Changing careers can be daunting. The process forces you to ask tough “what if” questions, questions you likely don’t have the answers for. What if giving up a career I’ve worked hard at for so many years is the wrong choice? What if I don’t end up liking my new “dream job”?
"Starting over is scary, but it only gets scarier the older you get,” said Valerie Jauma, who was an advertising account executive before deciding to pursue her passion in design. “Don't wait until 'someday' to make the leap that you know in your heart is right for you."
This internal battle is something we all face when transitioning career paths. Valerie surmounted this fear by focusing on investing in herself. Whether it’s about building skills and a portfolio or building confidence, she found solace in sharpening her designer chops once again.
In 2015, after eight years in client services, Valerie realized she’d had enough. “I spent many years in a career that had nothing to do with art or design, always with the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that a change needed to be made,” she described. “Upon turning thirty, I realized that I needed to commit to a plan that would move me away from my current career and into a full-time creative role.” So, she quit her job and sought out artistic inspiration.
Inspiration doesn’t always come easy, but for Valerie it did.
She’d spent “years” studying other illustrators’ blogs and social media channels, and her enthusiasm propelled her to collect more and more information on her new craft. “Because I was so passionate about making the move to start a new career, the motivation just showed up!” she said.
As she researched, Valerie learned that she needed to develop her own unique style. She also needed to learn how to use design software, like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, that hadn’t been around last time she’d taken an art class.
Valerie had studied art direction in college, after all. However, her years spent pursuing her past career meant that her technical illustration skills were a little rusty. And with all the technological advancements since she’d last operated in the art world, so were her digital creative skills.
At this moment Valerie began exploring classes online to build strengths out of her weaknesses if she wanted to become a pro designer. She took classes taught by Skillshare favorites Elizabeth Olwen and Bonnie Christine, who got her up to speed in both technical skill and technological design tools. Valerie quickly found that learning a new skill in her free time was not only possible, but also enjoyable. Her enthusiasm for the subject gave her much greater satisfaction than her previous career.
"Maybe it was just the fact that studying design and putting together my own portfolio was so fun that it didn't feel like work! Whatever the case, I knew I was on the right path when I started to feel excited to wake up in the morning and dive right back into whatever I had been studying or working on the day before."
Valerie was working on establishing her unique style as a designer. Watching other creatives like Olwen and Christine energized her to find her own niche. “After much practice, thought, and development, I found my personal style to be romantic, loose, and playful, filled with motifs inspired by architecture, art, and the city streets of Europe,” she said. The joy she felt developing her style meant one thing to Valerie. Quitting her job had been the right choice. She’d assuredly found the work she loved.
After six months of working on her digital design portfolio, Valerie was ready to share it with the world. She applied for and accepted a full-time job with a national party supply company designing invitations, notecards, and tableware. Finally, after leaving a career that “looked successful on paper,” but “left me feeling unhappy,” Valerie had found a job that she said “challenges and excites me every single day."
Yes, Valerie took a risk by leaving a sure-thing career to pursue the uncharted territory of her passion, which she may not have been able to turn into a livelihood. But she bravely strode through all of the “what if” questions in her path with a sense of certainty and a plan that brought her to her preferred profession.
“I'm a true believer in ‘game plans,’” she said. As for her biggest piece of advice? “Map out the future that you envision for yourself, then set out to conquer each task that is required to make that future a reality.”