Getting the Most out of Life

Switching Jobs to a New Field: How One Millennial Transitioned From Entertainment to User Experience Design

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Hannah Atkin thought she’d have a long career in entertainment. The 26-year-old New Yorker majored in film and media with a minor in communication design, and she started working in television almost immediately after graduation. But three years later, something seemed amiss. She started contemplating switching jobs, and not just to a different position in show business.

“I realized I was clocking a lot of hours and not having a lot of fun,” Hannah said. “It wasn’t necessarily that it wasn’t glamorous, but it just wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted.”

After working on four different shows, spanning from reality to a well-respected talk show, Hannah felt weighed down by the industry’s utter lack of work-life balance. When she realized she craved more from life than just a career in entertainment, she decided it was time to leave.

Marrying her background in research to her skills in graphic design, Hannah pursued a job as a user experience designer (more commonly referred to as UX designer). She returned to school, albeit not in the traditional sense.

“I don’t have any certifications in this field,” Hannah said. “But I did take a ten-week class at General Assembly.”

The 40-hour-a-week immersive boot camp taught prospective UX designers the skills needed to transition into a new career. Barely three months after exiting the world of entertainment, she prepared to return to the workforce with her newly acquired knowledge. But she relied on skills from her old life to help make switching jobs a success.

“I learned to network a lot, so I was always able to find that next job in TV, which is sometimes difficult to do,” explained Hannah, who also built a website to showcase her work. “So I knew I was going to get something, but it was about making sure I got the right job.”

It didn’t take long before she landed a job as a UX designer for a well-known nonprofit in New York City.

These days, Hannah spends her days doing user research, which could involve interviews, reading through old documents, or going out into the field, and then using her graphic design talents to create wireframes. There aren’t celebrities milling about, but her new job leaves her far more fulfilled than show business ever did.

“It’s the most creative job I’ve ever had, which is amazing,” Hannah said excitedly. “It uses all different elements, so it’s creative and thoughtful. It requires research. It requires teamwork. It just really makes me happy.”