I recently switched my career from industrial design to graphic design + hand lettering. The switch happened quite gradually and without panic, unlike most people think. If you’re also considering to change your career path, consider these five easy steps to make it happen without overwhelming fear:
1. What’s Your Passion?
If you already know your passion — great, move on to step 2! But if you’re unsure or only have a vague idea, try to discover your passion. Look both inside and outside. Think about the topics you always gravitate towards or activities you always enjoy doing. Immerse yourself in the industry that interests you. Try reading books, listening to podcasts, and attending lectures / talks / workshops. I had always loved letters but I discovered my passion for hand lettering only after I attended a type design workshop. At the time, I was already working as an industrial designer.
2. Find Role Models
Research and find role models in your industry because having examples is helpful in so many ways. All trailblazers have stories that are insightful and inspiring. They’ve already gone through what you’re currently going through and their experiences will give you valuable lessons and tips in which you can apply to your situation. Moreover, if your passion belongs to a less popular industry, having that successful representation can give you so much confidence and motivation.
3. Find Your Tribe
In most cases, the best teachers are those who are slightly ahead or in the same boat as you. Do a little research and join your community. Nowadays, most communities have an e-gathering place. If possible, attend events where you can meet people like you. I’ve recently attended the Letter West Conference where I met hand letterers of all skill levels and from so many places. To my surprise, so many good people were willing to share their knowledge and know-hows! Seek advice and feedback from your tribe. Reaching out for help can seem daunting at first but you really have nothing to lose. The worst that can happen is no response. Engage in your community — it is your ultimate resource!
4. Side Hustle It First
Before you commit to anything — because commitments are scary, — it’s smart to test the waters. While you have the safety net of your current day job, try side hustling first. Passion projects are an efficient way to see if your passion can attract the market and be sustainable. Through passion projects, you will be able to engage with your audience and learn more about your market. Side projects can also help filter and/or tunnel down your passion.
5. Make The Realistic Switch!
Once you’ve completed steps one through four, you’re ready to take the last step — make the realistic switch! I want to emphasize on “realistic” because sometimes, drastic career switches just don’t happen. Plus, all life choices come with consequences so we should be responsibly brave. (What good would it be to all of a sudden quit a job without any plans?) Therefore, make the necessary yet realistic adjustments. If you’re currently full-time, perhaps change to part-time so you can focus more your side hustle. To give you an example, my path looked like: full-time industrial designer —> freelance production artist —> graphic designer + boutique store manager —> design director + lettering artist.