How to Ride the Wave of Self-taught Success
You don’t always need a degree and a packed resume to make a career change
During the Coronavirus pandemic, 24% of adults took on additional learning in their spare time. Reduced commutes, fewer social occasions, and unfortunate job losses directed many people towards online learning in their free time. As a result of this, a new self-taught workforce is preparing to take off.
The truth is, you don’t need an extensive resume showing that your last 4 jobs were in a specific field in order to forge a career in that industry.
From dropshipping to freelancing, Tik-Tok and other social networks have spawned swathes of self-taught marketeers, e-commerce experts, content creators, and even dancers. There is no MSc in Tik-Tok, or a diploma in cat videos, but there is a huge amount of money to be made in these niches.
In the digital age we live in, boosted by the pandemic’s remote working possibilities, anybody can become an expert in anything just by doing it in their spare time.
Not only this, but many job roles are emerging without recognized qualifications to prove ability, and self-taught experts are becoming executives simply from what they learned doing their hobby.
That’s the point: by doing something, you’re gaining experience, so you don’t necessarily need to study it.
If you’re looking for a career change, but don’t feel like you have enough experience outside of what you currently do, there are more opportunities than ever to self-learn your way to success.
New technology = new roles, many without recognized qualifications
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine became so interested in blockchain and cryptocurrencies, that he religiously listened to podcasts and read articles about it in his spare time. He built a Twitter network and watched YouTube videos about trading.
He wasn’t doing it for money or clout, simply for his own interest alongside his corporate financial day job. He was then recruited by an international company because they were getting requests about blockchain and they didn’t know what any of it meant. He now heads up the department at the age of 27, with no formal training.
While there are some blockchain qualifications appearing across the globe, a lot of blockchain market understanding, and even programming, can be self-taught.
Another example of a lucrative emerging career is UX writing. Again, there are very few university-level qualifications solely dedicated to UX writing.
While UX designers often end up writing the microcopy for buttons, toolbars, navigation and calls-to-action within apps and websites, many of them are not native English speakers or have no formal writing training. Or, the microcopy might be punted across to the marketing department, who are more focused on sales copy than usability.
This leaves a gap in the market for tech-focussed writers, with product design knowledge, to occupy the UX writing niche. This is mostly achieved by self-learning and blending transferrable skills. UX writing is a six-figure-salary job, and more and more roles are cropping up in the field every day.
Gaining knowledge and experience in a new field is not as overwhelming as it seems
While I’ve proven that there are opportunities out there for self-taught workers with transferrable skills, knowing where to begin is tricky if you’re looking to learn a new discipline.
The most common path to a career reinvention involves doing something on the side — cultivating knowledge, skills, resources, and relationships until you’ve got strong new legs to walk on in exploring a new career.
Getting started is the most difficult part, as the gap between your current lack of knowledge and a paid career in that industry seems vast. Whether you want to start an online shop, grow a YouTube channel, or get a job in an emerging tech field, with some simple steps you’ll be well on your way.
- Have a look for free (or low-cost) online courses, for example on LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, YouTube, and others. Invest some of your free time (and not necessarily your money!) into learning, and make sure you take notes that you can revisit.
- Build a network. You can do this by connecting on LinkedIn and Twitter with people in the field you want to break into, or by reaching out to other people in the comments of the online courses you’ve chosen. Take advantage of social media, and get your name out there.
- Portfolios are the new resumes — if you can show that you’ve done a good job of whatever you’re working on, companies will be interested. Offer to re-write a friend’s website pro bono, or design a newsletter for your local coffee shop. Document your process, and use design tools like Canva to present your portfolio in an eye-catching way. Keep building your portfolio as you do more work.
- Write a blog about your new knowledge. You can either start your own website from scratch, or join Medium’s partner program for free, and earn money from writing about your self-taught skills. Reach out to publications and other writers in the same niche to further build your network.
Success takes time, but it happens.
The secret to achieving your goals is consistency. Hold yourself accountable to the points above, and you’ll get there.
Once you’ve grown your skill, and have some sort of social proof that you’re good at it, you can start applying to jobs or seeking freelance opportunities within that field. If Google are hiring programmers without degrees, and teenagers are building viral Tik-Tok accounts and then being offered jobs in marketing, it might as well be your turn next.
So, if you’re looking for a career change, or more freedom in working for yourself, you don’t need a degree to prove it.
Work hard to build up your abilities, show them off, and you’ll be able to get a foot on the ladder in your new career. Good luck!