The phone call lasted around 45 minutes and if truth be told I was picking his brain about the world of publishing, getting articles into print and seeking advice about finding agents for unpublished works.
In the thick of our call the conversation drifted to his own motivation in leaving a comfortable, well paid marketing position at an American company to follow his life dream of a role in the journalism sector.
It got me thinking about my own career path to date. In my relatively short professional life, I’ve worked in a number of different fields. My previous job titles (in order) have included:
- Labourer’s apprentice
- Dog Bone Packer
- Peanut Bagger
- Gym Consultant
- Charity Street Collector
- Customer Service Rep
- Door to Door Salesman
- Company Director
- Utility Broker
- Telesales Representative
- Account Manager
When you throw into the mix an Accounting Degree, it’s a real pick and mix rabble of the weird and wonderful for someone who is 31 years old.
While there doesn’t appear to be any logical pattern or sequence to the above roles, they have helped build on top of one another leveraging skills which would unlock the next level in my professional career. To use gaming terminology, it takes years to accrue the necessary ‘experience points‘ while some skills are also transferable.
A managerial role in one discipline could apply to a separate field. It’s still managing people. The same principles apply regardless of whether you are selling toasters or mobile phone packages. At the end of the day you’re still selling a product.
I was interested to hear more about the Sports Journalist’s journey, who we’ll call Tom, and what drove his change career.
Tom had levelled up several times in his short marketing career and was climbing the corporate ladder fast. He was ticking all the right boxes in his superiors eyes, and on a fast track to promotion and more money.
Tom wasn’t happy though. A little voice inside kept telling him that the path he was on didn’t connect with his heart. Even though he tried to ignored it over the years, the music still played inside reminding him that he was worth so much more.
So one morning Tom grew a set and decided to quit his comfortable job to follow his dream. Having decided that journalism fuelled his passion, he siphoned some of his salary in the months leading up to his departure into a separate account, to help his transition into the brave new world. Then he began searching for jobs in Ireland at all the major publishing and media agencies.
Several months passed and he had been rejected many times. Experience was required and he had none. Changing tact, he began to submit articles to various magazines and periodicals which, after a while managed to make it to print, giving a tiny financial gain against the growing loss of being without a steady income.
HOWEVER, he never wavered from his conviction and taking confidence from the little successes began knocking again on doors, except this time with some real publishing experience and a small portfolio of completed works.
The only opportunities Tom could see advertised were for interns. These were minimum wage and long hours. Already in his mid twenties Tom was very disheartened with the prospect of working for up to a year or more at a role which demanded so much and gave little financial security. But he remained true to his passion and listened to his heart.
He took the job, which was a fraction of the money he was earning in his previous role. In the space of five years he slogged his way through the ranks to become an award winning Sports journalist for one of the biggest broadsheets newspapers in the country.
When we spoke, he revealed in no uncertain terms that it was the most difficult thing he had ever done. He knew he had the ABILITY. He knew he had the ENERGY and PASSION. But blocking the way was his EGO. He was making excellent money in a job that didn’t fire up his juices any more. Taking a massive pay drop was a tough thing to justify in his mind – a financial short-term hit which may or may not be justified several years ahead. Starting back at square one to learn the trade in an intern role which would normally have drawn University graduates.
It’s much easier to direct course at the beginning of the career stream. However, if you find yourself further down river, rapidly approaching a waterfall then it’s almost too late to change course.
Tom changed his career because he took the risk. Not all risks pay off. I also quit a comfortable job to start my own business in my mid twenties, and it was a huge flop. Do I regret it? Absolutely not.
Sometimes you learn twice as much from your mistakes, than you do from your successes.
But crucially you’ll never know unless you try.