Why You Should Consider Changing Careers, From Four People Who Have Done It

Just a generation ago, the idea of changing careers was almost career suicide. But not anymore.

Between the casualisation of the workforce and the rise of the gig economy, switching industries has become increasingly common, though no less intimidating. Thinking of transitioning? Before you do, hear from four people that have been there, done that.

Emily Wilson left an administration job for a career in freelance marketing, Sahil Harriram left full-time study to become CEO of a start-up, Jenna Pippin moved from hospitality to graphic design and Mitch Garling resigned from his IT job to pursue stand-up comedy. Though their work lives couldn’t be less alike, their work experiences are more common than you’d think.

If you’re not totally happy with where your career is headed, consider their stories a case for a change.

Future prospects

Emily Wilson was in a rut. Frustrated by the lack of career development in her admin job, she approached an old employer.

“I had worked for them before in an event and social media manager role. I asked if they’d be interested in re-hiring me, but as a freelancer.”

They agreed and with one client secured, what started as ‘in-between’ job began to grow. “I had no intention of building anything. Freelancing was just to get me from A to B. But the first six months changed my perspective.”

Dipping her toes in the waters of self-employment was all it took for Jenna Pippin too. With a café background, Jenna knew how temporary jobs can be and was used to not getting attached.

She began doing graphic design work for friends by request, and then, with their encouragement built a website, attended networking events and found more work through freelancer Facebook groups.

Having picked up enough clients after 4 months, Jenna dropped down to part-time at her café, admitting “it is surprising how much work is around.”

Is it sustainable though? “Well… this type of work is more dynamic than hospitality. That’s for sure, and that variety, to me, means it is more sustainable to do long-term.”

Sustainability has been the focus of Sahil Harriram’s work since the beginning. In the formative stages of his start-up, Elite Robotics, he pooled capital from government grants and pitching contests. Those funds now cover the expense of product development and rent at their co-working space.

Even so, the team need to be thrifty. Sahil isn’t paid, working two days a week for his office space to make ends meet. That should change by the end of 2018, when he plans to distribute their first product, an autonomous lawnmower. Those two casual shifts mean financial freedom now, but they won’t always be necessary.

Knowing when to leave your job for good is one of the greatest hurdles you can face and there is no simple answer. “I was looking at my finances and my time and started to think ‘if I have a job, I won’t have time for what I really want to do.’ I just had to back myself” says comedian Mitch Garling.

A stream of well-paying gigs and commercial acting roles were all the encouragement he needed. But when a lucrative TV warm up job ended abruptly, he needed a Plan B.

With an otherwise quiet winter and a wedding to save for, Mitch returned to full-time office work on a short-term contract, but remained adamant this was not a backwards step. “It is just what this industry is like.”

Work/life balance

Switching careers can create a workaholic routine. Emily says. “I work more now than I did in my last role. It was a lot easier to switch off then, but now I’m not stressed about things that are out of my control.”

As for tips on separating work from pleasure, Sahil recommends renting a workspace, and considers it as a financial commitment to productivity. “I know I wouldn’t get this much done in my parents’ garage. I couldn’t quantify the hours I am working, which is a testament to how much I enjoy this lifestyle. I don’t think in terms of hours, I see it as working towards objectives.”

Job satisfaction

At the end of the day, the decision to make a change in career is usually motivated by one thing: job satisfaction. But is it a case of ‘the grass is always greener…’ or can switching careers actually make your life better? For Jenna, the difference is simple. “Now I am mentally drained instead of physically drained. But I prefer that, and I know it’s what I want out of my job.”

Mitch noticed immediate changes in his happiness. “Performing with people I grew up watching, working in television, it’s part of this greater dream you have. To be living elements of it, you’re in disbelief.” Even though he has made the temporary return to office work, the markers of career progression in his comedy were validating in ways his IT job could never be. “If I had my time again, I wouldn’t want to change anything I did when leaving my old job.”

Six months out of uni, Sahil is insistent that you can’t put a price on freedom. “I would’ve hated my life had I got an engineering grad job. I’d rather do what I want to do and be poor a bit longer. I just finished uni, I’m used to being poor.”

Ethan Andrews is a stand up comedian and writer from Singleton. He tweets about rugby league and food at @heyethanandrews