I never knew what I wanted to be “when I’d grow up”, so I ended up studying communications because my best friend did too.
I worked as a journalist for a decade but, at 30, I decided to completely change my career and venture into the world of IT.
After completing a 5-month programming boot camp, I started working as a Business Analyst and have been doing so ever since. It has been an intense journey, with many lessons. If you are considering a career change, you might want to read these lines before you settle on your decision.
The First Times Are Challenging
When I finished the boot camp, I thought the hard part was over. But I was wrong. It was only when I started working in the new field that I realized how much I still had left to learn.
Whereas most of my colleagues had a solid background in IT, I could make things work but without a great understanding of the big picture.
When a manager mentioned something and my colleagues knew immediately what he was talking about, I had to ask, google and read. I had to work a little harder to fill in the gaps and keep up with everybody else.
Companies will give you a chance to start anew but you need to be willing to put in the extra effort. You need to be humble and admit that you don’t know while working hard to learn everything that is required from you. The first times are tough, and by “first times”, I don’t mean the first weeks. It’s the first months or, to be more realistic, the first years.
You Will Feel Like an Impostor
Do you know what is the first thing that comes to my mind whenever I am frustrated at work, and I can’t do something?
“Who am I kidding? I’m not an IT person, I’m a writer”.
Yes, I am a writer. But I am also an IT person. Except that, almost 3 years into this journey, I still don’t see myself that way. I still feel like an intruder who’s faking her way through IT jobs, even though I am appreciated at work and I receive good feedback from managers.
In my head, I am still an impostor, maybe I will always be. And maybe that is not a bad thing. In her autobiography, “Broken Horses”, singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile talks about feeling like an impostor. You can see Alicia Keys read that excerpt on this video.
“The upside of impostor syndrome is that you’re always aware of how surreal these gifts are. I never expected it, so I am actually incapable of taking it for granted”. — Brandi Carlile
Sometimes, You Will Want Your Old Job Back
Changing careers doesn’t necessarily mean you leave behind something you hate and start working on something you love. If I’m honest, I liked journalism better than I like IT. There, I said it.
If all jobs got the same salary and working conditions, I would prefer to be out interviewing interesting people and writing their stories, rather than sitting alone in front of a computer fixing problems that are completely detached from real life.
Does this mean I regret my choice? No. But every decision has its pros and cons. At 30, I decided that I wanted stability, career progression, and good working conditions. To achieve that, I had to let go of other things.
After a career change, you will miss some aspects of your old life — and that is totally ok. The world is not black and white, and jobs are not entirely good or bad. The upside is that you can still leave a foot on your old life. For example, you’re reading these lines, aren’t you? I’m still a writer!
You Need To Feel Comfortable With Starting Over
When I got my first IT job, my manager was younger than me. Almost everyone at the company was younger than me too. Of course, my salary was also that of a beginner’s.
Sometimes, I wonder how my life would have been if I had followed the “traditional path”. By 30, I would have 8–10 years of experience in a field, be a senior in my area, and have a great salary. But heck, I would have also missed out on a lot of the fun I had in my 20s.
When you change careers, you always take something with you: your experience and your lessons learned. You don’t start from zero, but you start from a very low level. You need to be fine with that. You need to be ok with a junior position, with having to prove your worth, and with a small paycheck at the end of the month. It’s temporary though — always keep that in mind.
Everyone Can Do It
You don’t need to be super smart or a superhero to change careers. What you need is a will to do it, a goal, and hard work.
You don’t even need to change drastically. You can leverage your existing skills and experience, and venture into a related field, that is close enough to still make you feel comfortable but distant enough to improve your job satisfaction and sense of self-challenge.
I change careers but I have also seen dozens of other people do it. We are not special, and you are not less than us. If you want to do it, you can.
“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” — Steve Jobs
You shouldn’t consider changing careers because of circumstantial or temporary reasons. If you like your job but not the company, go work for another company. If you like the company but not the project, try to get moved to a different project.
But there are two main reasons why you should strongly consider a career change. One is related to Steve Jobs’ quote above: if you don’t like what you do, day in and day out, for an extended period of time, do something about it. Change!
The other reason is more positive: you change because you feel like it. You don’t need to be miserable at your job to crave a change. Maybe you just want to grow and experience new things in life. Challenging yourself with a career shift might be exactly what you need to keep you on the edge and constantly learn and push yourself forward.
Whatever your reasons are, if it’s been on your mind for a while, it’s probably a sign you should go for it. Good luck!
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