A surprising lesson from Maisie Williams about career change

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17 April 2018 Reading Time: 3 minutes

Reading that another celebrity has tried to become a politician, entrepreneur, or different kind of celebrity has always provoked eye-rolls for me. I was always certain a bunch of celebrities couldn’t teach me something about changing careers (something I’ve experienced and written about plenty)

I was wrong.

It turns out there are universal lessons on making a career change, even for someone . Case and point: Maisie Williams. If you read the headlines, you’d think she had just woken up one day and decided to co-found Daisie, a tech company (specifically, an app for young creative people to build their careers). But it turns out a huge portion of the skills, knowledge, and relationships she’s developed as an actor apply directly to her new role as a co-founder.

Actor → Tech Co-Founder

It all starts with an exercise we developed to think about how people change careers. The idea is to get you thinking in concrete terms about what each role actually involves. So instead of considering a software engineer job in the abstract, you think about the day to day coding, fixing bugs, debating features to add, etc.

Then, you compare the skills, knowledge, and relationships at your current role and your new role. This is where things get interesting. In Williams’ case, many of the skills she developed as an actor apply directly to co-founding a technology company. Her PR training taught her how to handle media as the co-founder of a company, her lessons on choosing the right roles to advance her career has lent her some basis in strategic thinking, etc.

Her knowledge of the kinds of challenges young people in creative industries face is also critical for her new role. Luckily, being just one of those people means she has a good understanding of those challenges. Finally, with a devoted fan base and connections in the entertainment industry, Williams has the kinds of relationships that can help her succeed.

It’s also worth mentioning what doesn’t show up here: knowledge of technology. Williams doesn’t know how to code, but her transition is a great example of how non-tech people can still bring vital knowledge to tech companies: understanding people, PR, presentation skills, etc.

But what are the broader lessons to take away?

Old Role → New Role

As I learned when I made the transition from academia into marketing, a lot more skills, knowledge, and relationships transfer than you would think. I found research skills, writing abilities, and an understanding of quantitative methods were invaluable. Sure I was studying early 20th century radical agrarian movements, but I had a good understanding of statistical significance and how to write on a deadline.

But I learned those lessons organically. It would have been more helpful to realize how much of my skills, knowledge, and relationships would transfer from the beginning. I could have been more confident and leveraged that information to perform better. I hope Williams’ story and my own can inspire you to try this for yourself.

You → New You

So give it a try, imagine a new role you’d like to have alongside what you do now and see how ready you really are. Whether you’re looking at moving into the tech world like Maisie Williams or myself, or just want to try something new, there’s a lot to learn. It’s just 4 easy steps, so what have you got to lose?

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Eric D. Halsey

A writer with a passionate belief in the power of peer to peer learning and storytelling to change lives. Wants nothing more than to spend a day cooking, reading books, playing board games, and discussing history and politics with friends. Also always up for an adventure!

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