About Face: Taking Your Career in a New Direction
Featuring Antonella Nester, QVC Program Host, and Jennifer Ghazzouli, Director, Talent Acquisition & Strategy, QVC, Inc.
“Mom! You will never guess who I’m standing with… Joan Rivers!”
That was a phone call Antonella Nester never imagined she would make. She had finally landed her plum job as a QVC program host, a dream she had carried in her heart for years. “I remember sneaking out of my bedroom as a little girl to watch Joan on The Tonight Show and thinking, One day I want to do a show with her,” says Antonella, who has been a QVC program host since 2004. “I never thought my wish would come true! Every day of my first year on the job, I was constantly pinching myself. And it’s all because I took a chance and followed my heart.”
It’s an inspirational story for anyone who has a career dream, but Antonella’s path didn’t come without hurdles. Not long before her star-struck moment on QVC, she was working as a medical technologist at Holy Spirit Hospital in Camphill. The first in her family to be born in the U.S, Antonella is the daughter of a barber and a seamstress. They made sure she and her three sisters attended college, and were thrilled when Antonella joined the medical field. “I loved it, but if you ever asked me what I wanted to do, I would say ‘be an actress.’ My parents didn’t think that was a stable career choice and I was crushed.”
Despite her success, Antonella decided to leave behind her well-established career of 17 years to take a leap of faith. A fan of QVC since 1988, she attended open auditions in 2000 and 2002 but was passed over. “My friends were quick to point out that I had no sales, television or business experience.” Still, she was undaunted, and on her third attempt, in 2004 during QVC’s America’s Host Search, Antonella’s down-to-earth, engaging style dazzled the producers and she secured her dream job.
“Believe it or not, the contract sat on the mantel for two weeks before I signed it,” Antonella recalls. “I was thrilled to be offered the position, but the fear of letting my family down loomed over me—we would have to sell our house, move everything and leave friends, family and school. But once we made the decision as a family, I would come home from work and watch my shows, watch other hosts and study them for hours. I would get on the Internet for hours studying our products, not because I had to, but because I loved it.”
She adds: “What I’ve learned is that you can’t always get a degree for the passion that burns in your belly. You have to just go after it and not let anyone tell you that you can’t. Jump in with both feet, work hard and run your own race.”
Is a Career Change on Your Horizon?
Perhaps you are at a crossroads in your career, need a change because of a new life situation or are facing a transition with your current employer. Whether you hope to make a big change or just a tweak, the right move can do wonders for career rejuvenation and life balance. But how do you know if change is in the air?
“One sure sign that change is looming is that you feel you are less engaged in your current situation,” says Jennifer Ghazzouli, director of talent acquisition and strategy at QVC. “You may no longer be in sync with your peers or leadership. Your assignments may lack challenge or you find the pace of work is the wrong fit.” But before you jump, Jennifer recommends considering these four steps to set you on the right path forward:
- Determine what you want to accomplish from the transition—a different environment or industry, more money, greater challenge, increased flexibility, less stress, etc.
- Strive for balance. When one segment of your life is unaligned, it affects all others.
- Do what’s right for you. “It’s important to recognize and respect your values and personal goals and seek an environment, culture and people that align with yours,” Jennifer adds.
- Know your strengths (and weaknesses). Understand how those abilities fit into job opportunities. “For instance, I know I’m an analytical person, and even though I admire creative people, I am aware that I would not thrive in a position where I would be putting my creative skills to the test on a daily basis,” Jennifer explains.
Charting Your New Path Forward
“Change doesn’t always have to come in the form of leaving your current employer,” Jennifer says. “Often, seeking a new position within your company can keep your career fresh and exciting.” After all, a well-balanced career path typically will have peaks and spikes with an occasional lateral move to learn a new skill or broaden one’s leadership experience. As your new path unfolds, she recommends keeping the following in mind:
- Do your research. Today, a wealth of information is available online, but there’s nothing better than building real relationships with people within the company.
- Hone the skills you will need. It’s worth having a conversation with a team leader to learn their needs and the necessary skills to succeed.
- Be able to articulate your strengths and how they align with the new role.
- Leverage your mentor. If you don’t have one, get one!
- Choose an industry with a future.
- Join networking groups, whether they are virtual like LinkedIn, or meet-up groups and industry organizations. Consider groups outside your industry circle to broaden your horizons.
“Keep in mind that career change is a process that can take time, but if you do your homework, and stay true to your values and life goals, career change can be an exhilarating and fulfilling experience,” Jennifer adds.
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