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How to pursue your passion through a career change

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(ARA) - Whether you are pursuing a life-long passion or looking to reinvent yourself, it is never too late to pursue a new career.

Aimee Flynn, career services director at The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham, offers tips on changing careers and making the most of this transitional period.

Hunt and gather: It's important to start with a thorough investigation into your new industry. "You are looking for general parallels between who you are and who you want to be, where you've been and where you are going," says Flynn.

Pasha Lemnah, a photography student at The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham, found this parallel between the past and the future. After 20 years in the nursing field, she re-evaluated her life and what she wanted from her career. This investigation led her to pursue her childhood passion of photography.

Seasoned pro or newbie?: Dumping the ego is crucial. "Be open to starting fresh, and embrace a sense of equal status with everyone in the classroom," she says. "Surrender to the fact that you can learn as much from a first-year student as they can from you."

Lemnah embraces this equal status, finding support through her fellow students who refer to her as "Mama Pasha."

Network. network. network: While this is a common tip, be smart about how and with whom you network. Try to network with people already employed in your field of interest. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and can help you acquire new contacts.

Now that you're back in the classroom, go beyond it: Attend local "lunch and learns," workshops and industry-related events.

Be willing to change: "Every industry has its own tenors; its own language. Adopt them," says Flynn. Edit your Facebook, Twitter and social networking pages to reflect who you want to be.

A willingness to change is a key factor in successfully reinventing yourself through your career. A great example is Denise Hartz, an interior design student at The Art Institute of Michigan. Hartz, who is retiring from her current career in two years, says "I want to be a successful older person. I don't want to retire to retire." Instead, she's taking steps to turn a passion she's had for years into a new career in interior design.

Revisit your resume: "Develop a new resume as a platform to highlight your critical and analytical thinking skills, your leadership abilities and willingness to collaborate, your planning and management skills, and your ability to facilitate creative thinking when faced with a problem to solve," recommends Flynn.

Build your team: Find a dedicated career services advisor. "Make an appointment, show up prepared, and be humble and open to an entry level experience," says Flynn.

"I just think it's never too late in life to do what you want to do ... pursue a dream," says Hartz. Lemnah echoes this statement, calling herself a "walking, living, breathing dream catcher." To learn more about The Art Institutes visit www.artinstitutes.edu.