Hello. Have we been introduced? I'm Taaryn. I'm 26 and this time last year I made the decision to leave my job in digital marketing and client services for the design industry. It hasn't been an easy ride, so I wanted to share with you my experience and advice for changing careers.
1. Work out why you want to leave your job
A change of career is a big thing so it’s pretty important to nail down why you want to leave. If you hate your boss or don’t get along with your colleagues, maybe try looking for a new role in the same area. If you don’t like your hours, see if your work can be flexible. If processes at work are really long and drawn out, talk to senior colleagues on how you can improve these.
I had been wanting to retrain for a while. I had planned to go college part time but I was promoted at work to a role where there was no leeway for part time hours. I was greedy, I took the pay rise! I later left for a trainee PPC role and to be honest, I just wasn't very good at it. And that was it. My boss was great, my colleagues were ace and the work environment was fun. But the work just wasn't very fulfilling and I had a hard time trying to get my head round the numbers.
Of course, you need to research your chosen new career meticulously and figure out if it’s right for you. Get out there and speak to people you might know who already work in the industry. Read relevant magazines and blogs. Get on Google and absorb EVERYTHING. You need to know about typical hours, salaries, career progression, roles within the industry and what you’d be doing on a day to day basis.
I have a friend from university who was my go to guy for anything design related. I would ask stupid questions and send him my crappy first designs (I recently had a look at the stuff I was doing over a year ago. I wept). Very graciously, he did not laugh directly in my face but offered very helpful constructive criticism. On a side note, it’s so important to be able to deal with criticism, especially if you’re just starting out. It’ll help you develop and steer you in the right direction.
A friend’s boyfriend was also invaluable. I asked him questions about the industry and he also provided me with so many tutorial sites and lent me books on the basic principles of graphic design which were a great head start.
3. Get a qualification
Ok, so you’ve established you definitely want to make the move. I think in most cases, you might need a qualification. Get in touch with your local college or university to find out about part time and evening courses. Also, keep an eye out for opening evenings.
If I had the money, I would have definitely gone back to university or enrolled with Shillington. I could no longer afford to work part time/study part time. And then I came across apprenticeships which offered me the chance to work and get paid to get a qualification. The pros and cons of going down the apprenticeship route is probably a blog post for another time. It’s been tough but I've now nearly finished my design qualification and have a year’s relevant experience on my CV. One thing to note is that with apprenticeships, the older you are, the harder it is to find a placement due to funding.
4. The money will be terrible
Unless you’re a trainee solicitor working for a top dawg firm, more often than not, the starting salary may be a shock to the system. So you need to figure out if you can live on it and how you can make cut backs if you need to.
As mentioned above, I went down the apprenticeship route to get a qualification. This pays a paltry £3.30 an hour. As I'm over 19 and have been doing this for a year, by law I'm now entitled to minimum wage (wowee…). Thankfully, it’s just me and my partner. We have no kids to support and probably never will, so we can make do on a low income. However, I have had to make severe cutbacks. I pretty much don’t go out anymore (I think that’s more to do with getting old and moving in with my partner rather than zero money) and a trip to the cinema is now considered a luxury. I can’t actually remember the last time I was able to buy some new clothes. Plus I have a mega overdraft from when I dropped out of university that still has some way to go before being paid off. This isn't a sob story, this is to hopefully give you an idea that your current lifestyle probably isn't maintainable on a junior salary.
5. Be prepared for the bottom rung of the ladder
Admittedly, this is something I didn't even consider and ended up getting really down about. In previous jobs, I've been really lucky that I've been able to progress pretty quickly. I was used to being in control of my own workload and working autonomously on my client accounts. If I had an opinion, I could say it to my boss or client and it would be taken on board. It wouldn't matter which way I decided to do something, as long as it got done. I admit, sometimes I can have control freak tendencies and need to have involvement with the whole project rather than a small part of it. So coming into a junior role, I was not prepared for all responsibilities and control to be taken away from me. And I HATED it. I would sulk in the toilets. I would go home utterly frustrated that I wasn't progressing. My partner would keep reminding me “You've only been doing this for X months, be patient and keep doing what you’re doing”. So yeah, be patient and understand that you will be doing the tasks no one else wants to do. Thankfully, I don’t have to make anyone tea.
6. Your colleagues will be younger and better than you
This one hurts. As I am an apprentice and work with other apprentices, my colleagues are on average 8 years younger than me. I literally had no clue how to use Photoshop when I first started, I had spent 6 months teaching myself Illustrator so I wasn't prepared for the fact that everything here is done on Photoshop. My colleagues were whizzkids in comparison and had years to get even better. Whereas I felt like I had to make up for lost time and ended up putting a lot of negativity on myself.
On the flipside, I work and study with some incredibly talented people. People who have different skills and who are inspired by different influences. So yeah, you might have years on your younger colleagues but there's plenty to learn from them.
7. Never ever stop learning
This one is so incredibly important as a designer. Just because you got your qualification and first job does not mean you can sit back and be lazy. Do a tutorial, learn a new skill, be inspired by other people's work, get on Brief Box! There's always something to be learning, don't get stale!