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I want to do something completely different from my current job. I have a number of projects that I have been working on, that I could make serious headway in if I dedicated myself to them. I basically have all the resources I need to complete these projects, build a portfolio, freelance, I just need the time, and the energy. Having no job would also be a huge motivator to actually do something.

I understand why employers are not keen on hiring people that don't currently have a job, and that makes sense if you are quitting a job, then trying to find job that requires a similar skillset.

However, what about if you decide that you know where your passion is, and you deliberately took time off to build the skills needed for that area? How would it look to prospective employers if you take a working sabbatical to pivot careers entirely? Would it make a difference if this was organized classes rather than the planned self-study?

EDIT: I do not believe this is a duplicate question to this because I am more interested in the "sabbatical" or time off of working aspect to jumpstart a different career path.

  • I don't have any lies on my resume. I get all the way to final round interviews. Most of the companies I have been rejected from involved coding challenges. All the feedback I have gotten related to the code challenges is that the code wasn't what they were looking for. For example, In one instance they were looking for a functional programming solution, which I didn't do, but that was enough to reject me. – user34830 May 5 '15 at 20:16
  • OK I will delete my comment – paparazzo May 5 '15 at 20:18
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    possible duplicate of How can I successfully change job fields? – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 6 '15 at 2:21
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    I would argue that three months is too short to have a significant effect in your coding style. – Diego Sánchez May 6 '15 at 5:52
  • coding style, maybe not, but 3 months might be enough for a significant project in a new field? – user34830 May 6 '15 at 6:34
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While you have a plan to only be off work for 3 months, your potential employers may not have your same plans. You've already seen that you will struggle to get a job in your current field if things don't work out and you decide you have go back to it. And there's no guarantee you will be qualified to get a job in your new field at that point, either. Quitting now seems terribly risky.

Rather than quit your job to focus on the hobby projects, you should pick one of your hobby projects to focus on, and dedicate yourself to finishing it in your off-work time. You can tell yourself (and your family and friends, for that matter) that you have a part-time job now, which you will do mornings, evenings, and weekends until it's done. This "part-time" job is your ticket to developing your skills in the field you want to move into. This way, you still have a job (and an income) while you're developing yourself. It's a temporary arrangement. You can do anything for short amount of time when you know it's not a permanent thing.

If you find that you can't motivate yourself to focus your off-work energies on a project, then you should consider that your heart is not in that hobby project, either, and pick something different, something that you don't mind spending long hours doing.

  • +1 for motivation through recognizing the temporary nature, provided your heart is in it. – tniles Jul 14 '16 at 18:18
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Similar scenario

I am actually in a similar situation myself in regards to potentially walking away from my traditional career to change direction, and doing so with no certain assurance there will be a prize at the other side.

For me I've been in my industry over 10 years entirely in large corporate pursuits which I've grown to really not enjoy. For me I've actually already turned in my notice and am serving it now.

Normal advice

I normally am a huge advocate of never leaving a job until you have something else lined up. Me telling you this while I still agree with this advice 100% would be hypocritical as I'm doning exactly the opposite.

Augmented advice

Sometime breaking away from reliable work isn't necessarily a bad idea as long as there is a GOOD plan B and you've made proper preparation to realistically accommodate plan B.

For example making sure you have sufficient reserves to float you months if not years in case that friend you know will hire you doesn't have an opening or money is tight. Once you reach a point you have to wonder how you'll pay your bills next month things are already dire leaving you little choice but to take whatever you can find. These are the circumstances that lead you to take the most miserable dead end jobs that'll just suck all motivation out of your life.

Now if you have a number of months you can live with immediate danger of exhausting funds you have the chance to scout around, acquire skills, and pursue opportunities to potentially find more fulfilling work.

(In my case I've built up reserves and have the advantage of effectively being a minor celebrity in my local area in my field, so I know in a pinch I could get a job within a week)

Guided or self learning

This heavily depends on both the details on what and how you plan to learn and who your target employer is. Some employers see classes as no better than self learning, others see self learning as worthless. Some skills cater well to one or the other as well. Personally in hiring I view having both as best. (you took classes, than expand on your own) otherwise I've found most people favor class learned over self learned. (just because you have no idea how good or bad self learned will be while class learned is arguably more reliable)

What should you do?

Only you know your personal situation my normal advice would be find time, focus on one skill at a time along side work after hours, etc. If that's simply not possible make sure you have everything in order you can survive being unemployed for a significant duration of time. You also want to make sure you have a fallback plan incase this venture doesn't work out.

While I still recommend working around your job, if that's simply not realistic you have to decide what level of risk you're willing to take, and plan accordingly.

Don't be rash

I don't know how long you've been planning this, but for my example, I've been planning my move almost three months. As such I can approach this venture with very little risk. I have a lot lined up to make my next move the moment I'm free to do so, I also have things lined up should things not work out I can fallback with nothing truly wasted except time.

I'm not saying you shouldn't act until you've planned for months, rather make sure you've got a plan that you feel comfortable with. If you can't get out of bed in the morning and say "this is the right idea" you probably need to put more thought into it... (Not that there won't be concern, nervousness, or anxiety, just if you're question if you should, then you probably shouldn't)

  • I'm curious, a year and a half later, how did this plan work out for you? I'm in a very similar situation.. – npace Oct 28 '16 at 16:13
  • Well things turned out awesome! Though not at all according to plan. I left my employer took some me time to visit family, travel, and "detox" from work. Then after that I decided I wanted to go back into work I loved which was education. I started the process of pursuing public education and did freelance dev work to keep money coming in while affording me the training time. A surprise came where I fell into a wonderful job creating course content for Code School. It's really worked out well as Code School allowed me to hit my passion, use my experience, and has an awesome culture. – RualStorge Nov 5 '16 at 1:51

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