Hate your job? Want to do something completely different? Here are some tips from someone who successfully started over.
I was a magazine editor at Singapore’s largest womens magazine. There were many perks. Freebies, glamourous parties, fantastic meals, lots of travel. But I threw the towel in when my health started to suffer (a pinched nerve in my spine was the final straw) and pursued my passion: Teaching yoga.
I am now managing teacher at a yoga studio in Sri Lanka, and have been teaching for four years, one of those years full-time. I’ve learnt a whole lot in that time about reinventing myself and I highly, highly recommend it.
Here are eight tips if you’re thinking about doing the same:
If not this, then what?
Okay, so your job makes you miserable. You wake up every morning dreading going to work. Something definitely needs to change. But how? And to what? The first step to changing careers is figuring out what you could do that would make you happy. You know the answer. It’s the nagging feeling in the back of your head. The thing you used to love doing, your childhood ambition. Every job is hard, work is never going to be a breeze, but it’s a helluva lot easier if enjoy it and are passionate about it. Figure out what floats your boat, what makes you happy, and (if possible) what you feel you can contibute. This last one is key. Ask yourself how you can use your skills and talents to do work that counts.
Don’t quit your job just yet.
Tempting as it is to throw caution ot the wind, throw your resignation letter in your boss’s face and walk out footloose and fancy-free, you need to strategise this very carefully. And quit at the absolute perfect moment
Get the necessary training/certificates in the new field
If it’s a completely new skill, start learning! As much as possible, do this while you are still at your old job. A short course, a workshop, a part-time diploma, do whatever you can. This lets you bone up your knowledge and also find out more to see if this is really for you.
Start working in the new field part-time.
Even if it’s just once a week – do it! Yes it’s tiring, but you’ll find the energy because you love it. And in fact, you’ll probably look forward to it. It might even get you through the week. Importantly, working part-time will help you gain experience, deepen your learning, expand your network of connections and also give you a taste of how this industry works. It may not be the bed of roses you dreamed up in your head. Every field has its quirks and shadow sides, and better you find out now than later. By the time I quit my job in publishing, I had taught a yoga class every Saturday for almost three years. It doesn’t compare to the experience of full-time teaching, but it was something! And I felt confident pursuing a new job knowing that I already had three years’ experience under my belt.
Do the numbers, make the sacrifices.
Find out how much your new salary will be. Starting over means starting at the bottom so unless you’re reinventing yourself as a high-flying banker or MP, expect to take a pay cut. Changing careers will mean adjusting your lifestyle hugely. Get very honest with yourseld about whether you can accommodate these changes. Of course, pursuing your passion hugely improves your quality of life in intangible ways. Many of the trade-offs areworthwhile, but it’s best to be mentally prepared.
I don’t get a 13th month bonus or CPF anymore, but my time is completely my own to manage. I no longer get invites to cool parties and trendy restaurants, but I have the unspeakable job satisfaction of seeing students leave my class feeling better than when they walked in. I don’t get to media discounts and VIP treatment, but I get to go to work everyday in flipflops and stretchy pants. I won’t lie, going from a regular paycheck to living as a freelancer is a tough change, and starting from scratch is frightening as all hell. But I stand by my decision whole-heartedly.
When you finally do quit, and start your brand new life, use your old job to help pay the bills.
When you first start in your new field, you may need some extra dough. With all the time you spent in your old job, your hourly rate is probably reasonably high so working in your old field as a freelancer or contractor could really help pay the bills. Don’t worry, it’s very different when you’re not in the soup – out of the office politics, and detached from the ladder-climbing – and when you have the attitude that “I am doing this to help me do the other more important thing.” You might go back and forth between your new career and your old one (I did, returning to magazines in 2012 after a two year sabbatical).
Get out of Singapore if you need to.
If the opportunity calls, move. The change of environment is liberating and steepens the learning curve. I left Singapore for a younger yoga market. I’ve now lived in Sri Lanka for one year, and am managing country’s first dedicated yoga studio. I’d never have gotten that chance in Singapore, as a relatively “young teacher”. Another way is to go to a more competitive environment – for example Inch Chua and Vanessa Fernandez, two local musicians who moved to LA. Mature markets have more systems in place and generally are more willing to spend, plus when you’re surrounded by so many like-minded people in a thriving scene, you’ll get very good, very quick, sink or swim-style.
Talk to people who’ve done it and ignore the haters.
It is possible, it has been done, many have done it and are perfectly happy. Seek those guys out and offer to buy them a coffee to pick their brain. Haters will hate. You just do your thing, sing your song, dance your dance.
Changing careers felt like placing a very large bet on myself. I did all I could, but then just had faith and made the leap. The bet has paid off and the risk was absolutely worth it. Sure there are challenges, and I continue to learn and figure things out, but there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. I hope you find the same for yourself, whatever your passion is!
But – even if you don’t feel the need to change careers, I’d suggest you go pick up a skill anyway. Having another set of skills not only acts as insurance, it also gives you the option to do whatever else you want to do should you decide to fire your boss!