Changing careers


Well-Known Member
Over Christmas, I did a lot of soul searching and decided that my unhappiness in my job is perhaps deeper than just this particular job but in actual fact it's more to do with my career as a graphic designer (or more specifically my limited of ability as a graphic designer preventing me from progressing). I decided that it's time to accept, that as a Graphic Designer, I have reached my limit and if I want to be happy I need to move onto something that better suits me.

This got me thinking about what I enjoy doing and what skills I already have that I could utilise. After a few days dreaming about running pubs and being an F1 driver I started thinking more about my ability to pick up technical information quite quickly and how much I enjoy the challenge of problem solving and looking for patterns etc.. (do I sound a bit rain man? lol). And it dawned on me that the happiest I've been wasn't when I was designing but when I was turning those designs into a real thing (I should perhaps point out that my qualifications are in multimedia design and not strict graphic design) and working out how to make this design come to life. The geeky boring bits like writing action script or trying to work out why a line of text wasn't styling the way it should, were the bits I was happiest doing and seemed to be quite good at.

It quickly dawned on me that despite this nostalgia, Director's dead and Flash is on it's last legs, meaning there's no career prospects there, so I'd need to look at another avenue to pursue that will allow my inner nerd to flourish. That got me thinking about more recent work, and how much I've enjoyed those same challenges when learning code and trying to make things like websites and mail shots work and understanding why things behave the way they do.

Based on that I'm pretty sure that what I really want to do is code. The problem is how do I get from here as Dave with a degree in multimedia from 10 years ago to confidently applying for jobs as a web developer? Have I left it too late to learn? Is it possible that an employer would take on an almost 30 year old trainee? How disciplined would I need to be to teach myself? Do employers seriously consider someone who's self taught? Would another degree be better (if so can someone lend me the money. lol).

Any thoughts on all of this would be greatly received.
If you want to teach yourself anything, you couldn't choose anything better than coding.

There are just so many resources on the internet to help you out. Google is your friend.

Lots of coders are self taught and make a good living from it.

Of course you would have to be disciplined to teach yourself, just like anything else, it's not always easy.

Your experience with Director, Flash and action script should help.

If you're sure that it's not just the grass looking greener in another career, i'd say you are never too old, and go for it.

The first step is deciding what technologies you are going to learn...
That's another confusing part. It seems that employers expect you to know everything about everything!
Yeah I know where you're coming from mate. I've been thinking of what else I could do too but the truth is graphic design is the only thing I am good at, it's all I know. My degree is in graphic design and I haven't a clue what else I could do unless I go work in Tesco (dread the thought!) You are almost 30, mate you're still young! You do not need to worry about your age what so ever. The fact that your degree is in multimedia gives you more options, unlike myself who sees no way out. I think employers will be happy to take on an employee like you, as you have more experience than most other trainee's do and your other skill could always come in useful to them.

That's another confusing part. It seems that employers expect you to know everything about everything!

That's the problem I face everyday when applying for jobs, hence one of the reasons i'm freelancing.
I have a reasonable grasp on HTML and CSS and can recycle other people's JavaScript to get a reasonable result but I wouldn't say my understanding of any of it is good enough to get me a job.

Whilst I'm trying to find out how best to proceed, I think I'm going to make a start on html5 (I can't imagine it'll be that different to XHTML).
Have you tried Coursera? - I recently took an "Introduction to programming in Python" course and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's completely free, the course is fun and interesting (if a little bit geeky) and you basically learn to program in Python while making some basic computer games. You don't actually get a qualification at the end of it but it's the best way I have found so far to get a good grounding in a programming language and Python is really powerful yet easy to learn. I don't have a programming background at all apart from messing about in Basic in the 80's on my ZX spectrum but thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot.

Anyway good luck with it - I'm 36 and took a complete change in career direction about 6 months ago and so far it is paying off so 30 is definitely not too old!
Oh - and I like the way that I am referred to as a Junior member on this site - it makes me feel young!
I've paid to go on a Dreamweaver course starting Monday. Although I know the basics and can go in and know what everything does, I'm hoping to get up to speed on the CSS. Not exactly looking forward to be learning nuts and bolts, but it may help me build on the 20 years as a conceptual designer. Really don't want to be a coder but I suppose it would be helpful to be able to do it and not rely on developers.
I learned the basics of xhtml and css because employers seemed to want people who had knowledge of web stuff and really enjoyed learning it and implementing what I'd learned (I built Glmour | Handmade, Bespoke Event Stationery for my mrs) but it didnt seem to help me on the job hunt.

P.S. I know there's lots wrong with that site but not having a PC, I cant really test and fix it (it looks perfect on my mac).
Not really a change of career (yet) but I've been speaking to another company over recent weeks who's core business is very similar to that of the company I work for now. Difference is they also do a lot of web work for their clients as well as more traditional design (ie; leaflets brochures etc..). The position we're discussing is a more senior role than I currently have, focusing mainly of their web design clients so is a real step forward for me. Just got to see if we can agree terms. :)
Congratulations Dave! I think you'll find you'll probably spending more time fixing and creating code so it's a win win. I'm starting a contract with Barclays next week and another offer from a different agency as well. I'm putting December and January as a dead zone time to be looking for a new job. Won't be making the mistake of saying 'stick your job' in November again. :)
I think a really exciting area for you would be designing and then coding html5 apps that can work on desktops, tablets and mobiles. We're seeing traffic of up to 20% on our clients b2b sites and 36% on b2c sites. HTML 5 apps will overtake native apps in near future so commercially its great sense too. You could also specialise in making responsive designs, throw in some mapping technology too for location based functionality - there's a ton going on and great for a designer/developer. There's some frameworks out there you can utilise including CSS ones, jQuery etc so there's much more meat in front end coding these days and better suited to someone with design skills.