One of the hard things about changing careers is the thought of starting over with no experience. That's not necessarily true, though. In 2015, I changed careers. Prior to that, I was a dental technician for 15 years (I made dentures, metal frameworks, and did some crown and bridge work). While preparing for that change, I did the expected thing and spent a lot of time honing my technical/programming skills. But I also spent a lot of time thinking about how that shift was going to work for my family and what that looked like for myself.
Some questions that came to mind were:
- Since I'm starting over, what will that look like financially?
- Will we have to move?
- Am I just throwing away the last 15 years?
I got lucky in landing a 100% remote job with a starting pay of exactly what my ending dental tech. pay was. So, financially, it ended up being a lateral move, but with all the benefits of being remote and not having up uproot my family.
That last question, though, really got me thinking. What do I with this 15 year history I have? From a technical skills standpoint, it's all useless. But I realized not everything was being thrown away.
Let me give a brief explanation of the process in the dental lab. A dentist would send us a script with the instructions along with the impressions of the patient's mouth. We would go through the whole process of creating a denture (or partial, crown, etc.) based on those instructions. While working on the denture, it would typically go between the lab and the dentist's office 2 or 3 times (or more, if something was really problematic) before it was finished. If a problem or question came up, we would call up the dentist to clarify it. Occasionally, a dentist would request a chair side visit with the patient so we could see what was going on and discuss how to proceed.
Let's look at that same process with a twist. A client (dentist) would send us product requirements. As we were creating the product (dentures), there was constant communication with the client and changes to the product as needed to meet the requirements. Sometimes a phone call would suffice, sometimes a visual inspection was easier.
It's an oversimplification of the process, but hopefully it gets the idea across.
Framing my career like that made me realize that a lot of the non-technical skills do transfer. Not only that, but for 8 of those 15 years, I was a lab manager. The people skills, ability to juggle multiple projects, and team building skills learned during those years all directly transferred.
While starting a new career can be daunting, take a look at how previous experience can be applied. The technical aspects may not directly transfer, but there are plenty of other skills that can and do transfer.