By guest author Karen Mort
Changing careers is scary, but you should do it anyway
And 9 tips to help you make it happen
I am a creative. Always have been, always will be, so why was I working as a software tester? I did enjoy my job, I loved the challenges and opportunities I was given, and I especially loved working with the software developers. But something was missing, I wasn’t getting my creative fix.
It was mid-2014 and my workmates and I were participating in a weekend-long software development challenge, I was in charge of making the digital assets. It was then that I realized I could combine two of my passions; technology and art. It was also then that I realized I wanted to be a graphic designer. But how? In 2015 I started a Certificate in Graphic Design part-time, this is all that I could manage as I couldn’t take time off work.
Honestly, I found it a struggle to juggle my full-time job and the part time course. I managed but it didn’t leave much time to do any additional learning, let alone look for client work. Mid-2015 I found myself jobless. At this time, out of desperation, I looked only for the full-time software testing jobs, because I thought this was my only option. Then I was offered a part-time testing job which really saved me. I was now able to pay my bills (just) and continue to grow as a designer and find new clients.
I’m on this journey and still in the early stages, but here are 9 helpful tips that continue to keep me motivated as I go for it!
1. Watch TV
I know this sounds counter productive, but trust me.
While TV is one of my favorite procrastination methods, I have learned a trick to turning it into a productive pastime. I watch TV shows that inspire me. I like to watch reality shows where people compete using their creative talents, i.e. Project Runway, Street Art Throwdown and Sheer Genius. The key here is that I don’t binge watch these shows because I find myself wanting to get up and be creative as soon as it finishes. Silicon Valley is another good one, every time I watch it I want to create a startup company. I even find Mad Men inspiring me to want to learn new vintage hairstyles, although I’m not even going to try to pretend that I don’t binge watch that show!
2. Tell everyone
Once you have decided to take the plunge into an exciting new career, tell anyone who will listen! Your friends, your family, your butcher, tell everyone. This way people will ask you from time to time how your career transition is going, you will be motivated to have a positive response at the ready, nobody wants to have to tell people that they have failed or given up.
3. Fake it until you make it!
I love this saying and I live by it. I have decided to become a Graphics Designer, I spend most of my time drawing/designing/making, I have paying clients, therefor I am a Designer, an artist even. Tell yourself this until you believe it, it does wonders for your self-confidence. But a word or warning, make sure you stay level-headed, you will likely be a junior after all.
4. Never choose money over happiness
This is the number one thing I say to anyone that wants to try a new career. Many people know they would be happier doing something else but always use the excuse “I can’t afford to change careers”. This is not always true. It will be tight and you may never earn the same money again, but are you really prepared to sell your happiness?
5. Hang out with the right crowds
Surround yourself with like-minded people and those in the industry. Learn to speak the language, ask a lot of questions. I know I have a lot to learn about Graphic Design, and because I have my own home business I am not surrounded by designers, this means I don’t have many peers to learn from. So I try to put myself out there, attend local Graphic Design events, hang out with creative friends and talk shop, join creative communities and contribute to online discussions. Find people that motivate and inspire you and surround yourself with them, you will learn more than you think.
6. Give yourself away
Offer your services for free (or cheap) to family and friends. It’s no secret that people learn from doing, so practice as much as you can. These clients should also be more forgiving of any mistakes made as they will have likely paid you in dinners or hi-5’s. Also, be sure to tell them to tell their friends too, word of mouth is a great way to find new clients.
7. Start small
Don’t run out and quit your day job just yet. If possible, cut back on your hours and make time to learn your new trade. You will still have the income to pay the bills, but you will also be feeding the soul by doing the thing that you love, and if you are anything like me you will find yourself feeling more motivated and proactive simply because you are happier. Just don’t let the stress of having less income get to you, meditate if you need to. If you stay persistent and positive it won’t be long before you are bringing in a reasonable income.
8. Find your niche
Don’t try to learn everything at once, you will likely be overwhelmed as it becomes apparent how much you don’t know. So pick an area you are comfortable with and learn everything you can about it. Eventually, you will see complementary areas that it just makes sense to progress to next. People don’t want to employ the services of someone who is average at a bunch of things, they want someone who is good at the service they require.
9. Work hard
Now this seems like an obvious one, but it still needs to be said. When you are first starting out you are not going to be offered a job by Google or Pentagram right out of the gate, greatness takes time and patience. Jobs will likely take you longer to complete early on, so make sure you allow for this and don’t be put off by the thought of pulling a few all-nighters or having to work on the weekends. The more time you invest initially, the faster the road to success.
Have you had a similar experience? Do you have any tips to share? Please feel free to comment below!
Karen Mort is a Graphic Designer and Partner at Sticky Citrus Design, a company specializing in digital/ print design, website design/development and mobile app design/development.