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I Made A Career Pivot In My 30s: Here Are The Lessons I Learned

You know how children go through a laundry list of things they want to be when they grow up? From an astronaut to a teacher to a policeman and whatever else?

Well, I wasn’t one of those kids.

I only had one thing in mind. I was going to be a doctor. I didn’t know any doctors personally, so it wasn’t that I was inspired by someone in my life. I simply took on the pressures of the possibility of a high ideal, high-pressure career because society told me to.

So, I was sure I was going to be a doctor, that is until I saw a documentary detailing a bloody surgery, and I knew I wasn’t exactly the doctor type. I did the next best thing at the time and studied Microbiology in college. Halfway through, I knew my degree was simply going to adorn the walls in my home. What would I do if I wasn’t going to be a doctor or a microbiologist? I had no idea. But I did discover something. I loved to write, and I felt like I had some creativity to speak of.

Life went on, and I stumbled my way through some boring jobs and random positions in my early 20s. With time, I worked my way into a career in publishing and digital marketing. My first job in this field was great, the second one was even better, but the third one tore my heart out.

What I didn’t realize was that my job choices, while they had helped me grow and develop some of my skills and expertise, were slowly chipping away at my joy and zest for life. I wanted more. I wanted different. And it took a long time for me to realize that I could have what I wanted.

So here I was in my 30s, freshly phased out of a job with no idea what to do next. I was at the end of my rope, and you know that expression the only way is up? Well, that was my reality. Luckily, I found my way. A desire I had long nurtured became a possibility as I studied and learned a new skill.

Today, I’m happy with my freelance business in graphic design and finding new ways to explore my creativity outside of my job, something I’ve always been passionate about.

I’m older and wiser, so I thought I’d share some of the insights I have picked up along the way:

My career journey looks more like a winding road than a straight, clear path. I’ve learned to embrace it.

For many years, I felt like I was generally behind in life. I wanted to move faster and go farther. I wanted to make big moves, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe there was something wrong with me. Why did I get bored at work, and why couldn’t I figure out what I wanted to do and just buckle down and become an expert at it?

My idea of climbing a career ladder was definitely different from what most people around me were doing. It took a while for me to accept it, but I eventually realized that I had to embrace my unique experiences for what they were: phases of my personal journey. With time, I stopped feeling like a loser when I scrolled through LinkedIn liking other peoples’ promotion posts and new job announcement updates. 

I learned to appreciate the skills I had picked up along the way and how they helped shape my experiences. I celebrated my courage at trying new things, stepping into the unknown to take a different path, and overcoming my fear of failure. Most importantly, I celebrated my determination to keep moving forward, learning, and creating.

In hindsight, I realize that what I was doing was creating a portfolio life, a concept I first heard from Jeff Goins. I wrote books, launched a podcast, taught a course, and created an online shop. And even though not all these endeavors were successful, I continued to find myself along the way.

 

To level up, I needed to put in the work and effort. So, I learned to be disciplined.

A couple of years ago, I sat at my desk, staring at my computer screen, wondering what to do next. I had just been phased out of a job I really didn’t enjoy. And while I was happy to be free, I was terrified of what lay ahead. After a bit of soul searching, I realized it was time for me to go full throttle on a new career path I had slowly been testing out over the previous year.

You see, I’d always been drawn to design, but for many years I thought I couldn’t do it. Was I even creative enough to do something like that? It turned out I was. 

I decided to give myself a few months to learn all I could about design. I bought the software, found a few free excellent courses, and started to put my heart and soul into it.

I’d work from 7 am to 6 pm. Take a break to eat dinner, relax, and then study graphic design from 9 pm till midnight. This was my routine for many months. It was a grueling schedule for me at the time, but I knew I had a goal.

So when I sat there contemplating my next move, I realized I had been preparing for this over the past year. I created a portfolio, got my first few clients, and haven’t looked back since.

The truth is there’s always a gap between where you are and where you need to go, and making that shift will require time, effort, and dedication.

 

My heart is always drawn to new ideas, concepts, and insights. I’ve learned to let myself explore as much as possible.

I get bored easily; this is not a great trait, but I am self-aware enough to accept this and use it to my advantage. Instead of beating myself up for being ‘flaky,’ I’ve learned to reframe my thoughts in a more positive light. I’m a trier. I love to test out new ideas.

I’ve always been interested in different forms of creative expression, so when I get a new idea, which is always only a matter of time, I have decided to pursue and explore as much as I can.

Having a job or business should not be a reason to neglect all other forms of creative expression. Since making my career pivot, I am happy, more engaged at work, less anxious, and have more energy to do more outside of work.

Life is too short to endure our work instead of being inspired by it. As long as it lies within your power (and we have more power than we give ourselves credit for), you can make that change you’ve been dreaming about. Go get it!

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