I was not one of those kids that knew exactly what they wanted to do when they were growing up. In the last 15 years of my career, I've been an English teacher, attorney, video game creator and now, a toilet paper salesman, selling millions of rolls of toilet paper a year.
[The Way We Work]
Life is about finding the intersection of what you really, really love with what you're really, really good at. As simple as it sounds, it's really not that easy to find.
After a brief stint as an English teacher, I went to law school and ended up becoming an attorney at a big law firm here in New York City. Like most Americans, for the next two, three years, I was holding on to my job for dear life, working really late hours at a job that I thought maybe I was good at but certainly not one that I really loved. I then came upon the epiphany that it takes years if not tens of thousands of hours to get really good at something. I really didn't have a lot of time to waste.
This talk isn't for those looking to quit their job because they don't like their boss or they had a long day at work. This is for those that are ready to make the completely scary leap into a brand-new career. So as you think about making a career change, here are a few tips I hope you consider and a few things I've picked up along the way.
First, there's three things to think about before you're ready to move on. Number one: professional life is about learning. If you're not even interested in learning anymore, that's a huge red flag that there might not be a future for you in that industry.
Number two: career changes are often gut-driven. If you constantly have sleepless nights where you're wide awake staring at the ceiling thinking, "Oh, man. I can't live with myself if I never try to make this change or if I don't even actually investigate it," then trust your gut. It might be time for that career change.
On the flip side, one reason to not move on is short-term pain. If you don't like your boss or people at the office are grating on you, that's actually not a good reason to absolutely change your career, because when you do change a career, you generally have to start from the bottom, and you'll probably feel a lot of short-term pain, whether it's through a lack of salary or lack of a title. Pain at any job is inevitable.
So now you're convinced that it's time to change your career. Then there's three things to do immediately. First: network, network, network. No one ever builds a career without a good mentor or a good support network. What I mean by networking is getting all the great advice that you can possibly get. Technology has made it so simple to reach out to new people to say, "Hey, I'm thinking about making a career change. Do you have just five minutes to chat with me?" That passion and that hunger and that ability to be a sponge really attracts awesome mentors and people willing to give you their time to give you some good advice. So go out there and meet new people.
The second thing you need to do immediately is shore up your finances. The reality is, when you change your career, you'll either start with a job with a lower title or lower pay or maybe even no pay, especially if you're starting your own business. So going out there and making sure your finances are in order to make the transition less painful is really, really important. For me personally, as I made the transition from being an attorney over to a video game creator, I wanted to have at least six to 12 months of personal runway in the bank. Six to 12 months might not be the right number for you, but be honest with yourself on what that number should be.
Number three, if you're not ready to make the full jump right at this moment, then get your side hustle on. Side hustles could be anything from volunteering with an organization that's in the new industry you want to go into, could be starting your business part-time on the weekends. It's a free way to get a taste to see if you really love something.
So you're ready to make the move or maybe you already made the move. Here are three things you should think about doing, right now. One: do not — I repeat — do not burn bridges. You spent years building those bridges, why burn them now? The world is such a small place, especially with all these online platforms, that, believe me, you will see these people again and probably in the most inopportune times.
Number two: take stock of what you've learned in your previous career or careers. Most likely, a lot of those things are really applicable to your new job and your new career, whether it's interacting with people, playing on a team or dealing with jerks and assholes. All those things are really universally applicable. You'll find jerks no matter what industry you're in; no one's immune to it, everyone's got to figure it out, and you probably know how to do it already.
Lastly, when you start your new job, you're going to be nervous. But don't worry, take a deep breath, because this is what I want to tell you: you're part of a new team now, and everyone around you is rooting for your success, because your success is their success. So welcome to your new career.