and people wanted to buy my pieces. While still in school, I built a website, filed for a business license, and started to grow my business. Instead of continuing to pursue my masters in dietetics, I grew Erica Sara Designs and soon my jewelry was being featured in major running magazines! Eight years later, it's my full time job and I love what I do! —Erica, 40

The Production Coordinator Who Just Cares About People

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“When I began working in marketing and production for TV right out of college, I was super excited. It was sexy and intriguing, and I had a supportive boss who had been in the industry for years. When we sat down for my first annual review, he told me he saw me in a Human Resources role, focusing more on working with people. I literally rolled my eyes at him and said, ‘No way!’ But looking back, I was kind of like the department social worker, taking care of everyone’s needs and focusing on people over projects.

"A year later, my department was restructured and my position changed, but I found myself always going back to being more concerned and focused on the people I was working with over the actual projects. After one particularly exhausting day on set, I was reminded of my conversation with my former boss. That night I went home and researched nonprofits, teaching-based jobs, and social work programs. I decided to take a non-matriculated class one night a week to decide if I should make a career switch. My experience in class solidified my decision to apply to full-time programs for social work. Now that I'm working towards my ultimate end goal, I couldn’t be happier.” —Erin, 29

This post is sponsored by HP.