Some Thoughts on Changing Careers

After announcing a few weeks back that I would be moving from the digital advertising world, where I lived briefly, to working full-time for Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, many of my friends pointed out that I had somehow managed to make this blogging thing a full-blown career. I’ll admit – I’ve been surprised at how well the transition has gone myself.

When I started with blogging and writing, I saw it mainly as a part-time gig to help fill my time and potentially earn some extra money outside of personal training. I had no idea it would end up turning into a full-time career. While the road has been paved with extremely fortunate circumstances, at the same time, it hasn’t been easy to switch from a career in fitness and personal training to working full-time for a tech company. I wanted to compile some thoughts regarding the transition and some things I learned along the way.

Hard skills are learnable.

When I started, I had relatively few of the hard skills necessary to succeed in a technology-driven role. I had absolutely no experience with coding whatsoever. Heck, whereas I thought I knew a good bit about WordPress when I applied, I know so much more now. I think this highlights a few important aspects of our society and how the traditional job world has shifted:

For reference, I’m using Codecademy to learn CSS and HTML in my spare time. The one caveat: you have to be very consistent (just like anything else) or you will get frustrated trying to keep up with the lessons.

  1. It’s possible to teach yourself a career field.
  2. While hard skills are learnable, soft skills are invaluable.

It’s becoming increasingly easy to learn a career field in your own spare time. For me, I learned WordPress while managing a few fitness sites. There are numerous stories of individuals learning to code from online programs and then switching career fields once they’ve attained some form of mastery. Whereas a college degree typically pigeon-holed your career focus previously, the field of play has opened up quite a bit.

Switching career fields doesn’t mean you hate/grew bored of/don’t like your previous passion.

I think the general notion is that I left personal training because I didn’t like it anymore. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I still read about fitness on a daily basis and try to be involved as much as possible. I still maintain my certification and do a bit of freelance writing for fitness publications. I moved out of fitness for a variety of reasons, mainly because I found myself more interested in blogging, writing, and technology.

When I initially made the jump, I thought I would lose any and all relationships I had gained during my time as a trainer (both online and in-person). I imagined that I would get kicked out of “the clique” so-to-speak. Turns out, it doesn’t happen like that. The fact that I switched career fields doesn’t mean I lost all touch with health and fitness.

People will tell you that you’re closing doors if you jump into something new. In my experience, that’s just not true.

Admitting you don’t know is part of the process.

It really doesn’t matter what field you’re in; you’re going to be surrounded by smarter people. This is particularly true when you’re attempting to do something new. I’ve found two things to be extremely helpful:

  • Asking other folks
  • Google

It’s really tough to feel like the newbie in the room. But, it’s also part of the learning process. You have to be willing to ask the “stupid” questions (or at least look them up on your own).

You’re going to surprise yourself.

The decisions you’re going to have to make to switch career fields aren’t going to be easy. In fact, they’re going to be extremely tough in most cases. When I originally started this whole writing thing, I thought a position writing for a major publication (like Men’s Health) would be the ultimate gig. A month or so ago, I turned down the opportunity to interview at that very company. It just didn’t fit with what I was trying to do at the time.

Looking back, if I would have had that same opportunity two years ago, I would have jumped out of my seat. Times change and so does your mindset. I’ve found it’s best to go with your gut instinct than try to convince yourself that a particular opportunity is right or wrong.

The past few years have taught me so much about myself and have squashed my previous thoughts about “careers”. Previously, I would have told you that since I majored in Exercise Science, that was going to be my career field of choice going forward. I’ve learned it doesn’t have to be exactly like that. People and circumstances change. It’s become easier and easier to mold and shift your career to fit your passion and your current place in life. I, for one, dig it.

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