My friend recently confided in me, “I hate my job.”
“Why don’t you try a new field?” I asked. She responded she was too far into her thirties to make a career pivot. This answer saddened me, because it was far from the truth.
No matter what your age is, it is possible to make a career transition that can lead to a happier and more fulfilled you. Throughout my twenties, I’ve switched jobs dozens of times, started multiple businesses, and pursued numerous passion projects. Along the way, I’ve failed, and failed hard.
Nevertheless, from these failures, I’ve been able to correct my career path and eventually land on the fulfilling work I do now. Now, heading into my thirties, I’m working as a business owner, a product designer, and a songwriter—pursuits I couldn’t have been further from over a decade ago.
If you’ve been feeling stuck at home during this time of shelter-in-place and lack of social connection, learning a new skill could be just what you need to get out of your rut. Here are four reasons you may be overwhelmed, as well as how to overcome them.
You’re scared of failure
You might be putting off trying a new skill because you are afraid of failure. You can find solace in recognizing that everyone is afraid. We may be afraid people will judge us. We may fear our work isn’t good enough. And we shrink away from the idea of falling on our faces.
To overcome this fear of failure, it’s important to first of all surround yourself with a caring network of nonjudgmental friends and supporters. Over the years, I’ve moved away from friendships that were based on criticizing my work and demeaning my efforts.
It was painful to let those relationships go, but I’ve found myself today with a supportive group who encourages me that I can do it, no matter the endeavor.
Another way to get over your fear of failure is to fail, and fail often. I’ve made so many mistakes and flops that at this point it doesn’t affect me much when I fail. Whether it’s a new product design no one likes, or a song that gets only a few streams.
I’ve learned to keep creating, since success truly is a numbers game. I like to call it the 99/100 rule: For every 100 ideas you have, 99 of them will most likely go nowhere. For every 100 emails you send, no one will answer you on most of them. That’s why it’s important to keep ideating daily on whatever your craft may be.
A friend and I once played a game where we raced to see who could get 20 rejection emails first. A helpful trick: Making rejection more fun can make the process of putting yourself out there easier.
You don’t know where to start
Last January, I had no idea how to make music but took to Google to learn how to do it. First, I start by opening a blank document and begin pouring my feelings onto the page. Then I rearrange what I’m feeling into song form.
Using talent on Fiverr, I then find musicians who can make my songs a reality. Since then, I’ve written over 50 songs. Now, a few of my songs are being considered for TV and movie placement—which is a testament to the fact that you can get started in a new field at any age. If you want to get started in a new field or learn a new hobby, start typing every single question you have into Google. You’ll fall down a rabbit hole of articles, videos, and podcasts that you can learn from.
A simple way to get started is to utilize your own social network. Create a post that reads “I’m looking to get into X. Does anyone have a friend or colleagues I could speak with?” For me, this tactic has resulted in success for any question I might be stuck on.
You’re in need of motivation
If this headline makes you feel uneasy, it may be true.
But don’t worry—a lack of motivation is something many people struggle with.
Over the years I’ve dabbled in an array of hobbies and passive income streams that never took flight. Last year, I bought a guitar and a keyboard and have only learned to play half of “Jingle Bells” (I’m open for holiday party gigs now!). I started to learn Greek and Turkish and then stopped at the drop of the hat. I can make excuses and say they weren’t my true passions, but it’s really because I didn’t commit to putting in the work. Recently a friend said, “Why don’t you learn to play your own songs on piano?” and it re-upped my motivation to give piano another attempt.
“Create motivation. Identify new skills that are adjacent to your current abilities,” says designer-turned-photographer Pamela Sisson. “Create a routine and focus on the process rather than the end result. As you move closer to the finish line, the exciting feeling of achievement will motivate you more and more.”
To get another boost of motivation on a lost start, find people who are excelling in the areas you want to pursue and find motivation in their work. Start watching YouTube tutorials or watch free Udemy courses to get you started.
For instance, if you want to be a painter, change your Instagram feed to only follow artists you admire. If your dream is to be an architect, turn your Netflix queue into architectural documentaries.
You’re needing to dive deeper
The way I always learn new skills is to jump in headfirst and learn as I go from experts. When I was learning about design, I filled my Instagram feed with dozens of designers I looked up to. I would read their tips and learn from their experiences to help me navigate a new field. When I was learning to make music, I filled my calendar with conferences and events to network and meet like-minded artists I could learn from.
This tactic can work for learning just about any skill. If you’re trying to learn a language, surround yourself with new friends who are fluent. If you’re trying to transition from a lawyer to a bakery owner, fill your video queue with baking tutorials and practice one per day. If you’re an aspiring songwriter like I was, fill your Spotify with bands you admire and learn about their process and lyrical styles.
“I have a YouTube channel, but COVID-19 caused depleted motivation,” explains Jennifer Matthews, content creator. “I took a 3-month hiatus from shooting and editing videos. I started passively looking on LinkedIn to find freelance jobs and see what was out there. I ended connecting with a VP of digital content about video producing and editing opportunities to keep my video production skills sharp.”
Matthews describes how this process led her to the birth of a new project. “What started as me doing a few video production jobs here and there, [led] to helping launch one of their weekly Facebook LIVE shows.”
Today is the perfect day to take the plunge headfirst into a new hobby or skill. You might find that these new pursuits can change the course of your life for the better.