Changing careers at a not-so-young age

Hello there Medium readers, welcome to my very first post! As you can see from the title, I’m going through some changes and I wanted to share it in writing so that 1) people who might be going through the same stuff can see that they’re not alone and 2) seeing my own thoughts might give me some different perspective. So without further ado, I present to you my story. I promise I’ll try to make it fun to read.

I’m from Turkey and Turkey’s idea of education is teaching kids some stuff like math, grammar, physics etc. until they’re 18, make the whole 18 year-olds take a quiz and place them in colleges according to their scores. So pretty much like most of the countries I guess. However in Turkey, it’s not important what those kids want to be when they grow up or what they’re passionate about, the important thing is how high they score in tests and how impressive their title is going to be when they start working. In other words, you only get respect from society and make good money if you’re a lawyer/judge/engineer/doctor etc. That’s how kids (but mostly their parents) decide which career path they want to choose: according to the opinions of Turkish society.

Even though I’m talking (well, writing) a lot about how kids don’t get to be what they want or do something they’re passionate about, I had no idea what my passion was in high school. As the almighty college exam started to creep up on me, I started to think what I wanted to do with my life. Like every single person in this world, I wanted a job I would LOVE. Who wouldn’t want to make money out of their hobbies? I really liked drawing and was always into computers since I was little, so I thought I might like graphic design; but again I wasn’t super passionate about it, it just made sense. When I told my dad about my decision, he told me I wouldn’t be a respectable member of the society or can’t make loads of money if I went down that road and told me I should definitely go to law school to get somewhere in life. Since I wasn’t obsessed with being a graphic designer or anything really, I decided to play it safe and ended up in law school.

I had no idea what to expect from law school or what would my career be like in the future, and since I HATE the unknown, I worked in law offices almost every summer for 4 years to get to know it. Guess what, I absolutely hated it. That was the moment I knew I needed to do something about it, but my dad kept talking me into keep going.

So I did. I graduated, did my legal internship for a year, became a lawyer, actively worked as a lawyer for another year and guess what? Yep, still hated it. I kept on going all those years thinking it was impossible to do something completely different at that point, so I might as well force myself to like being a lawyer. But I couldn’t do it. The thought of how many years I left to retire was killing me. On the other hand, learning something else from scratch also seemed like a painful and scary idea. Not only because of my devastating fear of failure, but all my friends and people my age were at a certain point at their career and I felt like I would fall so far behind them.

After weeks, maybe months of sleepless nights I finally decided to quit my job at the age of 25 (a.k.a not-so-young age) and go to a graphic design course. Luckily my dad was supportive because he knew I tried my best. When I went to sign up for training I realised it was actually a graphic AND web design course. I had no idea what web designing was but I thought “yeah whatever, the more the merrier”. The graphic design part of the training was over in 3 months, and I found out that I absolutely suck at being creative. I had no idea how hard it is to come up with a damn logo idea for a damn company. After struggling with my graduation project I had to accept the fact that I didn’t have the talent and felt super depressed for quitting my safe job for nothing.

And then something amazing came along: web design training.

Again, I had no idea what web designing was, so I was pretty surprised and intimidated when the trainer started to talk about building websites with HTML, CSS and JavaScript, basically CODING. I thought to myself “Dude, these are super advanced engineering stuff, how the hell am I supposed to learn these in 3 months?”. But after a couple of weeks, I was absolutely in love with coding. I couldn’t believe how magical it was; I typed in some stuff in some programming language and hit refresh on my website and there it was! I’m not saying it was easy though; I also struggled with building a website for my project, but the difference was it wasn’t painful. On the contrary, I enjoyed every second of researching why my code wouldn’t work because I learned new stuff every time I did something wrong.

Sadly the training was over in 3 months, but I finally had something I was excited about and I wanted to learn more about it. I thought the best way of learning more and improving myself was landing on a front end development job. Now here I am, 26 years old and an intern front end developer at a digital agency. It still bums me out knowing I’m starting a career from scratch because I feel like I’ve thrown a good 3–4 years of my life away. But at the same time I’m okay with it, at least I’m not going to waste my prime years doing something I hate.

Well, that’s my story in a nutshell, time to wrap it up.

Except some lucky people who are born to do certain things in life, it’s not easy to find the perfect career path for yourself, I can tell you that much. People don’t always know what they are passionate about until they find it, sometimes you just have to keep searching until it presents itself to you. And I know it’s hard to start over even if you know or find the thing you love, but if you can stand strong against the sociological and psychological (and sometimes economical) pressure, you’ll see it’s worth the trouble.

Tiny Update:

Remember the time I took the web design training? Well, my trainer was working as a front end developer at a global company back then, and since I was so eager to build my career on development, we stayed in touch. While I was an intern at that small digital agency trying my best to learn more, he called me to say that the company he worked for was looking for a junior front end developer and asked me if I would be interested.

Naturally I was really excited and went to the headquarters for an interview, finished and handed in the project they gave me, got accepted and started working a couple weeks after. It’s been a year now and I can’t believe how much I’ve improved myself since then.

My trainer became my mentor, a really close friend and one of the most important people in my life. Thanks to him, I found my dream job in an amazing company with an amazing team and — fun side info — also met the love of my life :)

It does get better if you really want it and work for it.

Frontend Developer.

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