Doing work you don’t love will often leave you feeling unaccomplished and unfulfilled. For creative individuals, this is especially true. Being stuck in a job that doesn’t maximize your creative skills can make it hard to even get out of bed in the morning. But here’s the good news: it’s never too late in life to pursue a creative career!

The fact that you haven’t been doing it since you were a child doesn’t matter a jot. A creative career is about passion, a willingness to learn and a commitment to develop your skills and ideas. So, whether you’re considering a career change at 50 or trying to figure out your purpose at 26, you should feel inspired to pursue a career that you love, be it photography, art, illustration, graphic design or any other creative discipline.

At Shillington, we often have students from all walks of life, keen to change careers and do something creative. It’s quite the norm.

Don’t believe me? Check out the following six examples of famous people who left their jobs for a creative career.

1. Brandon Stanton

Brandon Stanton - Creative Career Changer

Born in 1984, Brandon Stanton is a photographer and the creator of Humans of New York, an online photography project that has become a global phenomenon. For his work, Brandon made Time Magazine’s list of ‘30 Under 30 People Changing The World’. But, a creative career wasn’t always on his agenda.

Instead, as a young man, Stanton went into finance and worked as a bonds trader. His plan was to make money first, save it, and maybe do something artistic later in life. But the misery of doing something that failed to fulfil him creatively ended up taking its toll. And so when he eventually lost his job, it gave him the push he needed to make a dramatic career U-turn.

Despite not being trained as a photographer, something led Stanton to pick up a camera and start shooting and interviewing passers-bys on the streets of New York. Afterward, he posted his work on Facebook where it quickly went viral. Today, the blog has more than 17 million followers on Facebook, has led to a best-selling book, and is hugely influential around the world.

Image source: Wikicommons

2. Hermann Zapf

Herman Zapf - Creative Career Changer

Hermann Zapf (1918-2015) was a German typeface designer and calligrapher best known for creating the typefaces Palatino, Optima and the eponymous Zapfino. In school, however, he was mainly interested in technical subjects. Zapf left in 1933 with the ambition of pursuing a career in electrical engineering.

However, as the saying goes, ‘Man makes plans and God laughs’. After getting in trouble with the newly established Third Reich for being a trade unionist, landing him briefly in the infamous Dachau concentration camp, Zapf found it difficult to get an apprenticeship. Finally, after being interviewed by the last company in the telephone directory, he finally got a job as a retoucher. Shortly after, he attended an exhibition in Nuremberg in honour of the late typographer Rudolf Koch. This exhibition gave him his first interest in lettering. Zapf bought two books to teach himself calligraphy, and the rest is typographical history.

Image source: Courtesy of Lovibond at English Wikipedia

3. David Carson

David Carson - Creative Career Changer

Born in 1955, David Carson is an American graphic designer and art director best known for his innovative print design and use of experimental typography. David Carson’s work on the 90s magazine, Ray Gun, made him a star. His magazine layouts featured distortions or mixes of ‘vernacular’ typefaces and fractured imagery. The result was almost illegible and he became known as the father of ‘grunge typography’.

But it wasn’t always thus. From 1982 to 1987, Carson worked as a teacher in San Diego, California. At that time, he was also a professional surfer, ranked 9th in the world.

Gradually, though, Carson started to experiment with graphic design and went on to attend the Oregon College of Commercial Art. The move led to a career which Newsweek magazine wrote “changed the public face of graphic design”. Surfing’s loss was the creative world’s gain.

Image source: Courtesy of Jens_T from Berlin, Old Europe

4. Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma Moses)

Mother Moses - Creative Career Changer

So far, all our creative career changers on this list have been relatively young. But don’t think you’re too old to switch lanes. And just to prove there’s no age barrier to making it as a creative, consider the late-blooming career of one Anna Mary Robertson, aka Grandma Moses.

The celebrated artist appeared on magazine covers, on TV, and in a documentary of her life; she wrote an autobiography, won numerous awards and was awarded two honorary doctoral degrees. Her paintings are among the collections of many museums; one sold for $1.2 million in 2006. And yet she had spent most of her years living a simple rural life, as a farmhand, a live-in housekeeper and a wife and mother.

Born in Greenwich, Washington County in 1860, Robertson was first discovered when an art collector noticed her paintings in the window of a drug store. She was 78 years old at the time. Her first solo exhibition came two years later, and fame soon beckoned.

And lest you consider that late blooming may have been way too brief given her advanced age, fear not: Grandma Moses made the most of her new-found creative career and lived to the ripe of old age of 101.

Image source: By New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer: Roger Higgins. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

5. Marcus Bleasdale

Marcus Bleasdale - Creative Career Changer

Marcus Bleasdale is living proof that money isn’t everything. When he was working as an investment banker, he was earning half a million pounds a year to work in a comfortable office. Now, he earns a fraction of that. Bleasdale has thrown comfort out of the window to document conflicts in Africa, Central America and the Balkans as a photojournalist.

 After being horrified by a report of mass graves in the Balkans on TV, Bleasdale left his job at age 29. Compelled to help, he sold his expensive homes, gave his designer suits to charity, and got on a plane to the Balkans. He had no real idea what he was going to do when he got there. Marcus’s mother thought he was stupid for leaving a stable job for a creative career and his father told him he was mad. But by the second day, he had realised what he wanted to do with the rest of his life: photojournalism.

The British photographer has gone on to have a stellar creative career, winning dozens of awards from the likes of UNICEF, World Press Photo and Royal Photographic Society, as well as being nominated for an Emmy. But rather than see his early experience in business as a mistake, he continues to draw on it in his profession. For example, in the Congo it helped him researched the sources of financing driving the conflicts, which would usually lead to the mines, and the armed networks linked to them.

He also now runs a social impact nonprofit in Oslo, which combines his banking and photojournalism experience, and shoots stories for National Geographic and Human Rights Watch. Some days he’s at a board meeting in a suit in London; others he’s in a swamp in Central Africa.

Image courtesy of Marcus Bleasdale

6. Giorgio Armani

Giorgio Armani - Creative Career Changer

Everyone’s heard of fashion designer Giorgio Armani. But fashion was not his first career. As a young man, Armani enrolled in the Department of Medicine at the University of Milan. But after three years there, he left and joined the Italian army. While in service, he was assigned to the Military Hospital in Verona.

After leaving the military in 1953, Armani chose a new career path. He found a job as a window dresser at a department store in Milan, La Rinascente. He eventually became a seller in the menswear department.

By the mid 1960s, Armani moved to the Nino Cerruti company and began designing menswear. He formed his own company, Armani, in 1975. By 2001, Armani was considered the most successful designer that Italy has produced. His brand boasts an annual turnover of $1.6 billion and his personal fortune is nearly $8.5 billion as of 2013.

Sometimes, you get it right second time.

Image source: Courtesy of Bruno Cordioli at Wikicommons

Your Creative Career

All of these individuals, though different, were driven by the same things: passion and determination. If you possess those characteristics and a creative mind, you don’t have to be famous to make your own dreams a reality. You don’t even have to be experienced. At Shillington, we offer hands-on courses taught by experienced graphic designers to help you launch a creative career in 3 months full-time or 9 months part-time. It’s really that simple. What are you waiting for?