When you're young, it's hard to know exactly what career path you want to follow for the rest of your life. The task seems so daunting, and sometimes the career chosen is not the on you want. But just because you've been working in one field for a long time, doesn't mean you can't make a change.
Here, people reveal what it was life to quit their job to follow their passion.
1/23. I was a store manager at Game Stop. It was terrible. I decided I'd rather make games than sell them, so I quit with no real plan. After about a month of being unemployed, I got a customer service job at Blizzard. Through that job I met J Allen Brack and decided I wanted to do what he did (Producer). Now I work at BioWare as a Development Manager. Everything went better than expected.
2/23. I've been in IT for 19 years. It was really fun in the early and mid-90s, before everyone "discovered" the interwebs. Before Y2K, before idiot managers destroyed the enjoyment of technology.
I just walked away from a $75K job that was going nowhere, but going "well." It provided for my lifestyle, and involved interesting technologies. However, the managers were tools and the customers clueless.
I now live at 9500 feet of elevation at a world-class ski resort. I am making $60 a night tending bar and waiting tables. I eat and drink extremely well. I ski nearly every day. The summer mountain biking is world class.
Yes, I am struggling on the financial side. However, clarity of thought, fitness of body and lack of anger and hatred toward my fellow man make up for the moderate income I was struggling with. 15 years of wage stagnation. Simply not worth it.
3/23. I spent a good part of my twenties working at a pizza place. It was an after-bar type place, which meant loud music, lots of drunks, parties that started when we closed (4 AM) and raged until we opened (11 AM), drugs, close friendships, hilarious incidents (like a bum barfing on a cops shoes while singing AC/DC), getting invited to private parties, etc.
Basically it was an amazing job, but the more I made pizza, the more I loved it, and wanted to explore it as a culinary art form. The realization that my skills were being wasted came fast and hard, so I quit and opened up my own pizza place.
Best decision of my life. I work hard, I play hard, and I get to spend my days thinking up delicious and unique pizza. The last one I made I designated "Christmas in the Trailer Park." Instead of tomato sauce, I use gravy. Cover in sliced turkey breast, stuffing and onions, and ham. Serve with a side of cranberry sauce. Yeaaaaaaah.
4/23. An acquaintance I met worked for a corporate law firm. He was tired of the workload and quit. He went to Alaska to be a fisherman for a year. Two years ago he opened up a bodyshop where he converts school busses into RV's and now makes almost as much as he did being a lawyer.
5/23. I went to art school, ended up working in IT support for 5 years. It was a fun, interesting, challenging job, and it paid well allowing me to live up my 20's. A lot of my company's clients were design firms, and so I spent a lot of time around designers, and always felt sad that I didn't make it as an artist or designer.
I started teaching myself 3D modelling as part of a side project, and I got pretty good at it. A few years ago I made the jump to working as a freelance 3D modeller. I've found a specific niche within the field, which is modelling vegetation and landscapes. I get a good amount of steady work from landscape architects, city planners, and architecture firms.
It's been hard leaving the security of steady pay checks, benefits, paid vacation, etc. I have to supply my own disability, health insurance, and the scariest time is when there's no new projects on the table. Still, I've survived and even thrived over the past two years, and so I am starting to feel secure in knowing that more work will show up.
The hardest part is that it's all up to me - every dollar I earn comes from actual hours of work. No more goofing off and still collecting a pay check. The days are unstructured and I have to make myself do things like not work in PJ's until mid-afternoon. I get envious when I see people come home from their jobs and I know that their work is over, while mine is always there, and there's always some project I could work on for a few hours. Client management is a bitch as well. I write a lot more emails than I would have expected.
The best part is that I've never once looked at the clock at 3:00 p.m. and thought "two more hours until I'm done". I enjoy absolutely every moment of my work, and it's addictive. I give myself a little happy hour on Fridays and work while drinking beer as I close out the last day of the work week. I can even decide that Friday is a day off if I want to, or Monday for that matter. The path I've chosen is as hard as it is rewarding, and I'm not sure I'd recommend it to someone who isn't prepared to spend countless hours just getting started from nothing, but I am mostly glad I decided to strike out on my own.
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6/23. I left a job in venture capital to move to LA so my wife could pursue her dream job - being on the team that sends robots to Mars.
Since then, I've been trying to build tech companies myself. After a year and half with no income on my side, my 4th attempt is taking off.
The hardest part of the experience - besides the negative cash flow - is having the conviction to keep at it, even when filled with self-doubt. Being ready for the inevitable ups and downs is probably the most important thing when you take the leap because there will be days that cushy job your friends have looks pretty nice. Often many, many of those days in a row.
7/23. After college I worked at Apple computers headquarters. In 2008, when the economy tanked, I had to get a job at a deli. I worked there for years. While I was there I started making these little films with my flip cam. Then I saved for a $400 Nikon p500 so I could make a music video for my band. It turned out really well.
So I saved every penny and bought some editing software, some lights, and started doing video jobs on the side. Every morning I would wake up at about 5am and tackle the adobe classroom in a book series learning after effects, premier, photoshop and illustrator. Then I spent 6 months saving for a real camera. Then, right after the new year, with a nice portfolio of demo work (all done before the sun came up every day) and about $1000 in the bank, I started working on my own production company full time. I started with low paying jobs but I made sure that every day I was doing something. I did a ton of jobs in my first year and got all my bills paid. I did weddings, birthday parties, tons of music videos, and corporate spots. I even was contracted to work on a few projects for major companies like chevron and del monte. I was able buy a new camera, the canon 5d mark ii along with some new audio gear. I created great relationships with my local camera rental place, where I rent all my big lights and extra gear. It's been a year since I quit the deli. I didn't make a ton of money, but I made enough to pay all my bills, get new gear, buy my lady a new MacBook and an engagement ring. I have a business license and have to pay a ton of taxes. But my worst day doing this is still better than my best day at the deli.
8/23. I'm currently running for State Parliament. I left a very decent job to campaign unpaid for 6 months to win a marginal seat.
9/23. I made a complete change from teaching to working for a surgeon at Johns Hopkins. I have never regretted that decision for a single moment. At the end of the day, you have to do what feels right to you-- no one will be able to guarantee your satisfaction.
10/23. In 2009 I felt like my work was contributing nothing to the world, other than helping some stockholder's dividends increase, so I decided to give up my corporate job of 10 years and go somewhere abroad to work with children. I found a small organization that funds one small orphanage and school in Rwanda, so I offered to volunteer there for six months. I donated everything I own to a battered women's shelter, pulled out everything from my savings and retirement and headed out to Rwanda (story continued on the next page...).
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A month after arriving I found the local staff was misusing funds and mistreating the kids, so I wrote back to the donors in the US to inform them of what I was seeing. They asked me if I was willing to take over managing the program. I had no previous experience running an organization, managing people or working with children, but I saw this as an opportunity to really make a small difference in the world, so I accepted.
Now, three years later, I am the executive director of the project and have been elected to the board of directors. Early in 2010 I met another volunteer from another nearby orphanage. She was from London. We became friends and eventually fell in love. Now we work together running the program and we have nearly 100 children who look at us as their parents. Together we make very little money but we are very happy with our lives.
Running an orphanage in Rwanda, hell just living here, is very hard. The poverty is heartbreaking, the government is difficult to work with and trying to keep our little charity from going under due to lack of funds are all issues that cause endless stress. But seeing one of our boys, who when he came from the streets was filthy, malnourished and hopeless, change into a clean, happy, hopeful child who works his butt off in school is worth every trial and tribulation.
11/23. I spent 30 years in high end construction and am now working for a nonprofit for at risk youth. Major switch at my age. I went from dealing with the rich and famous to their polar opposite. It's difficult coming from a place where you have so many years of knowledge and experience to one where you need to learn something new almost daily. It's easier to do without a family (kids are grown) to take care of.
I've left my resentments of the wealthy behind and have gratitude for being able to make this change. Should have done it sooner. I encourage anyone considering it to do it now. Its better to regret something you have done than something you haven't done.
12/23. I worked for county government. I moved during the recession, when county governments weren't hiring. Went to school to be a motorcycle mechanic, got a job as a service writer. I realized it wasn't a good fit and now I'm back in county government.
Not all career changes are great, but they're also not irreversible.
13/23. I quit a cushy consulting job to start my own web design firm. Had everything in place and ready to go. Was really excited.
I am now jobless and near broke. Barely keeping up with my bills, looking for another 9-5 job.
Make sure if you do it, you do it right and for the right reasons. Make sure you have adequate income and a long term plan.
14/23. For as long as I have used a computer I've enjoyed creating websites. My dad worked as a programmer for a major Canadian bank, so I got a lot of my interest from him. When I was little I would tinker with tools like Homestead and Geocities to make whatever I felt like to show off to people I knew. It's always been something I've liked doing, and over the years I taught myself a lot about the different things that go in to making and maintaining websites, from both the development and server administration side.
When I started working, I jumped around trying different jobs out, to see what I liked doing. Eventually I found comfort at an Apple call center, because I liked helping people solve their problems, and I was able to learn a lot through their training programs. When OS X Lion was released, call volume got so ridiculous that I was getting very stressed out at work. A lot of the issues people were having were because Apple made significant changes to OS X that people didn't like (like removing power pc support). I started looking for an out, but I didn't want to quit until I had a new job (story continued on the next page...).
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For as long as I have used a computer I've enjoyed creating websites. My dad worked as a programmer for a major Canadian bank, so I got a lot of my interest from him. When I was little I would tinker with tools like Homestead and Geocities to make whatever I felt like to show off to people I knew. It's always been something I've liked doing, and over the years I taught myself a lot about the different things that go in to making and maintaining websites, from both the development and server administration side.
When I started working, I jumped around trying different jobs out, to see what I liked doing. Eventually I found comfort at an Apple call center, because I liked helping people solve their problems, and I was able to learn a lot through their training programs. When OS X Lion was released, call volume got so ridiculous that I was getting very stressed out at work. A lot of the issues people were having were because Apple made significant changes to OS X that people didn't like (like removing power pc support). I started looking for an out, but I didn't want to quit until I had a new job.
Around that time an online friend of mine offered to work with me in creating Flash games on contract for a fairly popular website. I jumped at the chance, and we went to work on 3 different titles. Because of how unique the situation was to both of us - relying on another person living in different countries, we both kind of started off poorly. Of the 3 we started, 2 were finished with the third still sitting waiting for completion.
When 2012 rolled around, the two of us stopped really consistently working together, I spent my time alone working on the programming while he attended to other work he was doing. The whole arrangement kind of fell apart, which was bad for me because I didn't have a backup for income. I put aside the games and started doing periodic websites for clients I would get through word of mouth. I've never really advertised myself as such, so these were low-paying starter jobs.
This last summer was horrible. My girlfriend and I moved from our apartment last winter, and we were already struggling to make rent at our new place. I was dodging bills for months, chipping away at them with whatever income I made. I couldn't just get rid of the internet, because that's what I was doing to make money.
I came close several times to giving up programming and going back to Apple or some other job, but each time something would happen that would make me push looking for jobs back a week or so. Just recently in September, another online friend recommended me to his friend who runs a small California-based clothing company. They wanted someone to overhaul their entire site, and wanted me to do it based on the recommendation of my friend. It wasn't a small-paying job, either.
This helped me achieve semi financial stability. While working on that project, I was contacted by another online friend who had recently done some work for Riot (the guys who make Leauge of Legends), and he wanted to pay me me to work with him on a new site he wanted to make. The site he wanted to make is also the same kind of site I've always wanted to make.
One thing lead to another, and I'm now completely stable working daily doing what I love on a project that's going to last far into the next year. I've been able to set myself up with a decent home office and I'm no longer stressed out all the time. I'm still learning this whole game as I go, but I feel like I'm getting better at being self-sufficient.
15/23. I'm a social worker by profession and I took a three year career break from 2004-2007. I ended up doing some design work for a very small company, travelled China sourcing an ethical factory and then helped to get a product on to the shelves of a major UK supermarket. Great fun but didn't pay the bills, so I went back to social work.
I now manage foster homes - the majority of my carers had previous careers, including civil service, a truck driver and a brick-layer. They came into foster care for a variety of reasons, perhaps the main ones being redundancy or simply wanting to feel a sense of achievement and doing some good in society. All would say that foster care is the most demanding job they have ever done, but none would want to change what they do.
It's never too late to change career... and it could be the greatest thing that you'll ever do.
16/23. I haven't left my corporate job..., but I've witnessed a lot people in my industry do it.
I work in a pretty niche job market. It involves knowing one particular piece of software really well that also happens to be old and crappy. A lot of the people that know it are getting old and retiring. It's used by investment banks. As a result, there's few people that know it and we all get paid well.
I personally know of 6 people that got totally fed up with it (it does suck) and left for "their passion". There were 2 attempted chefs, an attempted start up, an attempted record label, a guy who wanted to go to Thailand and live/work as a muay thai fighter/coach.
They were all super happy when they left. And they all came back in under 2 years because they weren't making money doing the other things.
I'm not saying people shouldn't "go for it" when they have something they want to do... it's just quite often hard to find a thing to go for that will actually involve you making money. I think about leaving quite regularly. I'd love to leave my job. But I don't know of anything that I would really enjoy doing that I could realistically expect to be paid for.
17/23. Came into college as an engineer, dropped out to switch to a separate community college in order to transfer to the college I wanted to be at.
Needless to say, nobody was proud of me when I did it, everyone ridiculed me for coming back a quitter, and my father talks crap about me all the time. It also added an extra 3 years to my "4 Year Plan".
But I don't regret having decided to become a teacher and being able to be the change that I wanted to see.
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18/23. Went from lawyer to software developer at 31. I'm a digital nomad now, and for the past year and a half. So.... it went well.
19/23. Graduated with a BSc in math and physics. Was hired as a product development engineer by a large manufacturing company where I was one maybe 40 engineers working on similar products. It was a bad fit and I hated it. My dad, three uncles and grandfather were all engineers. Somehow I didnt get the gene.
After two years I quit with no other offers on the table and only a vague idea of what to do. In spite of my family pushing me to the sciences, my interest had always been in art. I took my savings and opened a small art gallery where I could paint and sell my art and that of other local artists. I went broke.
I spent a few years as a starving artist working temporary part-time jobs to pay for rent, food, and supplies. Then I drove cab for a few years but the long shifts were killing me. I worked at a small company that prepared pre-press graphics for the advertising industry and was there when everything transitioned to digital. I got to learn how to use the Macintosh with Photoshop and other graphics and design programs. The company restructured and I was turfed.
Unemployed, I spent a year teaching myself graphic design from all the information online. I soon got a few freelance jobs, built a reputation and was working full-time as a graphic designer, having more fun and making more money than I ever had. I have had a good career, but it was a bumpy and uncertain road.
Even during the hardest, darkest times I never looked back wishing I had stuck with engineering. It was a long, strange trip.
20/23. I quit my full-time job in radio to be a stand-up comic. So far, I've moved back into my mom's place, work at a grocery store to pay rent, I'm a student at Second City, and so far I've made... 40 dollars telling jokes.
21/23. Was working for a think tank in DC. Had a disagreement with my boss, got fired. Threw everything in the car and moved to LA, now work in the healthcare industry, have a nice apartment, perfect weather all the time, and a beautiful girlfriend. The move and having some crappy jobs to stay afloat when I first got here was hard, but definitely worth it.
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22/23. I have actually made several.
I didn't graduate from college so I went right into the workforce post high school.
Obviously, I started at the bottom with retail and serving. I wanted a normal schedule so then I graduated to call center work. It was for the DMV, would not recommend.
Then I got a job as a receptionist at an Internet marketing firm and eventually got promoted to account rep, then to department leader, then got cross trained for their magazines and branding departments.
I then started my own "promotional marketing" company (free pens and magnets and shit). Aaaaaaand that went belly up because at 21, I had no clue what I was doing.
So then I got a job as an assistant to the director of nutrition for a food company. She taught me how to read scientific studies and promoted me to research assistant.
I actually had this "crisis" that I wanted own success, not for it to be the success of someone else so then I went back to marketing and got a job at a local magazine as an advertorial copy writer. Then got laid off from that job.
Went back to serving for awhile then got a job at this very old school company run by dinosaurs as a social media manager. The old guys that fought my position is very existence won and the guys who hired me mercy fired me.
I did freelance writing for websites for awhile, did lots of freelance social media consults, and landed and huge client for whom I provide the branding, copy, operational decisions, and social media strategies.
I've also picked up some modelling on the side.
My dad was a jack of all trades, growing up he was a land surveyor, a draftsman, a house painter, a freelance artist, and now he's a real estate agent... It's what I know.
23/23. My father was an auto mechanic. Then I was a mechanic. That wasn't for me, so I switched to auto parts sales. Eventually I decided I wanted to go back to school and get into corporate finance. Graduated December 2014 with a 3.93 GPA.