Episode 158 — How to Change Careers After 30


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Episode 158 — How to Change Careers After 30

Hey, everyone!

This is Allan McKay. Welcome to Episode 158! I’m talking about changing careers — into Visual Effects or into any creative career — after the age 30. Just to start out: This Episode is from a video I’ve published, which dove into changing careers. I wanted to try putting out easy going content. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time worrying about lighting for a video. Rather, I wanted to focus on the content. The video did do well. I’ve had comments like, “This is the exactly right video for me, right now!”

This Episode is about changing careers after 30. I get so many emails asking if “it’s too late”. We have a lot more to lose later on in life. In your 20s, you can go through a lot of failures. But at a later age, the risks that are involved are much higher. This applies to any creative career: games, design, etc.This Episode should resonate with a lot of people because it’s more about the mindset of how to approach a career change.

Let’s dive in!



[4:24] One of the things I’m doing this month is focus my attention on the subject of how to get started. I’m focusing on how to get traction with your career in its earlier phases. There will be a lot of high-end stuff in mid-November. In a way, we’re going back to the Best Year Yet Bootcamp this past December: http://byy.allanmckay.com/downloadbook

Email me and tell me about what obstacles you have right now. My email address is [email protected]. The more you can share the situations you’re in, the more I can make my content relevant. The more I know your pains — the better I can serve you!

[06:50] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. Typically, we go on job interviews; and when asked what we charge, we either shoot ourselves in the foot by saying we charge less than we’re worth and getting the gig — but indirectly leaving tens of thousands of dollars accumulatively over time, on the table; rather than actually asking what we should be charging. At the same time you don’t want to alienate your employer by asking for too much and leaving yourself out in the cold.

I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. This is something I’m going to continue to build and flush out over time.

The key thing is: I don’t want to just showcase how much you should be worth — I want to hand you the tools to grow beyond that and learn:

  • to negotiate better;
  • to ask for the right amount of money in the right way;
  • lots of other additional tools!

The information is FREE! Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! Put in your information and you will get instantly notified with how much you should be charging per hour, as a VFX Artist.



[08:21] I get asked this question a lot: “I want to start working in Visual Effects but I’m 35 years old, I have kids, I’m married — this ship has finally sailed, right?” “Is it too late to go after my passion?” I have so many friends and students who have switched into visual effects from another career.

[09:27] The more important question is: How do you do this switch intelligently? A lot of people think it’s too late in their life. If you’re an 18-year old, you don’t have many responsibilities. It is expected that you will go through several careers in your lifetime. When you do have those responsibilities, it’s different. You have people who depend on your income. So it’s more about switching intelligently. I’ve seen some bad results from people who didn’t make a plan or create a strategy.

[10:51] When it comes to switching careers, you need to try if you really want to be in visual effects, to begin with. You don’t know a 100% if it’s for you. Once you start investing time in something, you start being more invested in that. If you’ve been doing IT or architecture for 20 years, for example, you’ve been invested in that career. What you need to do — is test if that’s something you want to do in the first place. The grass is always greener. But the fantasy is sometimes more appealing than the reality of it. The smartest thing to do — is test the waters first:

  • You could start working on your reel;
  • You could start learning the programs;
  • You could start moonlighting in this new field in the evenings or on weekends.

[13:00] Start doing the small stuff by doing freelance work at first. Start helping out on short films. Try to see if this is something that appeals to you. By getting this initial experience — by getting out there — you’re building yourself up. Once you get a reel you can be confident about and people start reaching out to you, you can tell them that you’re in a full-time career already. Then, you could say, “What I suggest is: I have some vacation time coming up, so why don’t I try out your studio then?” Go and use your vacation time to invest back in yourself.

[14:49] You want to test the waters in a safe environment. You want to know that you still have a job to fall back on, once you get back. If it’s a paid vacation — that’s even better because you’re getting paid by two places. This is a chance for you to prove to yourself that this is something you want to do. Just as importantly, you can prove to the employer of what you’re capable.

[15:33] If you’re changing from one career to another, you want to make sure you have jobs lined up. Going to work for someone for a trail period gives you prerogative to ask them, “How did I do?” They may say, “It will take you a bit longer to get there.” Or they could say, “Hell, yeah!” Then you can ask what the chances are of them hiring you. Again, you want to know that you can transition into an environment with a steady income.

[16:12] So again, getting up early and working weekends means that you’re investing the time in your self. You’re front loading the hours into your new career. There is going to be a discomfort when you’re doing such a shift. You don’t just click your fingers and expect great results. You need to be working hard. Let that be an example of what this industry is going to be like: It’s going to be hard work. It’s not going to be the easiest industry to get into. Maybe it’s not even for you.

[17:11] I have a friend who worked for an architectural firm in Detroit and who started working for Blur Studio on weekends. Then, he ended up moving as a Supervisor into Blur. You can use your life experience to leverage for your new career. Anything is possible! But working those weekends means that you’re proving yourself and proving to yourself as well. It’s important for you to to strategize.

[17:49] I will paint one scenario. I had someone call me on Saturday morning. (I guess it’s pretty easy to get my number these days.) The person was telling me he was homeless and looking for a job in Los Angeles, and no one was hiring. He asked me if he should give up his dream at that point? That is on me to tell that person what to do with his dreams. He shouldn’t have gone to another city with nothing lined up. You have to have built some relationships. When you have those relationships, you can move to another city. I asked him why he moved to LA in the first place and he said that every potential employer was telling him to contact them once he was in LA. No one wanted to be responsible for his relocating and all those expenses. But if he were already in the city, they’d look at your stuff.

[19:38] I do have a friend who was based in Texas and wanted to work in LA. He got a 310 number and told the studios he was in LA. He came in to do the interview and was hired and was told to come into work on Monday. They didn’t know that he flew back to Texas and moved all his stuff that weekend. You’ve got to front load the work to get the results you’re expecting. Keep this in mind.

[20:24] It is a huge investment to switch careers. There is a lot of risk involved. That’s why you have to be smart and have a strategy. I hope this helps. Again, this is the most common question I get asked. It’s up to you to lower the risk involved with changing careers.

  • You need to weigh the pros and cons.
  • You need to test the waters and see if you’re right in the industry.
  • If you need to keep working on your skills, keep doing that until you are ready.

[21:54] Just be smart about it: That’s the only difference between being young and older. You have to be smart. We tend to change careers 3-4 times in one lifetime. So it’s expected. You just need to have a plan!

I hope you enjoyed this Episode. I hope this is something you can take action on. The whole premise that you can change careers — but you’re smart to be careful about it. I was just rereading The Alchemist. There are people who want to dream about the dream, which is the thing that keeps them going. It’s more about the idea of doing it “one day” — rather than actually doing it. You can be going and living that life — right now!

For some of us, the grass may be aways greener on the other side. Once you try it, you may find it less fantastical. There is so much information on my Podcast — and from all the other leaders in the industry — that you can create the lifestyle that you want.

I think most of the time, the job is what we want to do; we just tell ourselves that we can’t. I think it’s about figuring out what it is that you want. Then, it’s easier to get the results. But figuring out what you want — is the hardest part.


The next Episode is with the character designer of Jar Jar Binks Teryl Whitlatch. I’m really excited about this one!

If you have questions about your career right now, please email me. I want to serve you the best I can with the content I publish.

I’ll be back next week.

Until then —

Rock on!


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