Letters To My Former Self: Julian's Career Change Story

What advice would you give your younger self? Is there something you wish you’d known before making a career change or a big life decision? And what would you tell yourself about the journey with the beauty of hindsight? We asked CareerFoundry UX design graduate Julian Gerdes to share his career reflections.

by Alison Lightfoot on 12 March 2023

Career change stories with UX design graduate Julian Gerdes

Julian is currently working as a producer and account manager in Berlin. We’ve kept in touch since first speaking to him for this article after he graduated from CareerFoundry’s UX Design Program. Now that a few years have passed, we asked Julian to share his words of wisdom about his career journey in a letter to his former self. 

Here, he shares what he would have told himself if he knew what he did now, and his advice for embarking on a career change journey of your own…

Dear Julian in 2018,

It’s future me from 2023!

I know the startup company you were working for recently went bankrupt. From one day to another the entire staff was laid off and the third floor office in Mitte was hollowed out. I know it’s an unsettling time for you right now.

I’m here to tell you now that I’m glad about how you go on to handle the situation, and about what happened next. 

This moment is an opportunity to change your professional course and try something new. I know you have that urge to be more creative and to somehow combine your interests in psychology, tech, and design. UX is the perfect place to start and you’re about to discover CareerFoundry and make a big change.

However, I know you also feel a sense of underlying dread, a terror of once again switching careers and having to explain that transition in your next job interview. I know you’re afraid people wont take you seriously, and they might see your multifaceted nature as a weakness. I know you feel that having a diverse range of skills and interests feels like a hindrance right now.

Despite all that, you’ll choose to study UX design anyway and it will be the best decision you make at this moment in time. And I’m proud of you (me!) because it’s a bold decision.

We were raised by a generation that thinks differently about work and about the idea of a career. When our mothers and fathers were growing up, a person either learned a trade and stuck to it for a lifetime, or went to school to study a topic and became that thing. A psychologist, an architect, an engineer, and most importantly a title that people could recognize. 

The idea that a person could make a career out of being a jack of all trades was idealistic. The idea that someone could climb the career ladder with YouTube tutorials and learning by doing, absurd. 

I know you are currently very much conditioned by this kind of thinking and have always felt that you were doing something wrong (or even dangerous) by following your instincts and just “trying things out”. 

But I feel differently about that now. Even though I’m not working in UX today, I’m grateful for the holistic perspective that the experience you’re about to go through provided future me!

So, younger version of myself, I would like to tell you not to be afraid of what mom and dad will think. I would like to tell you that taking the time to figure out what you don’t like, just as much as what you do like, is important. I want to tell you that in the future, people like you are in high demand and are changing the world.

I want to tell you to be proud of who you are, and concern yourself less with trying to be something. I want to tell you that your time would be well spent, just being.

Julian, from 2023.

What can we learn from Julian’s story? If there’s a universal learning to take away, it’s this: 

Career paths are not linear. When you feel like you’ve been thrown ‘off course’, remember that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The evolving nature of work today means that a career change may be more feasible for you than for previous generations. People are increasingly working in new ways, be it flexibly, remotely, or part-time.

Professional setbacks can provide an opportunity to figure out what you really want to do with your career. If you feel compelled to stay on the path you were originally on, remember the world of work is changing. Self-awareness, lifelong learning, and transferable skills are all considered extremely valuable in today’s workplace. How can you use your unique skillset for positive change and growth?

If you’re going through a career change, or trying to handle unexpected circumstances in your professional life, as Julian did, these articles might be useful:

If you’d like some advice on figuring out if a career in tech is right for you, book a call with an expert program advisor at CareerFoundry. You can also get a taste of what a job in tech looks like with our free, introductory short courses.

Enjoyed this article? Check out other career change stories in the series:

by Alison Lightfoot on 12 March 2023

About the author

Alison Lightfoot

Originally from northern England, Alison’s marketing background ranges from gaming, to sports, to the arts. When she’s not writing about CareerFoundry’s inspiring alumni, she can be found doing yoga, reading a weird book, or exploring new restaurants and cafes around Berlin.