IT STARTS WITH A GUT FEELING
Nearly 12 months ago to the day, I was nervously preparing for my last day as a Financial Planner. At 28, and after five years of feeling justifiably like I’d reached my end game. That was all about to be flipped upside down.
I was heading back to the bottom, soon to start an intensive bootcamp – leaving the relative safety of my career to date and head back to uni.
For me, this change wasn’t an epiphany moment, a throw-the-papers-up-in-the-air, ‘fuck this shit, I’m outta here’ or a company restructure forcing me to find something new. No, it was a slow creeping; a gut feeling that I wasn’t where I needed to be. I think I can only really convey this understanding through the lens of hindsight, a full year of experience and learning under my belt. In a way though – thinking back to my mindset at the time – it for sure felt frantic, uneasy and positively uncomfortable. I’d wager that you’ve probably had this feeling too. My take is simply this: while we come to terms with this slow realisation; that feeling in the pit of your stomach – it is easiest to hold on to what you know, with a vicious attachment.
It can be hard to leave something that isn’t bad.
My work had me talking with amazing people, providing me with challenging opportunities to apply myself to vastly different, yet eerily similar client situations. Within a workplace culture that was amazingly supportive and provided a huge range of benefits and growth opportunities. There were downsides, parts of the job I didn’t relish, but these weren’t make or break, merely the realities that exist within all careers. Ultimately though, deciding to act on my gut feeling, whilst super tough, was necessary for my growth and my wellbeing.
My hope here is to give at least one person feeling a bit lost, my perspective/experience, so that they might have something of a map or guide to make the most of their gut feeling too.
THE WORLD IS YOUR FUCKING OYSTER
By mid-2020 I knew that the time had finally come (I was mentally done and checking out). It was time to bite the bullet, take a leap (whatever anecdote resonates, insert it here). It was time to explore, with greater conviction, my options and genuinely go into what’s next with a ridgy-didge plan.
Disclaimer: Okay, before we go any further… it is my civic duty to say: DO NOT quit your job until you have a plan. Be smart about how you do things, the realities of life won’t stop for the more difficult days to come, mortgages and bills will still need to be paid – sorry but it is true!
It is a funny thing; I’m from the generation raised in Australia during a time without any major conflicts, roaring global economies, witnessed first-hand the ascendance, growth and then boom of technology and grew up on the beautiful ideal that the world is your oyster. I might as well have been given a flyer on exit from the womb reading:
‘Welcome to Australia kid. Congratulations – your potential is endless and your opportunities are bound to be fruitful!’.
Now, whilst broadly-speaking I don’t disagree with this sentiment, it’s intrinsically a glass-full-to-the-brim and a dangerously double-edged sword. At its heart, a romanticized version of the reality of life to put inside young minds; without the context of how important the other ingredients for success are.
What a bloody set up!
What I do find though, is that this idea doesn’t nearly come close to capturing what it truly is to face the vastness of this oyster; with anything less than a kind of trepidation. Further to that, if you are taught and told that you can do literally anything – with success the byproduct… what do you choose, why do you choose and how do you even start to distill your options?
– Just to attempt to ease some of the baked-in privileges here: I am tremendously grateful to have been born where I was born. I grew up safe, with access to education, ample food on the table and above else a loving family; I grew up lucky.
From my experience working with clients and families planning their life goals, two of the most difficult concepts people often have trouble understanding are, the real cost of inaction and decision paralysis.
Decision paralysis is interesting and something I am reasonably attuned to, as somebody that has a healthy smattering of OCD and a seriously bad case of perfectionism. Looking back into the wake of my past hobbies would show a battleground of competing priorities and unfinished passion projects. Most never hit the unrealistic and frankly unfair standards I set out to achieve when I started them. Still, I suppose that fundamentally, decision paralysis is never more present in decision making, than when it matters most. It is uniquely what I think pushes most people to inaction. So, faced with a big decision and the understanding that here isn’t my endgame… where do I go from here?
Being honest, frequently I found myself overwhelmed, staring off into the ether, pondering ideas and then dismissing them as quickly as they filtered to the surface. If anything, this approach (all in my own head) merely fuelled my anxiety around getting it wrong and limited the scope of my search.
It took longer than it should have, but when you can’t see the forest for the trees, you really just need to bring in those who can.
“People don’t know what they don’t know.”
– my Dad, all the time.
It is time to be vulnerable and say, “I’m feeling lost, I could really use your advice right now”. Your friends, family and colleagues – potentially even past clients (good ones) – know you better than you think. Every one of them will have different ideas/versions of you inside their head, including what you are good at and what doesn’t feel like you.
While you are conducting this wildly vulnerable experiment, be sure to choose who you ask for advice wisely, take stock of how someone’s assessment makes you feel; is it exciting or energising? Reflect on feedback and insight with a genuine, open curiosity. Skillsets are valued at a personal level – mostly based on relativity and utility, so depending on who that person is and the type of role they hold; they will likely uncover interesting ways you would be useful to someone like them. Always remember, this conversation could be frightening; you are opening yourself up to opinions you might not love. At this stage though, that’s the point – you really should be uncomfortable, so allow for ideas that are outside your own box of possibility. You can probably dismiss anything that isn’t echoed by more than a single person…likely more of a reflection on them.
So, I can guarantee two things that come from this:
1) some suggestions won’t hit the mark – that’s actually okay though because the same gut feeling that got you here will steer you right
2) someone will articulate a skill, a trait or a specific role that resonates as something that is worth going onto your shortlist. Better yet they could be the one to throw you an opportunity RIGHT NOW, or later too of course.
It can be really hard to define how your kitbag of skills will translate across to different industries or roles, in some cases you won’t even know that a role even exists!
In my case, I spoke to a handful of people whose’ judgement, sincerity and weight of answer were trusted. Wouldn’t you know it, after a couple of conversations I was energised. My notepad had a handful of my skills, a bunch of potential roles and industries scrawled down, and those closest to me had helped to curate it.
How powerful to hear honest thoughts around where my people valued me most. These learnings tightened my understanding of the core values and skills I’d be perfectly capable of taking into any future career.
RUBBER MEETING THE ROAD
The journey above led me to multiple resolutions that placed me somewhere in the world of technology, and then ultimately in the development sphere. But the BIG problem was – I didn’t know how to code.
I was initially intrigued by Web Development and somewhat serendipitously, I was fed (by the algorithm that listens to all our conversations – unproven, but c’mon) an advertisement to an intensive bootcamp on full-stack web development, run in person, by my old uni.
I’d done my research. I’d had tough conversations. Time to consider logistics, and fit a career change into the machinations and grander plan that is life. As mentioned above, bills gotta get paid. At this point, it’s so easy to say “too hard” or “never going to pay off” – and that’s because to tell yourself anything different would be lying. Changing careers is hard, the pay off does take time and a bucket load of courage to follow through when the going gets tough. We did our numbers, outlined what it would take and planned for significant potholes and job scarcity on the other side of the course. I enrolled in the bootcamp.
A huge technical deficit to make up meant learning a lot of new concepts and hours of extra study to keep pace. Supplementing the drop in income and the odd hours I’d locked myself into for the course – I went back to hospitality. A familiar place of work for me, from a time when I’d studied in a previous life. I knew in the world of hospo, I could do pure labor work (god my brain relishes that downtime and task focused approach), work the busy shifts for better pay – which minimised the hours I had to work, so that I could still spend some time at home. My whole world shifted from your standard corporate daylight experience – to that of a full night owl. Working often very late nights at the pub, fitting in coding assessments and readings either side to make sure that I stayed on top of the course work and ready to take on the next topic at a lightning pace. I had Friday nights off and that was it.
It was hard, but it was what I had to do, to make it work. And in the end, so fucking worth it.
Hi, I’m Alex, a Web Developer.
It’s been a year since I quit my job in finance, re-skilled in a brand new field and then landed here, at Digital Noir.
What a frightening and wondrous experience it is, to do such a thing. The future looks exciting, challenging and fun! From not knowing what “Hello World” was – to building stunning websites and customer experiences, with an absolute crack team of operators, that are even better people.
Humour me this and I won’t do it for all of these, but here I simply must. A shoutout and thank you to my friends, family and most importantly wife – all of whom have helped to shape the next chapter in my world. I consider myself very lucky to still have you all around, given I have been M.I.A for the best part of a year!!
Cheers, and here’s to some beers!