Consider the trajectories of our careers. Most of us were committed to and already pretty good at whatever it is we do, by the time we were 20 years old or so. So much destiny determined so early on.
In the few short years between gaining consciousness and moving out of the house, you evaluated dozens or hundreds of possible interests and fine-tuned your natural skills, gravitating toward some career track that promised a rewarding and happy life. And you still had time left over to goof off with friends, watch TV, play video games, and sleep as much as humanly possible.
So what if you made the wrong choice? Most people I know are paralyzed by the thought of having to start over, but it doesn’t take that much work to learn a new trade. It’s the passion and determination that are impossible to fake.
Corey Peterson recently trusted his instincts and gave up a career as a software developer at Apple. Speaking of his years in college:
I quickly realized that EE was not my forte [...] but I stubbornly stayed with the engineering part of my degree. There was no HCI [Human-Computer Interaction] program at ISU back then, and if I had known those programs existed I would have done things differently.
OK, to be fair he’s only giving up one career at Apple for another, but he’s achieving his dream of being a human interface designer. It takes guts to pull everything off the table, jumble it around, and start building again from scratch. Kudos to Corey, and good luck!
What amazes and appalls me is the extreme resistance most people have to rocking the boat of their career. I recently spoke with a guy in his mid-20′s who insisted he would stick with Perl programming even though he’s become passionate about Cocoa and the Mac. The reason? He’s a relatively big fish in the Perl pond, and doesn’t want to give up on that comfortable dominion. Sucks to be you, dude. And it will suck even more as each decade passes.
The good news is, unless you’ve lived an utterly single-tracked life, you’ve already got a head start in your new career. Whatever you’ve been quietly interested in for the past 5, 10, 20, 40? years, but haven’t been getting paid for, could be your next big move. You’re pretty darned good as far as a hobby is concerned, and it won’t take much work to fine-tune those skills into something marketable. Take a class. Adopt a practice regimen. You might even get away with honing your skills while goofing off with friends, watching TV, playing video games, and sleeping as much as humanly possible. It’s never too late to start over.