Four Things You Need to Change Careers, with Toye Jones

Listen On:

If the Covid-19 pandemic taught us anything at all, it’s that nothing is permanent. Life changes and we change, and sometimes that change is for the better. Find Your Dream Job guest Toye Jones says changing careers can also be for the better, if you do it right. Toye says you have to start with your why. Be able to explain the reason you’re making the switch, and the experience you have, whether paid or voluntary, to show your passion for the field. Toye also suggests reaching out to hiring managers even if their company doesn’t show open positions and asking for an informational interview. 

About Our Guest:

Toye Jones is the human resources and equity director at CASA for Children.

Resources in This Episode:

Learn how you can become an advocate for abused and neglected children by visiting CASA’s website at


Find Your Dream Job, Episode 454:

Four Things You Need to Change Careers, with Toye Jones

Airdate: June 12, 2024

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Are you ready to change careers?

Our guest today says successful career changers share common qualities.

Aren’t you curious to know what they are?

Toye Jones is here to talk about four things you need to change careers.

She’s the human resources and equity director at CASA for Children.

Her organization advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the custody of the state and under the protection of the court.

She joins us from Portland, Oregon.

Well, let’s get started, Toye.

You’re a human resources professional. You’ve interviewed so many people. Why do people switch careers?

Toye Johnson:

Well, Mac, that’s a good question, and what I’m often finding is it boils down to changes in that individual’s life. People go through changes, common challenges, when they look at, for instance, a large life event.

Another thing is, oftentimes, they look at something that has went on in society, the pandemic, for instance, but whatever happens, oftentimes, people reevaluate where they are at a certain stage, and when that happens, they go back, and they start looking at careers.

Things they have a natural, innate ability to do. Oftentimes, things like a passion, something that they volunteer, something that they’ve always been very good at, but maybe took a career change or did something that was more stable, just to, like everyone, to put food on the table, to pay bills, to raise their families.

Now, they’re at a crossroads, and because they’re at that crossroads, they can step back and kind of look at themselves and say, “What would I really like to spend the rest of my career doing?”

Mac Prichard:

So, life events can inspire someone to make a change, and they might begin moving ahead and doing that, Toye, but what might stop people from switching careers and just staying with what they’re doing? Are there barriers that prevent people from changing professions?

Toye Jones:

Well, there’s always barriers out there. One of the things I feel that oftentimes kinda stifle our passion and our artistic leans, and some of the things that stifle us are the nay-sayers. The people that say, “Oh, well, at your age, why would you want to change careers?” Or, “You’d have to start all over again.” Or, “Do you have enough experience in that?”

What people oftentimes don’t realize, is experience can be volunteer work, it can be paid or nonpaid, it can be experience, say, for instance, within a setting of education. You could’ve spent a lot of time, for instance, working in, I remember, the financial aid office. That was something that I did in a work-study role, and because of that, it led me towards finance.

There’s all kinds of things, when people have nay-sayers or you have real realistic types of barriers. For instance, benefits. “How much is that going to cost me if I go out on that limb? Am I going to be able to afford benefits? Am I going to be able to afford to redirect? What about retirement? How far away is that on the horizon?”

There are a lot of very logical reasons, but what I have learned is very often, unbeknownst to you sometimes, you have created a path towards that passion, and if you can look and do a timeline, you’ll be very surprised at how, the whole time you’ve been taking baby steps, oftentimes, toward that new career change.

Mac Prichard:

You’re a leader in the human resources space, Toye, so you talk to a lot of candidates, both in your job and in the community. What kind of questions do employers like you have when you get an application from someone who’s changing careers?

Toye Jones:

When I get an application from someone that’s changing careers, I like to see you very clearly explain the why. Let’s say, for instance, you’ve been in education your whole life. That’s what you’ve always wanted to do; you’ve always focused on being an educator, but when you step back, and you start looking at what you’ve volunteered in, you might find out that, for instance, you volunteered doing art, and when I say art I don’t mean with children or in the educational setting, although that may be, you may have volunteered being a person in customer service or a person who works at a museum, and you’re in the role where people come in, and you help them with exhibits, or you’re the person that shows them around.

What you realize is there is actually a paid role for that. There are people who can go into museums, they love art, and they spend a lot of time volunteering, and they realize, “Oh, there’s a role here for a person who’s very artistically gifted.” And most importantly enjoys spending their downtime in a museum, and so, that doesn’t take a degree.

You don’t have to be a person that’s always done something like that but then you have nonpaid experience that counts. If I was the person in a Human Resource department at a museum and someone came in and they said that they wanted that role, and I looked at their CV or I looked at their resume, and I didn’t see someone who had done a lot of educational background or had a lot of experience in actually working at a museum, but I saw that they had maybe 15 years of volunteering in various capacities at a museum, well, that would count for me.

One of the things I always tell people, if you are changing careers, a cover letter. A cover letter does wonders because it explains your passions and your interests in something that’s not necessarily your traditional career path, so never forget that. This is your opportunity to explain, “Although my professional or educational background is not in this art role, let me tell you why it’s a passion. Let me tell you why your specific organization or museum is where I want to give back and work at, and let me tell you how long and how much other experience that’s valuable that I have.”

What you bring to the table, your passions, all of those are always important.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about passion. It is the first of four items on your list of four things you say everyone needs to change careers, and you’ve touched on this, Toye. Tell us more about why passion matters when you change careers.

Toye Jones:

Passion matters when you change careers because most of the time, you’ve had a life-changing event, you’re at a crossroads, and oftentimes, we sit, and we reflect, and even if we’ve had a career that we may have enjoyed immensely, we may have felt that we contributed to the greater good, or whatever. We may have felt that it provided you with the means of having your family get to a level that you want them to be; oftentimes, people are the providers of their families, and you think of the financial stability.

All of those things are important, but you are still an individual, and every individual brings their whole self to every single aspect of their life and every single period of their life. You’re still that individual. You still have those same types of passions that excite and energize you, so ask yourself at this stage, “What is it that I want to do in the next phase of my career? Where do I want to see myself? Am I close to retiring? Do I have a decade or 15 years? Do I only have 5? What do I want to do in the next phase of my career?”

When you figure those types of things out, like I said, say, for instance, that you studied something in college and then you took the more traditional, stable career path, say, for instance, that you volunteered at something and it’s a passion. Let’s say there’s something that you’ve always been very, very good at, but it wasn’t necessarily something that, at the time, there was a lot of chance to have income behind it.

I think of, oftentimes, some of the social media and some of the other types of tech industries that are going up now. Gaming and software engineers, those types of careers, but it’s something that you always, people say, for instance, you’re a tech geek or you’re a computer nerd, whatever the term is.

It’s something that really, really excites you, and now there’s an opportunity for you to shift gears. That’s one of the things that is very important: how you volunteer your time.

Mac Prichard:


Let’s stop right here, Toye, and take a break. I do want to talk more about volunteerism.

Stay with us.

When we come back, Toye Jones will continue to share her advice on the four things that you need to change careers.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Toye Jones.

She’s the human resources and equity director at CASA for Children.

Her organization advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the custody of the state and under the protection of the court.

Toye joins us from Portland, Oregon.

Now, Toye, before the break, we were talking about four things that you say everyone needs to change careers, and the first item on your list was passion.

You mentioned volunteerism; I do want to talk a little bit more about that, but let’s go to number two on your list of the four things that you say everyone needs to change careers, and that’s preparation.

What kind of preparation do you have in mind here, Toye? What are you thinking?

Toye Jones:

Well, Mac, I’m thinking, if you have something, you’ve narrowed down your focus, you’ve narrowed down your passion, and you know exactly what you want or what you kind of desire to do in this career change, you have to do all of that searching yourself and learning yourself, but the second step would be the preparation.

If you’re not prepared for the nuances, something may have changed; something that used to require a four-year degree may now only require a certificate. Something that used to require certification may now require a degree, and there are some things that used to require formal education, but now they have opportunities to learn online, webinars, and even on-the-job training.

It’s very important that you do your little research. You get out there, and you have a feeler, you start telling people what you would like to investigate and how you would like to learn, and if you have done what most people do think about career changes have done, then you’ve already had your foot in the door, you’ve already tested the waters.

If you marry the volunteerism and the talents and the passion with this preparation, you could be a step or so ahead of many other people.

Mac Prichard:

There’s so many opportunities to get certificates or take courses, or learn new skills. How do you recommend, Toye, that someone get clear about what matters most to employers? How do they research that question and figure out the certificate or the course that is actually going to matter to a hiring manager to make the career change that you want to see happen?

Toye Jones:

Well, if you’re like me and most of the people that I talk with in this profession, what we welcome, to be perfectly honest, is feedback. If you’re out there and you’re looking for a certain role, and you’re looking at an organization or a field, it really helps for you to go to career centers at universities or colleges. It helps tremendously for you to get on the website and research open positions, and one of the things that’s most effective is you look and go over, and when you look at positions, there’s usually a contact there.

Let me tell you, it never hurts to say to a person or send an inquiry and say, “You know, I’m looking at this position. Here’s my resume, here’s my cover letter of the kind and background experience that I have. You don’t have an open position at this time. Can you tell me how you do your recruiting and who do you reach out to? What kind of groups?”

All of those things really help when you’re preparing, and you kind of know and have a good idea of what you want to do, but you don’t necessarily know what it will take to get yourself so that you’re competitive in the market.

Does that make sense, Mac?

Mac Prichard:

It does, and I’m curious, Toye. I can imagine listeners saying, “Well, I’d love to sit down with a hiring manager or an HR director like Toye Jones,” and I’m sure they’re wondering, when you get those requests, why do you say yes or no? What makes you free up the time to sit down with someone and talk to them about their career change?

Toye Jones:

Well, let me tell you something: it never ever escapes me if someone is very interested in the organization that I work for. If I’m the human resource director at an organization, then that means that I’m always recruiting, whether I have an open position or not.

I’m always interested in people. Particularly in the roles that I’ve had in organizations that are very mission-focused, and we’re looking for individuals like that. I’m always recruiting, I’m always thinking ahead, I always have my ear to the ground, and I always have time to set aside where I can sit down with a person, it may not be in person, it may be virtual, but I always have fifteen minutes, thirty minutes to schedule something with someone and most people in this field do.

If I get to the point where I can’t take fifteen, thirty minutes out of a month’s schedule and sit down and get to know a person, let a person know exactly the type of individual we’re looking for to help us move our mission forward in my organization, then I’m going to tell you, that’s half of our job.

The average person, if you’re looking for a job and you’re looking to switch careers, and you think that you have enough experience, or the background to submit a resume, it never hurts to send a cover letter/letter of inquiry and send it to them, and say, “Here’s my resume. I’m very interested in working for your organization. This is the skillset that I can bring to the organization.”

I’m telling you, HR directors love it.

Mac Prichard:

Let’s move on to item number three on your list of four things that everybody needs to change careers, and that’s progress. What kind of progress do you have in mind here, Toye?

Toye Jones:

Well, one of the things I like is the timeline, right? If I’m sending a cover letter or a letter of inquiry about a position, and it’s a career change, you need to show in your resume and during an interview, or even in a cover letter, that the position is actually a very next natural step.

Your background is going to matter, but even more importantly than that, you’re going to be able to create why this particular field is very conducive to this field I’m changing, and here’s my background in it.

There are people, for instance, who may have started off – I love to use this example – in education, and education, the reason why I use it quite frequently is because it encompasses a wide variety of different positions. You can be an in-the-classroom educator, you can be an administrator, you can be a person that sets policy, all of those types of things, in the same career.

You just go through a path, but in the end, if you step back and you say, “Do you know what I’ve always wanted to do? I’ve always wanted to do social work?” People will say, “Well, how does social work match with education?” Or, “I’ve always wanted to be a trainer.” “Well, how does training people match with education?”

If you show that you’ve volunteered and what your interests are in certain fields, then that education background very much can marry over to training a person or doing social work.

It all depends on what your education background was, who you were educating, if you taught at the elementary level, or if you taught in academia, higher learning, or university; all of those things matter. That’s why it’s very important for you to kind of do an outline. CVs, resumes, all of these are great, but even more importantly is a cover letter, to explain why this is the next logical step.

Mac Prichard:

Number four on your list of four things you say everybody needs to change careers is purpose. Toye, why does purpose matter when you change professions?

Toye Jones:

Well, Mac, if I am changing careers, most of the time, it is about a self-reflective assessment that I have done.

There is a reason why I’m changing careers. Again, it might have always been something that was a passion, it might have always been something at the back of my mind, and there may seem on the surface that it’s not logical, but I tell you, if you take time to really do an introspection and look at yourself, you are going to find out that every single thing that you’ve done, you did it with a certain purpose in mind.

Like I said, it may have been that this is something that I did short-term, but I did it because of this. It may be, this is something that I did that was very stable, but I did it because of this. It may be, this was a passion, and I did this unpaid, and this is what I did it for.

You get centered, you search yourself, you learn yourself, and when you get to those crossroads, and you decide that you want to change careers, it has to start with the purpose and what you want to do moving forward.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Toye.

Now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Toye Jones:

Well, right now, I am the human resource and equity director at Casa for Children, and we are undergoing a wonderful compensation conversation at the organization all about equity. I very recently undertook a training, six weeks, intensive, cohort, with Eric Briggs at NAO, and there were many people at our class, the cohort consisted of several people from area nonprofits, and we were all looking at the equity piece of compensation.

That is something that we will be moving forward and having conversations around, and the people at our organization are some of the most dedicated, committed people that you’ve ever seen, and that is something that you have a vision of an organization, and you look at what’s equitable. How to create a sense of inclusiveness and belonging, and one of the ways that you do that is by looking at compensation equity.

Mac Prichard:

Well, I know listeners can learn more about you and your work at Casa for Children by visiting the Casa for Children website. That URL is, and that you also invite listeners to connect with you on LinkedIn, and when they do reach out to you, Toye, I hope that they’ll mention that they heard you on Find Your Dream Job.

Now, given all of the great advice that you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about the four things that you need to change careers?

Toye Jones:

Study yourself, and you will find where you want to go.

Mac Prichard:

Next week, our guest will be Courtney Ulwelling.

She’s a talent acquisition specialist at Portland General Electric.

Courtney has more than 25 years of experience in full-cycle recruiting, from sourcing and screening to negotiating and onboarding.

You want to make a good impression when you meet a hiring manager.

But you might get nervous, too.

Or think you need to behave like someone you’re not.

Join us next Wednesday when Courtney Ulwelling and I talk about why you need to be yourself in a job interview.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List.

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer and editor is Matt Fiorillo. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.