A friend of mine announced today on Facebook that he was returning to a job he left. Happens all of the time, sure, but it's a decision that I identify with because he's leaving the broadcast business. In fact, it's actually the second time he's doing so, the first time from radio, and this time from TV. Can you see the parallels there?
I can't speak for him, but I know that leaving the business, even for something related in some way (I've always considered the Internet, including the software that runs on it, to be a variation on classic media), is really hard to do. I mean, I still can't let it go, and have been spending most of what I make via my Web sites on pro video toys. At the end of the day, however, you have to chase what you love, and do that.
Part of that process is allowing yourself to see that what you're doing has some issues. When I left radio, I had to admit that the pay was terrible. When I left TV, it was government TV, and the pay was terrible. OK, it wasn't entirely about the pay in that case, it was just that the scope of what I could do was limited. Working for politicians didn't help. I left my last job after a year because I finally admitted to myself that while it was awesome to work at home, pants optional, the environment was making me dumb.
I don't think most people really stop and think about what it is they love to do, in part because if you're being honest, it's probably hard to make a living at doing what you love. That's an honesty I can rarely attain. I love to write code, but not always on things I can get paid for. Similarly, I loved to work with video, but not when it involved shooting school board meetings.
The challenge then is to look at the things you love to do, and see if there's some way you can combine them into a paycheck. That's hard. I like to write code, I like to work with video, and I like to be involved with charitable work. The last part I don't need to make a living at, I just like to do it. I'm not sure what that job is.
If you can't find the perfect match, I think the next important thing to do is be open to things you haven't considered before. That's hard to do, because it's fairly high risk, especially as you get older. But still, that's how I landed at my current job, because the underlying things that make me enjoy code and video are in some ways satisfied by this role. Is it perfect? Is it the right place? I don't know, but it has only been a month.
My friend is going to kick ass and take names in his new gig, I'm sure. I can't wait to see what he does.