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Career Change


TRIBE Member
I'm 31 and currently have a good paying job that's allowed me to travel to some places I've always wanted to go to. The problem is that this job is not my passion. It's something I fell into through my family and worked my way up in over the past 8 years because I am good at it. I don't want to be doing this till the day I retire from the work force. I am hesitant at being promoted and taking on more responsibility, even though it is there for the taking, because I know this is ultimately not for me.

I know the industry I want to be in and it's completely different. It is one that I know I am passionate about and would not consider work. The one issue is I would need to go back to school for a year or two and get some more education. That, and I would most likely need to work for free or intern to get into any decent company, and most salaries are not the best. I'm not against this at all but it would be quite the lifestyle change because of the massive drop in income.

Have any of you done a complete career change and had success (or not) with your decision to move into something you truly want to be doing?
Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room

Klubmasta Will

TRIBE Member
i've never done a career change, but it sounds like you know what you want and need to do. you will spend more time at your daily job than you will doing just about anything else, so having a job that you love is the greatest gift in life.

you're young and if you can afford to take a year or two off work now, perhaps by leaning on family and perhaps before you have dependants, this is the time to make the change.

i'm sure the experience and work ethic you gained in the last 8 years will help you succeed on your new path, so you needn't think of it as time wasted.

could you let us know what your current job is and what you want it to be?


TRIBE Member
I don't want to be doing this

I know this is ultimately not for me.

I think you've already made your mind, and are looking for validation.

Well, here is my vote. Yes, quit, or financially, find a way to quit and go back to school. You are only 31! (a prime number) that's very young, despite what your peers or your upbringing might have you believe. Move, change, do it! You're capable and smart and you obviously want it. Do it now while you have time. Explore, enjoy, acquire and consume.



TRIBE Member
It's a rough transition but worth it. You tend to take a pay hit following your passion.

Waking up on work days with a smile on your face is worth curbing your spending habits for a bit
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TRIBE Member
I have been through the same sort of existential crisis at 26, 29 and (to a much lesser extent) last year at 33. Each and every time i ended up back in the same career i started with. And this time, finally, i am quite okay with that.

Here's my yarn. I'm a software developer, have been since i was 20. Before that i did a year of IT support (the standard entry-level job for software developers in the 90s). Before that i was doing a bachelor of arts, major in philosophy, minor in music. I was completely into the rave scene, i was writing music, hanging out with all the local DJs, looking for part-time work at a recording studio or in "multimedia" (remember that?). After a couple years of being a broke-ass student with big dreams, i ended up in an office job because, well, there are a shit-ton more of them than there are part-time "creative" jobs, and they pay a shit-ton better.

Fast-forward 6 years, and i'm a pretty accomplished software developer with a bachelor of applied science (i switched degrees and completed it part-time while i worked in the industry). But although i was earning good money and i was successful at what i did, i could never shake the feeling that somehow i'd missed out on the chance of getting into a more "creative" career. I was still so passionate about music, about art, about writing... And oddly also about cooking. Since my high-school job was dish-pig at a haute cuisine restaurant i figured i could massage my resume a bit so i didn't look too white collar and try to land a chef apprenticeship. I spent months looking, trying to convince a bunch of skeptical chefs that i didn't care about the shitty pay or shitty hours, i just wanted to follow my passion. None of them bought it. Because they could hire a teenager for less money and get just as much "passion". I did some trial shifts as a dish-pig in a casino kitchen, and after a while i even got a call for a breakfast gig at a new joint opening up on the waterfront, but unfortunately by that point i had been broke for months and had accepted another full-time software development position just to survive. My sense of ethics didn't let me quit immediately after being hired, so my chef career disappeared like so much molecular gastronomy vapor.

And after a few more years i was like "fuck this shit". I was working long hours, coming home completely exhausted, insanely frustrated with the process, just totally spent. I had just moved to Canada with enough savings to last me a year, so i went to George Brown and took a few apprentice-level cooking classes. I started making music again. I considered taking my writing more seriously and jumped into the freelance writer pool, for all of 10 minutes, because after paddling around i realized that being a writer in the era of SEO and sponsored content was at least as soul-destroying as any office job i'd had before. So i started doing some coaching on the side. I looked at doing a post-graduate degree in a different field, and balked at the insane cost and ridiculously high barrier for entry when you do a post-grad degree outside your under-grad specialization. And eventually i was broke again, and i realized the only way i could afford to keep going to cooking classes and writing music and doing whatever else was get back behind the computer. But this time i had a cunning plan - i thought i'd escape my usual frustrations by going freelance instead of full-time.

Freelance software development sucked. All the free time and ability to choose my own destiny that i had imagined shattered against the reality that if you actually want to make a decent income as a freelancer you have to relentlessly market yourself and always be "on" for your clients. For me that turned out to be even more stressful than full-time work, and i was earning less money to boot. Plus i didn't have any after-work drinking buddies to drown my sorrows with. So, fuck it, i went back to the grind.

Cut to my breakdown of last year. I was completely sick of my job, burnt-out and destroyed. But i had money in the bank, so i fucked off on an aimless junket around North America and Europe. All of four months later i was working again. In software development, again. But after all these "career breaks" i've taken, and after talking to lots of people in lots of different careers, i've learned that no one has that fantasy job where they get to be passionate and creative and excited every single moment of the day. Yeah, i know, you'll get 20 people replying to this saying "no, really, i LOVE my job", but they don't really. Not in the way that you or i are imagining it when we are sick of our job and look to another industry or career path to reignite our passion. Which isn't to say that you can't or shouldn't change careers - lots of people do and they much happier for it. But their newly-discovered passion comes from inside them, not from whatever it is they are being paid to do each day. Because when they are at work, they are still AT WORK.

My greatest passion is electronic music. I also like TV shows and writing and talking to strangers and eating delicious food and driving through the desert alone. But if i was a working DJ, i would have to travel so much i'd never get to really enjoy a place. If i was a working musician i'd have to do remixes of shitty tracks just to pay the rent. If i was a writer i'd have to constantly consider someone else's editorial policy. If i was in television i would be dealing with some self-important actor having a melt-down. Whatever. Not to say any of those career paths is bad - obviously plenty of people are quite satisfied doing them, just like they are doing any of a million other things. But the point is there will never be a job that is totally free of responsibility or that lets you follow your every whim and passion. Because a job implicitly means being contractually obliged to do a particular thing, and that will always comes with compromises and frustrations. Work is work, for everyone.

So, i turned the tables on the whole thing and decided that the job that would make me happiest was one that would allow me to really feed my passions. Now i am living in the world capital of electronic music, i get 5 weeks of vacation a year to travel the world, on the weekends i can get drunk and write ridiculously long posts on message boards, sometimes i just lie in bed eating take-out and marathoning 3 seasons of a great show. All of those things that i most assuredly could not do if i had no job, or if i had some poorly-paid entry-level job in a hypothetical "dream" industry. Do not undervalue the quality of life that comes with a stable income. If you are on the hunt for "more passion" in your daily life, consider this. Yes, 40 hours a week you have to work. And obviously you should do whatever you can to make those 40 hours suck as little as possible. But don't forget about the other 72 hours in the week that you are not working, when you have no limit AT ALL on following your passion. What i've realized for me is that i'd rather be doing a job that pays well, that i am very good at, and - yes - that frustrates the hell out of me and really isn't my "passion", so that i can spend the much greater portion of my life enjoying my true passions to the fullest extent. Perhaps for you a change of career would make those 40 hours suck less - perhaps they would for a lot of people - but know that they will never be completely free of suck. You may be better off investing in the time that truly is your own to do with what you will.

And take a career break. If you're well-paid, you can afford it. Imo way more rewarding than grinding away broke and miserable at university or an entry-level position with some fantasy of how great life might possibly be at the end of it. Enjoy it now.
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TRIBE Member
I found my calling early on. Worked shitty support(which wasn't a good intro to the career) for a while and honed my skills. Now I'm paid well, and love what I do.

It's not work. People pay me to tinker and problem-solve(which is REALLY something I enjoy). It's a helluva sweet deal. I also get to be around people who like it, too...and work in a team (which I'm now finding I like more than I thought I would.)

Long story short: do work that you enjoy. You will spend most of your living/waking time doing it, so why would you settle for something than you don't really dig?


TRIBE Member
Steve, you're at the perfect age. Do it and don't look back.

You've built yourself a solid career that will open doors for you regardless of what new career you choose. Employers are impressed with people who have a good career but have decided to follow their dreams. It shows courage and determination.

The lifestyle change will only be temporary I'm sure.

Metal Morphosis

TRIBE Member
loved your post alison87.

i'm turning 40 this year ... whaaaa!!!
and am currently facing the challenge of getting back into the work force after being out for 5+ years to have a couple of kidlets. i didn't really have a 'career' before and my work history is a bit of a mishmash, so yeah, i'm stressing. I really feel that i missed my calling back in university (should have become a nurse) so am currently exploring going back to school, and some days i think - yeah, i can do school - no problem! and others i think - holy fuck, i'd have to re-learn the periodic table (with 2 young kids running around no less) and that freaks me the fuck out.


TRIBE Member
I read way more than I post on Tribe, but really had to chime in here, because I really think you should go for it. I've taken several leaps of faith in my 'career':

Engineer -> Lawyer at bay street firm -> quit that to join a friend's law firm starting out with zero clients -> now have a roster of really cool start-ups and also a co-founder of 2 start-ups myself. I travel all the time, and work from wherever I am. Ever since the last leap, I've felt I've been on 'vacation', even though I've been working long hours.

When in doubt, remember to take the path that you think will lead to the least amount of regret.
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Boss Hog

TRIBE Member
Do it. Many people go on to have 2 or 3 different careers in their lives. I'm already on my second one.

It's better to take the leap than to always wish you had.


TRIBE Member
Thanks for all the comments guys! Very encouraging.

I am going to ride out this last year of my current foreign assignment and then take the big leap right after it's over. I'm already excited about the future.


TRIBE Promoter
Althought i've worked for multiple companies, i consider my office worker/account manager/IT service desk jobs one carreer.

Food, is my passion however. So, i started to do what I'm passionate about on the side. Unfortunately, I lack the funds to push my own catering business to where I want it to be - so I'm currently working weekends as a cook.

Even though i'm working 7 days a week, doing what I love on weekends, and getting paid for it makes it so much easier.


TRIBE Member
Good luck dude, I hope it works out for you!

I attempted a similar thing a few years back and learned two very valuable lessons.

1. It may not be your career your sick of, just the current employer. I thought I was done with my industry but took off two months and realized I enjoyed the career, I just had enough with that employer (5-ish years) and went back to the job but for a different organization.

2.Save up money. Or be comfortable going into debt. There's a good quote from Becoming Jane "Nothing destroys the spirit like poverty". You don't have to be rolling in cash, but part time work will take more than your current job. I attempted it and just couldn't hack working weekend and evening at my age.

I've managed to find a balance working full time and doing my personal time outside of work but I would love to fully dedicate to the switch, but unfortunately point #2 keeps getting in the way.

Live the dream!

stew :)


TRIBE Member
Great thread topic, and I wish you the best of luck Steve, I'm sure you'll succeed and kill it in your career path of choice!

I've often thought about the exact same thing ... and am always comparing the benefits of more school to help propel me further in my industry, or to even change industries altogether.
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TRIBE Member
Have any of you done a complete career change and had success (or not) with your decision to move into something you truly want to be doing?

I did a complete career change at 30. I originally studied Adult Education at Ryerson and then worked in corporate Training & Development in the energy sector. I was making great money, getting great appraisals and was steadily moving up the ladder. It was a salaried job, working about 50hrs week. I did really like the people I was working with and I enjoyed instructional design/facilitation a lot. However, after a while I started not feeling challenged by it and wanting to be outdoors instead of inside a classroom or at a cubicle. It wasn't my passion and I had a decent amount saved in the bank, so it was not too difficult to let it go and try something new. The things I was really wanting to do was work in greenhouses growing plants, working outside while playing in the dirt and ride motorcycles.

I resigned from my corporate job and immediately went back to school for horticulture and got my motorcycle license. I've been working in the landscape field for years now and thoroughly enjoy my work. I started out working for a company doing high-end design/build/maintenance in Rosedale and Forest Hill. That was a good starting point to learn about a lot of different aspects of the industry. Since then I've volunteered a bunch, studied a lot and worked a lot more. Now I teach horticulture at Humber College in the winters, work at the greenhouses/native plant nursery in High Park in the spring and then work as a gardener for the city in the summer/fall while also teaching motorcycle safety in the summer/fall as well. It is exactly where I want to be at this point in my life. I like being able to sweat from the moment I start work to the moment I get home (unfortunately this sometimes happens in the classroom too:(. I like coming home physically tired and knowing I actually accomplished something tangible. I like being out in the sun and breathing fresh air.

I get 8 weeks off each year, which is when I travel. I also have the ability to work less now than I did before (if I choose), which comes in handy for being able to spend time my lady. I certainly make less money now than if I had stayed in my previous career, but now I'm very happy and before I wasn't. Changing careers is one of the best things I could have ever done for myself.

Enjoy the big leap!
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TRIBE Member
Just do it, the worse that could happen is you fuck up your life. You could also be fucking up your life right now by doing nothing. Decisions!


TRIBE Member
I was working in corporate sales for a while and 2 years ago, after an enlightening globe trotting experience, I dropped everything and went back to school to start fresh (I'm 29 now, 30 in a few days).

I got into Computer Science and turns out I'm pretty good at it. My grades so far have been very good that I'm even thinking of law school when I wrap up this degree.

Although I'm still a student with a long road ahead, for the first time in my life, I feel as if I'm in control of my destiny and genuinely excited about the future. At this age, I feel more capable of doing things right and achieving what I want to achieve than I did in my younger, less mature years.

The biggest killer in past work for me was the very slow rate of change and slow life progression. You almost have nothing to look forward to and your dreams start to get crushed. As cliché as this sounds, giving yourself something to hope for and doing everything in your power to make it happen is really good for the soul.

It's still too soon to tell you how my life change is going to play out, but the journey so far has been great. You may enjoy the ride too.
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TRIBE Member
Interesting stuff y'all. I've had a weird go on the job front. I studied graphic design and learned really fast that being creative on someone else's payroll can suck HUGE.

I'd worked on contract for the government and went back because the cash was great. Eventually I got a permanent position but I was also promoting (for Footwork) on the weekends because there had to be something more than a cubicle. I love(d) house music and I wanted to find a way to make a career out of it.

Years went by and I was doing both and then a friend died and my soul exploded and I couldn't stare at a cubicle anymore. I took a leave of absence and came back with a completely different outlook. I got different opportunities within my Ministry and found myself being more appreciated and more in my element. Finally I got a temporary position as an Executive Assistant to an ADM and I was totally in my element. Quick turn-around times, working for and with great people, solving problems, etc.

Now I'm in a different city about to finish my maternity leave, so I have options. Where to go? What to do? My heart craves something more creative, but I would also love a job where I get to learn something totally new (I guess any new job offers that opportunity). I've always been a "destiny" type person. Green lights and such. Basically, whatever job I get is the job I will be meant to get.

I've been wondering whether I should take a Life Coach class though. It's something I would be good at, something I could do "on the side"... but I wonder, with 2 kids, whether I really have time for anything "on the side". The course itself would be useful for any job though, really. Coaching is a good skill to have as a manager. If I were to stay within the OPS, I could get them to pay for a coaching class probably.

Good luck smack!! Keep us apraised of the situation! xo


TRIBE Member
I'm currently in the midst of an attempt at a career change. It's sort of soul crushing to think of starting at the bottom all over again (although after last year I'm kind of there anyway), but the thought of working in this industry for the rest of my life fills me with dread. I'm doing school part time because the idea of taking out a student loan makes me want to poke out my eyeballs. Been there, done that. It sucks working full time and going to school and it's terrifying to think this won't lead anywhere. It's tough out there to even find a job within your field so meh, who knows.

But it's nice to hear of other people succeeding!


TRIBE Member
Just do it, the worse that could happen is you fuck up your life. You could also be fucking up your life right now by doing nothing. Decisions!

This is hilarious but also true.

I've always been a "destiny" type person. Green lights and such. Basically, whatever job I get is the job I will be meant to get.

And this nails it.

More stories...

My mom recently took a career break in her late 50s. If we all thought we were sick of our careers at 30something, imagine what it feels like to be fighting the same battles for almost 30 years. Eventually she was like "fuck this shit" and gave up her 6-figure salary to spend almost a year volunteering in conservation, learning carpentry, how to cook etc. She swore she'd never go back to the industry she hated so much. Last month she got a new job in that industry again. But her outlook is different now, and she had the wisdom and perspective to understand exactly what was important to her, so she made her choice very carefully and so far she isn't hating it.

People say you take after your parents. My mom's journey is sort of the epic stay-at-home version of my last 6 months. Before starting here i turned down 2 other offers, as the break had made me understand exactly the sort of things i needed to look for to avoid the poison that was my last job. I second the people here who said maybe you are just in the wrong company, or the wrong specialization.

My dad did one real career change - out of the military. He went back to university and then got into management. After a few years he burnt out and he spent several years trying to find something "right" for him. Eventually he ended up back in management. Part of the reason he left the military was it didn't jibe with his politics, and now he is working in the energy industry in one of those embedded environmentalist positions. Of course he is constantly frustrated at how little the company cares about his programs, but the important thing is HE cares - he actually gets paid to be a greenie.

So basically, whatever you do, there you are. Spending ages agonizing over a decision is a recipe for discontent. So just do it. And if it's not what you hoped, do something else. Or don't do it. Either way, take a side and own it. Even if it's at a job that bores you or for an industry you disagree with. Because if you don't throw your heart into life, you're not giving it the chance to reward you back. Make the most out of wherever you are, so you won't have to look back and realize you spent half your life worrying about where to go next instead of just going there.


TRIBE Member
At 26, I gave up a promising career & great pay with a fantastic future because I wasn't happy. I wanted more for myself. I didn't know what that may have been but I knew I wanted a change.

It was the best thing I ever did and so worth taking the chance.

You have to remember that every move you make has a ripple effect. A choice you make today can open a door down the road. I'm still (positively) feeling the effects of that decision I made - 15 years later.

Because I took a chance, I ended up travelling the world world for 10 years, met my wife & ended up (now) in a job I like a lot which pays me well.

You know deep down what you want to do, you can't lie to yourself. It's all about "quality of life". You can't take anything with you when you're gone. Make every day count.
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TRIBE Member
Steve, go become a superstar Dj. I know you'd be good at it. Luke is quazi retiring so there's an opening
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