I’ve had a lot of jobs. In fact, my career path looks something like this. Paper delivery girl. Babysitter. Ice cream server. Office dogsbody. Researcher. Freelance journo. Admin assistant. Lemonade stand employee. Communications specialist. Volunteer teacher. Freelance journalist. Yoga teacher and trainer. Freelance journalist. Presenter. Writing mentor. And on it goes. By the time I’m done, I expect there’ll be a couple of dozen more titles added to the list. So, how do you move from one career to another with ease?
Often, I wish I’d done it like this guy in the UK who resigned from his job at Stansted airport via a cake. He cleverly gave the finger to border security and while simultaneously promoting his new business (making cakes, of course).
Quitting your day job cold turkey is awesome. I’ve done it a lot. But there are downsides (namely, money, but also some other stuff you wouldn’t think of until it’s too late. But mostly, money). It’s worked, as eventually (and really, this took a lot of tweaking), I’ve figured out a way of working that’s perfect for my skills, interests and mindset. I now write, teach and do public speaking. You might want to sell shoes, or start your own event management company, or maybe be a writer too?
Whatever the new job is you’re after, here are 5 steps to consider when giving your current job the flick.
- Can you afford it?
I’m not saying don’t quit if you can’t afford it. But I AM saying to take a calculated financial risk, not one that will leave you in a hole if things don’t work out. Could you afford to quit your job if you cut back on expenses for a few months first? Or if you used your savings to live off? Would cutting back to part-time be a better option to start with? Remember, if you’re starting a new career that’s entrepreneurial in nature, expect to plow through cash faster than you can say “goodbye fulltime salary”. This doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing; if you’re unhappy at work, get out of there, in my opinion. I’m just saying it’s worth thinking through the bottom line implications in advance.
- Can you skill up in your spare time?
When I quit being a (very nicely paid) communications specialist to being a (happy but poorly paid) yoga teacher a number of years ago, I’d done all the skilling up in my spare time. For about a year before I quit I taught a class at 6am before my day job, and another class one evening a week.These classes weren’t about making money (in fact, the 6am class used to yield me about $15. I’d go and spend it on breakfast before I even got to work.) They were about skilling up without needing to rely on the income from my new career. When I eventually DID quit my day job, I had people who liked my teaching, and therefore gave me better paying teaching gigs (though I still kept that 6am class for a couple of years).
- What transferrable skills can you leverage?
When you quit one job to do another, your shortcut to success is known in the career world as ‘transferable skills’. When I started teaching writing, I’d already had practice talking in front of people via teaching yoga. I’d learned how to project my voice, explain concepts clearly and help people when they were stuck (although admittedly, getting stuck in a yoga class is quite different to a writing classroom). Transferable skills are incredibly handy. In fact, I believe are the key to jumping from one career to a seemingly different career without too much stress.
- The end goal will probably will take longer to reach than you first imagined.
I’m famously impatient. I think everything will be quicker than it actually is. But I’ve now learned that switching careers – and I mean, going being “really good and in demand” at one thing to being “really good and in demand” at another thing – takes time. The key is to not be fearful. I’ve now done it enough to know that one thing will lead to the next thing and the next. But not in a month. Or even a year.For me, the path back to freelance journalism (I started out here long ago) came via yoga, because yoga teaching gave me plenty of time to focus on other things beyond sitting in an office. So I began writing again. Then I loved writing so much I stopped teaching yoga.Eventually, I missed teaching, so I started teaching writing instead of yoga. See? Jumping all over the show, relying on my transferable skills and a willingness to let things unfold. It’s one way to make switching jobs pretty freaking fun. Chances are if you take a few risks, keeping your transferable skills in mind, like me, you’ll eventually find a mix that is right.
- When you’re aiming for a new career, say “yes”.
When you’re at the top of your field, it’s easy to be fussy. But switching careers is best when taken with a large dose of humble pie. You can’t expect to be good at everything straight off, and you can’t expect to get the top gigs in your new field on day one. Be willing to slog it out.When I started writing again a number of years ago I said “Yes” to every opportunity that came along.
- “Can you file this story on a fast turnaround?” “Yes.” (Even if I was moving house that weekend)
- “Can you write this fiddly piece that’s only 150 words and requires you to go on a two-hour jaunt across town to do the interview?” “Yes.” (Even though the result was only about $90 in my bank account.)Here’s how that might look for you and your career transition.
- “Can you help run this event even though it’s on your day off?” “Yes.”
- “Can you give me your opinion on my new interior colour scheme, seeing you’re keen to get into interior design? “Yes.”
- Is it worth spending a night or two a week networking with people from your new field or learning new skills in the meantime? “Yes.”
What do you think? What’s holding back from you giving your job the flick?