So, how do you change career?

I recently read an article about ‘How to get your foot in the door of a creative agency’ and, as many things do, it irked me and got me thinking. The main thing I learned from the article is, not only was it aimed at people who are fresh from graduating from a relevant course at Uni but to stand out you must offer the Creative Director of the agency food or a flavored beverage. At the time of reading, I thought, wow that sounds great, I could do that – job in the bag!

Then I thought that’d be false and conformist, why can’t I stand out for being good at what I do and for not conforming to that particular norm – I realise that there is an enormous amount of competition for what I want to do, especially as I’m changing career at a later age, and possibly because I’m female, and to cap it all off these design agencies get bombarded with emails daily.

So the question is, what should people in my position do to stand out?

I immediately got to work, grabbed hold of Twitter and got responses from a bunch of lovely people who took some time out of their busy day to tell me some of their career change experiences. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many people come forward.

From the questions I asked it’s refreshingly clear that a lot of people have the guts to make the move. It’s also apparent that many self-learn too, I’d had mixed feedback about whether I should have trained, but the lack of funds and time have meant I’ve had to get on with it myself.

The responses I got from questions I’d asked people who had successfully changed career were awesome and some even paralleled with my own story so far;

Anth Winter said that the way he knew he’d stood out was because the company had recognised his determination and passion for his chosen career path and so were keen to offer him the position. He also said that he’d applied to the company he now works for twice, the second time he applied, he got the job.

Daniel Howells said that the reasons for making his career change was ultimately because he had absolutely no interest in what he was doing and was working with people he didn’t respect. He figured he should be doing the thing he’d been doing in his spare time instead. He also confirmed that he had never had any training or education in his chosen career path and is purely self-taught.

Joel Smith said that there were two things that made him stand out, he’d taken the time to write careful and well thought out cover letters to each job and tried to meet people face to face before applying. One of the best things he says he did was to work for himself for a while, he learnt a lot about clients and the kinds of projects he was more interested in.

James Young said that he had no background in design, no qualifications or experience and at the time, wasn’t freelancing or doing side projects like many people do these days. In the end, he decided to save up his wages to allow him to quit the company he was working for at the time and live (frugally) while he took a Masters Degree at Leeds Met in “Creative Technology”.

It’s clear that passion and determination are the two things that stand out from all of the responses I received. I gave up looking for jobs after the interviews were coming back with the same feedback ‘great portfolio but not enough experience’. So, the moral of my quest is I need to get back on that horse and carry on until I reach my goal.

So, to all you career changers out there, here’s what I’ve learnt personally and with a little help from some people who’ve been down this road; don’t give up, keep your passion and dream alive and if you feel like you’re flagging from the rejection and the sheer pressure, take a breather, remember why you decided to make the change in the first place and use that energy to keep on trucking.

p.s I’m still looking. If you want to have a chat about me working for you, give me a shout!

  • Justin Reynolds

    Thank you Nik, an interesting read, and good luck with the transition. One of the biggest challenges, I think, of seeking a career change, or even just an adjustment, is envisaging yourself as what you want to become even when stuck, for economic reasons, in a job that you’re trying to leave behind. It is hard not to allow your current role to continue to define you, because that is paying the bills. If it’s possible to go part-time, that helps, though I appreciate it’s not always possible. I think the breakthrough comes when one is prepared to see oneself as ‘a designer (or whatever it is) who has a day job’ rather than ‘an officer manager (or whatever) who does design during spare time’.

    • Nik Jones

      Interesting stuff Justin, thanks for the comment. Agree, I’ve been in ‘admin’ since I left college and that’s what I feel like I am. I have 1 day a week to do the designing, but can’t take any more time off than that – I’d love to be interspersed with a design agency for a few days a week, that’d really help me I think.

  • Amanda

    This response may never get seen because this was posted awhile ago but I am looking to change my career to graphic design too. I have a bachelors in Business Marketing and currently work for a senior living community as an Admissions Coordinator. I do SOME marketing work but not near what I would like and I absolutely hate sales. I am a musician and an artist so I have a passion for creativity. I am also computer savvy which is what drew me to Graphic Design. I cannot afford to get another bachelors nor will I have the time to complete something like that because I work full time so what I have opted to do is get a Technical Certificate in Graphic Design Production. It will still take me around 2 years to complete as I can only take 1 class a semester but it seemed to be a perfect option in my case. I am still doing as much research and practicing as I can in the mean time. In between classes I have worked on a website for my band as well as business cards for my band and a couple of friends that needed business cards. I am 31 years old so even though it would have been more ideal to have made this discovery earlier, I am glad I have sorted it out now. I feel like graphic design will be the perfect key to take my career in the creative direction I have always wanted.

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