by Kierston Drier
Are you in your desired profession, but not in your desired career? Maybe you want to be a Director of Photography one day, but you are stuck as a set P.A. Maybe you want to be a food stylist but you are toiling away at a Craft job to pay the bills. Maybe you want to be a writer, but all you’ve managed to get is a few self-produced pieces while you wait tables part time? Or perhaps you’ve had a happy and fulfilling career in one area of the industry you love already, but it’s time to move on- you’ve worked in distribution for years and now you want to be a producer. Or you’ve had a successful career as an editor, but you want to try your hand at writing? How do you make the shift from working that job that pays the bills, to working the job that pays the bills and fuels your passion?
It is not always easy and smooth to change career paths, and it doesn’t always happen over night. But with research, patience, and planning, you can maximize your efficiency in the transition. Below are a few steps to get started.
Know Your Goal. And What It Takes To Get There.
Take some time to envision exactly what you want. It might already be crystal clear, or it could still be very nebulous. Figure out if what you desire is a single goal (Ex: I want to be a writer on a Comedy Show) or something more fluid (Ex. I want to be working in content-creation, in a leadership capacity.)
Next, figure out what skills you need to achieve this goal. What soft skills and hard skills do you already have? What do you need? Can you get these skills through your own research, or will you need more professional training?
Engage Your Network.
There is nothing wrong with learning from your network. Attend events, mixers and social gatherings that are centered around your main goal. Be friendly, kind and polite and read the room. Be curious about other people and their roles in the industry and ask them about their experiences. Even if they are not in the career path you are interested in, there is always something to learn from someone else. People can be invaluable sources of both insight and inspiration. Clubs, online groups, forums, organizations and committees are all great places to begin expanding your sphere of contact as your change careers.
On the topic of engaging your network, be active in the community you are interested in. Are their volunteer or part-time gigs that you can engage in that will help build your skill set or make connecting? Are there industry-related communities that offer networking, mentorships or internships in your desired field? Tapping into these areas may be time-consuming, but a slow-and-steady approach to changing careers can pay dividends as it allows your your network and contact base to grow.
Innovate And Market Yourself.
You have skills. And you probably have some very good ones. How can you turn those skills into marketable products to get you closer to your desired goal? It may take an afternoon (or several) to come up with some unique ways to get yourself out there, but may be the most beneficial tool you have. Make a reel, or a demo, or a strong pilot piece and put it up on your own social media. Host or livestream a reading of your work (or a mixture of your work and others), contact companies you want to work for and inquire about their hiring process or if they have any freelance opportunities. It may be highly subjective, depending on what goals you are aiming for, but marketing yourself is a crucial step.
Plan For It To Take Time.
Sometimes an opportunity knocks and we simply cannot say no. Be prepared to take the opportunity when it comes! Until it does, however, have a plan to help sustain and support yourself while you tackle your new dream. It may feel like having two jobs- the job you work at, and the job you are aiming to work at. It is important to be practical; as the saying goes, Empires are not built overnight. Yet, all dreams that are worth having are worth working for!
It may be hard to get out of a stagnant career rut. In contract-based industries it can be very hard to shift gears, and move yourself forward. It is our dreams and aspirations that fuel or best creative moments. It is rare that the path to our perfect job goes smoothly- but it is all the more wonderful when that goal is achieved.