Switching creative careers

Written by
Clara Finnigan
Commissioned by
If You Could Jobs

In this week's focus we ask creative professionals to dive into a different theme about the working world, with the aim of starting conversations and getting you thinking about your approach to the creative working world.

This week, we're talking about switching up your creative career. Maybe you're thinking about going freelance, starting your own business or changing field entirely, we've got some helpful advice from people who've done exactly this. We spoke to Helen Tupper from the Squiggly Careers podcast, Studio BND founder, Ben Mottershead and founder of Studio Tuku, Sophie Amono about their experiences of switching direction in their career and what they learnt. 

Helen Tupper, Founder of the career progression development company, Amazing If and the no.1 careers podcast, the Squiggly Careers podcast.

In 2013, I started a side-project with one of my best friends. Our aim was more about making a difference to people and their careers, rather than a desire to leave our day jobs which were in Marketing and CSR. We said to ourselves, wouldn't it be amazing if we could help people to have happier careers and from that 'Amazing If' was launched. Over the next 5 years, our side project grew and grew. We started to use our holiday to work on our business and in 2018 the opportunity for it to actually be a full-time role became a reality. But this was a big switch. It would mean moving from employed to self-employed, from a stable career to a riskier 'start-up', from marketing to managing a business.

A switch meant that my working identity, network and career credibility would effectively start from scratch. But then, that career fear was replaced by facts. My identity wasn't wrapped up in the companies I worked for, it was about me and my impact and I could take that with me wherever I went. My network didn't need to dramatically change, I just needed to get clearer about the help I needed and more confident in asking people for support. And my career credibility, well a switch didn't mean that I lost that at all. I just took it with me and built on it. My switch has been an amazing opportunity for me to grow my impact and move forward on our mission to make careers better for everyone. But not every switch will be successful and that's fine too, because careers are squiggly and we're all learning as we grow.

My top tips for career switching:

  • Work out the why behind your work - what motivates and drives you? Use that as the compass for your career.
  • Focus on your talents over your titles - your strengths will allow you to develop in different directions. Using jobs titles as a filter for your future will limit the opportunities you explore
  • Think direction not destination - don't fix your future to a rigid career plan. Get curious about your career, explore your possibilities and nurture your network.
Work out the why behind your work - what motivates and drives you? Use that as the compass for your career.
Helen Tupper

Ben Mottershead, Founder of creative agency Studio BND

I've switched up my career so many times since entering the industry. Having ADHD, being made redundant three times and quitting a role due to burn-out and declining mental health, I'm definitely no stranger to job loss or fatigue from being in the same position. However, I've also used each occasion to move into something new that excited me.

From branding, motion design, digital, strategy and even copywriting, being open to new experiences, mediums and new ways of working have strengthened me as a professional and ultimately as a person. It's also meant now I run my own agency, I can take all the learnings from over the last 7 years and put them into practice in a way that works for me.

When moving careers, you should fully embrace the unknown and unexpected. In those situations, it's where you're able to really discover what you enjoy and what you want to do with your life. 

You'll know when it's the right time to take a leap of faith when you no longer want to be in your environment anymore. The crunch point for me was when I couldn't remember why I wanted to be a designer. It was a low point. From a young age, art and creativity were some of the only passions I'd ever naturally shown any aptitude in. So, to end up in a situation where I didn't feel I could carry on with my profession was pretty upsetting.

There will never be someone stood next to you guiding your decisions or giving you total confidence in your choices. You have to learn to do that yourself, but you can only possibly hope to learn how to strengthen your resolve by putting it into practice.

My top advice for anyone looking to switch up their career path would be: Think Less. Do More. Win Big.
Ben Mottershead

Life is long, and there will always be challenges, more money to earn and better ways to improve yourself. However, that's in the future, an unknown environment, and we live in the present. A time I fully believe we need to constantly be mindful of and focus on. Stop living for the 'what if's' or approval to do something with your own life. Take control of what makes you happy, set your sights on it and move towards it one step at a time. After all, a chance taken is better than an opportunity never realised.

"If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door." Milton Berle

Sophie Amono, Founder of Studio Tuku

Variety is the spice of life as the saying goes and I definitely believe the same is true of your career path. I've always loved creativity and learning but my career path hasn't always taken a linear path. For example, I dropped out of university for a job in digital publishing - which at the time was a completely new industry - and I picked up skills like custom report dashboard creation which I would have never been interested in otherwise. This pressure to have a CV without lots of moves often stifles the beauty of the learning experience that comes with new opportunities and 'failing' (nothing is ever a failure if you learn something new from it).

There will never feel like the 'right' time to switch career path. There won't be a time where you feel like everything is just perfect so it's better to take a leap of faith and see where you land. I think a lot of creatives of colour and women especially, doubt their inner voice and put off taking a leap of faith because the industry isn't always as accommodating as it can be for our career progression. However, I've always found that whenever I took a new career direction; in the end it always drove me to a better place than where I was before.

There will never feel like the 'right' time to switch career path. There won't be a time where you feel like everything is just perfect so it's better to take a leap of faith and see where you land.
Sophie Amono

As someone who has worked in local Government, energy, fashion, media, charity, food & drink, events, beauty, technology, sextech, and everything in between, I would absolutely say the most useful thing for me has been thinking about documenting my transferable skills regularly. Which is just a fancy way of saying -  writing down the things you've learnt or are doing in your job. You'll be surprised at how much experience you've gathered throughout your career. Keeping track of what you're learning while you're in a job makes it so much easier when switching career paths so you can demonstrate you have what it takes to do the job.

Real world experience is much more valuable that sector specific experience so for example if I was recruiting for a someone to work on a beauty campaign, I'd hire someone who managed a garden project over someone with no project management experience but has worked in beauty. If you've got the right skills and attitude, everything else can be learnt on the job!

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