Design Pros Prove It's Never Too Late to Change Careers

design-career-changersUnless you’re a cowboy or a ballerina, chances are good that your current job doesn’t exactly line up with your childhood dreams. But that doesn’t mean you need to be stuck working a job that you don’t enjoy. If you find yourself in this position, it’s time to do something about it!

Oftentimes, the longer you remain in an undesirable situation, the less likely you are to attempt to improve it. But when it comes to your career, your age is no excuse to avoid chasing your dream.

If you’ve considered pursuing a career in design but you’re worried that you missed your chance because you’re not 21 years old and on the cutting edge of technology, you’re mistaken. The truth is, it’s never too late to change careers!

If you’re still not convinced that you can break into the design industry, we spoke with three individuals who have proven it’s possible. All three left behind their careers in unrelated industries to start a design career, and they never looked back.

From Wall Street to the World Wide Web

After landing a job with J.P. Morgan straight out of high school, Kevin Sheridan spent the next 18 years working various positions within the finance company. During this time, he attended night classes and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing, which ignited a passion in him to pursue a new career.

He began his quest to find the perfect career in 1999, at a time when the Internet was on the brink of rapid innovation. Sheridan saw the potential in this new technological advancement and decided to jump onboard by pursuing a career in web design.

Sheridan’s decision to disregard a successful career on Wall Street to begin working in web design was risky on multiple levels. First off, the World Wide Web was still foreign to most of the clients he’d be marketing to, so he’d be faced with the difficult task of introducing them to a revolutionary idea.

What’s more, Sheridan made a conscious decision to leave behind a steady paycheck and health benefits, which he admits was a daunting decision for him and his family. He admits he wouldn’t be where he is today without the support of his wife. While most people were baffled by his endeavor, her constant encouragement helped him succeed.

“My biggest fear was failure,” says Sheridan. “But I realized that fear is a great motivator if you do not let it consume you.”

Sheridan took classes at the New Jersey Institute of Technology to learn the ins and outs of web design. He has now been designing for 13 years and is the president and founder of New Jersey-based Global Internet Technologies, a web development agency that creates customized sites based on individual client goals.

"My biggest fear was failure. But I realized that fear is a great motivator if you do not let it consume you."

If you are hoping to follow in Sheridan’s footsteps, he recommends considering carefully the difference between council and advice. Council, he says, is wisdom you get from someone who has experience; advice, on the other hand, is what you get from people who have no idea what you’re trying to do.

“Council is priceless; advice is worth what you pay for it,” he says.

Learning to speak a new language

After working for three years as an adjunct Spanish professor at Butler University, Bobbi Klein decided it was time for a change. When she learned that her most recent class contained a few design students, she became intrigued.

She had always been interested in design and would routinely be described by others as “crafty” and “creative”. So Klein would meet with students over coffee and trade Spanish help for Adobe software tutorials. While she was no stranger to studying new languages, learning to master design software was a whole different type of language.

Klein continued learning by herself, and after speaking with established designers about how they broke into the field, she finally asked herself, “Why can’t I?”

Klein says her decision to change careers was exciting, but it wasn’t easy. She was apprehensive about forfeiting her only source of income. “Not having a safety net was definitely scary at first.”

But in this case, she says, the reward was worth the risk. Klein is now using her design talents at Spendore, the marketing agency she founded. She strives to “make the impossible possible” by using innovative thinking and cutting edge techniques to meet her clients’ needs.

Klein admits that her fear of the unknown caused her to postpone her career change. Now, the only regret she has is not making the decision to follow her dream sooner.

She says she always encouraged her students to follow their dreams, but when it came to following her own advice, something was missing until she simply made the leap.

Tech amateur turned Internet marketing maven

Teajai Kimsey had 17 years of retail experience under her belt before she made the decision to change careers. A department manager at Sears, her fascination with the Internet began when she visited a chat room in 1999.

Before that, Kimsey says she would have never anticipated working in design. “I would have been voted least likely to touch a computer in high school,” she laughs.

Kimsey was not very familiar with the Internet, but in the chat room she was captivated by the bits of html and colorful fonts. From there, she started experimenting with web design on GeoCities, the now defunct web hosting service from Yahoo.

When others noticed Kimsey had a knack for designing websites, she began dabbling in creating them professionally. She loved that her new hobby incorporated a technical aspect while still focusing on aesthetics.

Kimsey eventually chose to part ways with Sears in 2001. Since her departure, she’s developed into a premier web developer and is now an Internet marketing strategist at Ideas That Work, where she uses her design knowledge to improve the marketing and sales performance of existing websites.

“I enjoy being challenged mentally and appreciate that there are many different talents needed for each project,” says Kimsey.

Since starting her design career, Kimsey says she continues to be challenged by keeping up with the fast-paced world of web design. While she used to simply specialize in web development, she’s evolved with the industry and has now added email marketing, social media and search engine optimization (SEO) to her repertoire.

Kimsey advises future designers planning to change careers to learn as much as you can before taking the leap. That way you will have a foundation of knowledge to build on rather than starting from scratch.

If they can do it, why can’t you?

After hearing these testimonies, do you still feel it’s too late to change careers? The answer should be “absolutely not!”

These design professionals have admitted that it won’t be easy, but in the end it’s worth the hard work to be able to do what you love for a living.

“There’s going to be bad days, but the high you get from the great days makes it all worthwhile,” says Sheridan.

So if you’re convinced that now is the time to finally leave behind a job you tolerate to pursue a job you love, download our Design Career Outlook to determine which career would be a good fit for you!

To learn about how a degree can help you start a design career, check out the programs offered by the Rasmussen College School of Design!

Callie Malvik

Callie is the Content Manager at Collegis Education, overseeing blog content on behalf of Rasmussen College. She is passionate about creating quality resources that empower others to improve their lives through education.

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