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Changing Career - From Pointless to Passionate

Are you happy in your work? Ever felt like you've ended up in the wrong career and wondered how on earth you get out of the current work situ into something you actually like? This article tells the story of changing career in your late 30's to following a passion and making that a career. With responsibilities and considerations about being judged, oh and of course the fear, it wasn't a move that was made lightly. But the change in balance, happiness and enthusiasm for work has made it all worthwhile. Thank you for sharing your story Prin!

When you were younger did you have an idea of what you wanted to do?

In short, no. When I was younger I didn’t even know that graphic design was a thing but as a kid/teenager I was unknowingly preparing my skills as a designer. I always loved sport and drawing and would try to combine the two wherever I could. That resulted in me designing imaginary sports teams, designing their kits, their badges and coming up with clear identities for these imaginary clubs. By the time I was 15 or 16, it seemed like I had a library of sketchbooks with designs and ideas for hundreds of real and imaginary sports teams. At the time it was a hobby and I never really knew that I could possibly make a living by being creative in a sports environment.

Did this interest/passion direct you to a particular route of study and employment?

I didn't really have any idea what I wanted to do on finishing school.  With hindsight if I had more formal art lessons I might have gone down the road of art and design in third level study but unfortunately it wasn’t a subject my school taught. I started a computer degree but dropped out in the first year when I realised it wasn’t for me and I then went on and did a degree in radio production.  I was really lucky to get a job in radio production (that I loved) straight out of college but gave that up to go travelling and then ended up down a different path when I got back.

When did your feelings towards your work start to become more negative?

I had been very lucky to work in the sports industry, within various admin roles, for over a decade. Its something I’ve always had a passion for and found working in sport to be really rewarding. I really loved the build-up to big sporting events and working with people who were just as passionate about it as I am.  I suppose the part of these jobs I liked least was dealing with dissatisfied or angry fans and members of the public and the level of bullsh*t that often goes with that. When the Rugby World Cup was finished I found a job that matched the more customer service type experience I had built up working in different sporting organisations over the years.  Crucially though it wasn’t in sport and I had very little interest in the type of work I was doing. I felt like I was just pushing a pen or typing pointless emails all day and achieving nothing.

How did this period affect your behaviour and your emotional state?

It knocked my confidence completely.  I felt useless at work and this translated to me generally feeling useless at anything. I couldn’t see a way out of it and often felt quite depressed that this was all there was to life.  Weekends were ruined by the thoughts of having to do it all again from Monday. I was constantly stressed out and beating myself up because I felt I was contributing so little at work.

What encouraged you to make a change?

My wife was really concerned about my health and tried hard to get me to rethink my career but I felt stuck. Any job search I did left me feeling more demoralised as the jobs I felt matched my experience filled me with dread as being just more of the same.  When we moved to London 8 years prior she had sent off for a brochure for Shillington (design college) for me, knowing that graphic design was something I really enjoyed. At the time the cost made it prohibitively expensive but it was always on the back of our minds. I came home from work after a particularly bad day, she threw the old brochure on the table and made me sign up for the Shillington open day there and then. We looked at job adverts for junior graphic designers and compared them with the type of admin jobs matching my current experience. Looking at specific job specs like this made it really clear what I would rather be doing.

How did you feel once a decision was made - did you have any concerns or fears?

I was really worried about how we would manage to support ourselves without me working and what if it didn’t work out after the course and I wouldn’t get a job.  I was also afraid that I wasn’t good enough and I was throwing everything away. As scared as I was about everything, the alternative of feeling stuck where I was, was so much worse so I knew I had to give it a go.

How has it been since you changed your career direction?

It was 100% the right decision.  I was incredibly lucky to get a job combining both my passion for sport and graphic design with a brilliant design team in a sports environment and not too long after finishing the course.  I couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome. I love going to work, something I never thought I would say!

Do you feel different?

I am generally a much happier and more relaxed person. That said I do still have moments of self-doubt and imposter syndrome but I try and remind myself of how much has changed in only a year.

With the benefit of hindsight, do you have any regrets, learnings or advice?

My only regret is not doing it sooner.  I’ve learned a lot about myself and life in that you can do anything whatever stage you are at, 16 or 60, you should never feel stuck in a rut because of past choices.  If what you are doing is bringing more negativity than positivity into your life then something needs to change.

You can find out more about Prin’s design work and contact him here: www.pringallagher.com

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