You have much less to lose than you fear.
You have a university degree and have been working in that area for a while. However, you have always wanted to try something else. As a kid, you loved drawing but put it aside when you had to pick a career because there are no “real jobs” in that area.
Or maybe you started practicing yoga recently and have been wondering if you should do a teacher certification to finally leave your corporate job and lead a stress-free life. Or you are a yoga teacher now but would like to move to the city and get a job in finance. But you talk yourself out of that “nonsense” because you are already in your 50s.
As kids, people ask us this question all the time:
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
And they expect one simple answer. “Dentist.” “Engineer.” “Teacher.” Nobody ever expects a child to reply, “I want to start by being a dentist, but then I would love to get into engineering and create machines used by dentists, and I want to end my professional life teaching everything I learned at a university”.
To be fair, how would a kid know all that at such a young age? But we are not kids anymore. And, growing up, we realized that life is not black and white. We are not this or that, exclusively. And we might want to be first this and then that, or this and that all at the same time.
Some of us are multipotentialites.
“A multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits. It stems from the word multipotentiality–a psychological and educational term used to describe people who display aptitudes across multiple disciplines.” The term was popularized by Emilie Wapnick in her 2015 Ted Talk.
The first time I watched this Ted Talk, I felt I had found my tribe. At 18, I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I ended up studying communications at university, worked as a journalist, but loved creating videos as well. I started my own writing project (a biography service) and tried a Youtube travel channel for a while. Until, at age 30, I decided to completely change careers and completed a programming Bootcamp. Now, I work as an IT Business Analyst.
Because I went through this experience myself, I can assure you that changing careers is one of the best endeavors you can do in your life.
People Who Change Careers Combine Diverse Skills
Imagine you study Computer Science at university and then pursue a career as a software developer. Ten years later, you will probably hold the lead role in a software development team. You will have a deep knowledge of coding, probably in one or two programming languages. You will be a specialist, with extremely valuable knowledge, and have skills that the market is willing to pay a lot of money for.
But you will not know much about anything else. You might struggle with your communication skills or lack the understanding of the business purpose being served by the software you develop.
On whether you should specialize or be a generalist, Tim Ferriss comes up with a third way: you should be a specialized generalist. His advice is to…
“try to combine a handful of skills that are rarely combined”
He explains that if you decide to specialize in one area, you need to be at the very top percentage of experts in that area to do very well financially. However, if you combine two skills that are rarer together (example: computer science degree and a law degree, or deep knowledge of finance and public speaking skills), automatically you have a competitive advantage that puts you in the top decile for earning power.
In my work as an IT Business Analyst, I also create software using a no-code platform. I know I am not as strong in technical terms as some of my colleagues. But I know enough to do my job well, and I keep learning every day. This is because I don’t have higher education in the area and, although I am 32, I have only one year of experience in IT.
But this is not a weak point for me. In fact, it makes me a great asset for a company because, while I have enough technical skills I complement them with 10 years of experience in communication, meaning I can communicate very effectively with clients (which is also a big part of what I do on a daily basis) and take the wheel in project management whenever my manager is away because I did it so many times before in my life — in different areas, but the skills are still valid.
People Who Change Careers See the World From Multiple Perspectives
“Flexibility comes from having multiple choices; wisdom comes from having multiple perspectives”
– Robert Dilts
If you always work in the same area, you will be formatted to see the world from that perspective. If you have been a software developer for 10 years, chances are that you are oblivious to the activities of the R&D department of the company you work at. Or the Finance department. Or the Marketing one.
You don’t really need to understand the ins and outs of other departments, but having a general knowledge is helpful. After all, all these departments belong to one company, and their goals intertwine.
Having this broader perspective on work impacts you positively, not only from a professional standpoint, but also from a personal one. You become more sensitive to others and respect their work more because you understand it better.
Furthermore, when you decide to change careers, you get out of your comfort zone. While this is scary, it is also a terrific way to grow, in every aspect of your life. Deciding to start over later in life humbles you in a way that very few things do. But it is also a sign that you can adapt easily, and that is a true superpower.
At my company, I work as a Business Analyst, but I feel I have a better understanding of the Marketing department than the average of my colleagues. I make it a point to like every post our company creates on social media just because I know how hard it can be to have your content noticed. I am more sensitive to it because those were my shoes once.
People Who Change Careers Have More Fun
I don’t know about you but, for me, the idea of doing only one job my entire life sounds like the most boring thing on the planet.
Of course, you can grow professionally always staying in the same line of work. You can get promoted again and again and diversify your tasks naturally this way. But, probably, it will never be a major change. If you get promoted, you will go from software developer to manager. But you will never go from lawyer to circus artist.
Experimenting with different careers spices up your life, and is a great way to avoid stagnation, which, over time, can become problematic. It is much less likely that you get tired of what you do if what you do changes every now and then.
Personally, I love the fact that I have experienced so many different things in my life. A few years ago, I was interviewing people for a living, now I am building insurance software. I have to fight every day to feel comfortable at my job, but I guarantee you that, those moments of certainty and the praises for a job well done are much sweeter than if I had 10 years of experience in what I do. I have fun with the challenges, and I learn constantly because I never let myself stay in my comfort zone for too long.
If you feel good at your job, and it fits your goals in life, by all means, keep doing what you’re doing!
But if you have been wanting to change careers for a while and were always too scared to do it, fear no more. You don’t need to go back to university, you might do a technical course on some subject, for example. In my case, I did a programming Bootcamp, that lasted for five months.
But you don’t even need to commit to such a form of education. There are plenty of online courses that can give you a boost in the direction of your dreams.
And the great thing is, you don’t have much to lose. Your previous education and skills remain perfectly valid. You don’t subtract anything; you only add up by experimenting with a new path.
If you decide to go for it, the best of luck for you!