If you can work an unpaid internship for 4 to 8 months, you’ll move into your new career much more quickly.

By Cassandra Phillipps (Game Designer, Pocket Gems)

I’ve recently begun a brand new life path – my third pivot in 6 years – this time as a mobile game designer. Before, I worked as a manager and producer for both the startup community and the theater industry for 7 years.

Making such a drastic change is no easy task. It took a lot of personal reflection, financial sacrifice, and swallowing of pride.

But perhaps these five lessons I learned will help ease the way for others who decide that they just aren’t loving what they do, and they’re ready to leap into something new:

Career Change Tip #1 – Know Clearly Your (dis)Likes

It can get remarkably complicated to have to sit and clearly identify how you feel about each individual task you do. Simply realizing “I’m not happy with this” is not enough to move successfully into something new. In the last year of event producing, I started keeping lists of just what aspects satisfied me and which left me upset or stressed. From that, I could make a more educated decision on new directions to take my career, with a better understanding of specific situations to embrace and avoid.

Career Change Tip #2 – Be Informed and Realistic

Before dropping everything and becoming an auto mechanic, take a bit of time to ask yourself “Have I ever fixed a car? Do I really know what sort of work that entails?” If you are passionate about it, don’t let it deter you – but be informed and realistic!

Before I left one career, I wrote everything down that I could, highlighting what was important to me (ie. flexibility, creativity, an intelligent team) and thinking about what I could give up (ie. ownership for a while, higher pay for now).

I brainstormed industries I might be able to realistically move into, based on my network of connections and experience. You don’t need to say that something is impossible, but you should be realistic about your goals and the time they will take. It’s easy to get deterred early on if you set unrealistic goals for yourself and assume anything is equally possible.

Career Change Tip #3 – Save Up Money Then Dive In

This is purely practical, but if you can work an unpaid internship for 4 to 8 months, you’ll move into your new career much more quickly. You also need to be able to focus 100% on this change during that time.

Avoid part-time job distractions and contract work to “make ends meet.” It will just slow you down. This means that, before changing careers, you might need to make sacrifices to increase your income in the work you are currently doing.

Career Change Tip #4 – Always Be Doing!

Start an event focused on the industry you want to join, volunteer for Meetups in the evening, write a blog on your interests and research, do favors for industry leaders. Overall, show your soon-to-be-employers or partners that you don’t just talk big, you DO big. Something like “No Experience” shouldn’t stop you.

Career Change Tip #5 – Ignore the Doubters, Embrace the Doers

Just about every peer I mentioned my transition too said something along the lines of “But you have no experience” or “You know, you’re not really a creative person; more a business person.”

I know these people were just worried about me – they’d never seen me do something like this before and didn’t want me to fail. So I politely thanked them, explained that I had to try, and moved on. You need to recognize early on who is going to support you and who is going to just hold you back.

I also began talking to anyone who would advise me from the gaming industry – from an entry-level artist through a top-tier CEO. Status doesn’t matter, passion and experience do. Learn what they do NOT like about that work – would you like that? Ask what they are working on and how they got there. See if they can introduce you to more people to talk to. While not everyone will give you good advice, everyone can introduce you to someone else who will. And these introductions will lead to your next steps.

Bottom Line: Don’t let your current experiences or career ever hold you back from trying something new.

There are always ways to changes and steps you can take to do it. Some will be easy, some may take months, some can seem impossible when you start.

But just keep DOING things and watching you FEEL when you do them, and you can find your passion.

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.

Photo credit: Timothy Hahn

About the guest blogger: Cassandra Phillipps is a Game Designer at Pocket Gems, developing fun and free-to-play mobile games. Prior to Pocket Gems, she was an event producer for the Bay Area startup community, creating and producing FailCon. She managed shows like the SF MusicTech Summit, Inside Social Apps, Unleashed Conference, and the Future of Money. Learn more about her at WebWallflower. She loves cats and lizards, spend her free time making costumes, and am a bit of an introvert at heart. Follow her on Twitter at @WebWallflower.