I've run into crossroads in my career life. After working hard, pulling myself up by my bootstraps and finding something that worked career-wise for me in software development, I still get pulled back into my passion of teaching music professionally. I think that's because the major reason why I pursued where I am now is because I needed purpose and I needed to make money. I had a new family and the most important thing at that time was to help provide for my family; and have more time with them. Now that my spouse and I are in a much better position, I'm finding myself wanting more for myself and can't stop thinking about completely changing my career path once again.

I have the ability to hold down my job while I attend one or two courses a semester working towards completing a degree in music education. Once it gets more intense (non-core classes) I will have to start freelancing with development and private music instructions. I'm fairly confident I can freelance while in school without missing out on most of my current income.

I've laid out pros and cons but I still have this looming fear that I can't possibly transition from one industry to another. I'm certain that budgeting alone will allow me to afford this change (50% of my current pay, on average) but I still feel hesitant to fail. I feel like mentally I need to change what I'm doing, but I need to find ways to assert that the need is much more than the want.

For those out there who have completely switched from one unrelated career path to another, how did you handle the deciding factors?


First off, I know it's possible because I've done it several times. Desperation brings inspiration. I was such a curiosity at one agency, several people wanted to meet me just to see what I looked like.

From my own experience:

  1. Talk to people in the new field in which you would like to work. Get tips, ask them if they know anyone who has made the switch into that field from another. Audacity is the key here. Anyone who sees your fire will be impressed, and inclined to help. You have to come across as wanting this more than you have ever wanted anything. People respect passion, and again, are more inclined to help.
  2. Ask people for "advice" or "help" but not for a job lead. One may come up, but people feel put upon if they think they are going to be put in the position of helping you find a new job. It's a subtle distinction, but an important one.
  3. Start any and all side work you can in your new industry. You'll make connections and it will help you build a reputation.
  4. Make it a reality in your mind. Write down your new occupation/title and put it somewhere in your house where you will see it every day. This sounds like bunk, but it really does work. It was one thing I did that helped me get past what the stroke did to me.
  5. Don't ever think about the money, it will come in time but never if you use it as a gauge to your success. There are plenty of CEOs from Walt Disney on who at one time didn't know where their next meal would come from. Your determination and drive is what will sustain you during a career reboot.
  6. Start reading industry magazines, learn as much about what they don't teach you in class as you can.
  7. KNOW that the only thing that can stop you is you, get out of your own way.


Think of picking up the book "What color is your parachute" as it goes into this very topic in depth.


  • Thanks for the book recommendation, will check it out immediately! Your third sentence had me rolling. – user18462 Feb 29 '16 at 20:47
  • I've reconnected with my mentor from high school, who really harbored the passion I still have for it all today. I'll continue to reach out when I can (due to scheduling at this time) to others and immerse myself into teaching/the area more. – user18462 Feb 29 '16 at 20:49
  • @TheWebDude, good luck, you can do it! – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Feb 29 '16 at 21:48

In General

Finding a vocation for which you're "wired" is great. When it clicks, it really changes your work. Not every day is perfect, but waking up excited to go to work, and still being energized at the end of the day doesn't compare to being miserable with a little more money.

In this specific instance

Making such a big change can be difficult, but perhaps there's a way you can wade into teaching? Try looking at local colleges and see if there's a night class you can pick up and try it out.

As a software developer, there's a ton of options these days for freelance or part-time. A remote job with the right employer might be a great option too!

  • I wanted to keep my question vague enough to pertain to many people, but I'll add these details. – user18462 Feb 29 '16 at 19:27
  • Also, I only possess a partial college degree. I haven't finished it, and have assumed in the U.S. that teaching jobs at the college/elementary level are out of the question until it is completed. – user18462 Feb 29 '16 at 19:31
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    @ThatWebDude: I believe that to teach in virtually any public school in the U.S., you'll need a degree in (music) education. To get a job as a professor in a college or university, you'll likely need an MFA. – GreenMatt Feb 29 '16 at 21:59
  • @GreenMatt I think you're completely correct. I'm okay with that. I really ought to finish what I started to begin with... – user18462 Feb 29 '16 at 22:00

I made the switch. There was a little over a year of going back to graduate school in between. My intention was one career change, but I ended up in technology instead. My graduate work offered experience but wasn't in the computer science department.

You have to start looking for a job in the new field. Make a resume/CV. Start looking for jobs. Research how to handle interview questions. Education tends to be seasonal, so you probably have some time. Your ultimate fate could be whether or not you can even get a job as a teacher depending on where you live and your area of expertise.

If you get an offer, you'll be forced to make a decision. Depending on the offer, it may be exactly what you're looking for which makes it easier to accept.

  • I understand that at a point there is a need to just rip the band-aid off and switch. However, since I'm needing more formal education to even apply, I'm also considering how people have stuck through with it, since I'm looking at a multi-year plan. – user18462 Feb 29 '16 at 19:36
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    If you need to take classes, then you just start applying for a couple and ease into the process. I have no advice for how to stick to something for the next several years other than one day at a time. You're building up many small decisions. The early ones shouldn't be that risky. As you get closer, you'll find the motivation or you won't. There's nothing wrong with finding out being a teacher isn't worth it. By starting the process, you don't have to look back with any regrets as if you didn't try at all. – user8365 Feb 29 '16 at 20:22

For those out there who have completely switched from one unrelated career path to another, how did you handle the deciding factors?

I went from being a forestry worker, to going to University as an adult, through a whole bunch of steps to now a network engineer. I've had a bunch of other jobs as well since I didn't have a revenue stream such as freelancing. So I was a bouncer, furniture mover, and anything else I could do for money while I was studying for 4 years) The deciding factor for me was always quality of life and revenue. For a chance at a better life, or even just a change from something that was starting to irk me. I'd make a plan and take the risk.

Now I have a wife and kids I take smaller risks and plan a bit more carefully, but so long as you have the wifes support something will always work out, it might not go exactly as you planned (I spent months cleaning offices at night time to pay bills at one point) but so long as it works is my policy.

You're responsible for others though, so plan as carefully as possible and try and have a safety fall back if need be. The hardest part is leaving the comfort zone and 'doing it'. But it's only one small step, just make it and believe in yourself. Get the wife on board first though, or it's all going to go South.

  • I have her blessing. She told me to pursue it. – user18462 Feb 29 '16 at 20:09
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    That's all you need, have as much faith in yourself as she has in you and you'll be fine. – Kilisi Feb 29 '16 at 20:10