They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but these go-getters suggest otherwise. Meet four adults who learned brand new skills to pursue a completely different career – despite the challenges. They’re proof that you should never stop learning…

Meet Goran Zivanovic
From factory worker to Creative Director of his own film production company

Goran Zivanovic went from a factory worker to a film producer and the Creative Director of his own film production company, Gothic Zen Studios. We chatted to him about the highs and lows of his career change, what inspires him, and his advice for anyone hoping to follow in his footsteps.

What was the one thing that made you decide you needed to change your career?
As a child, I had the ability to enthusiastically wake up before sunrise and start my day. Over the next couple of decades, I lost all sense of excitement and wasn’t getting up carefree anymore. I began hitting that snooze button on my alarm clock way too often. I soon realised that I was making myself ill by not following my heart’s choices in life and needed a change.

What learning did you have to undertake to pursue your career change?
Working in the film industry doesn’t demand a qualification. However, I wanted to ensure my knowledge was thorough and my skills were up-to-date, which is why I studied a Bachelor of Film Production. I’m pleased I did as it broadened my perspective of the industry and put me in touch with experienced and dedicated teachers. Now, a few years later, I also have a Certificate IV in Training & Assessment as my intention is to educate others by sharing my experience.

Did you enjoy the learning process? Why or why not?
For the most part I enjoyed the process. I studied at a tranquil campus in Byron Bay and made the drive from the Gold Coast. At first, I was quite intimidated by all the camera equipment, because I was not exactly tech savvy at the time. I initially wanted to do the degree in order to follow my storytelling ambitions, such as writing original screenplays. I thought it would be easy enough because I’d already written a novel at the time. Right? Not quite. I soon realised that creative writing and script development were two very different disciplines. Some of the most important skills I learnt during my time was the importance of independent research, dedication to detail and self-reliance.

Do you think there were certain advantages to changing your career later in life, as opposed to when you were younger?
Yes, I think it’s a positive outcome because I tested those waters earlier in life. Financially, I had two mortgages because that’s the dream I was fed in my youth. I ventured into a career change some years ago whilst holding down my safe, regular factory job too. I tried selling real estate for a couple of agents and other career choice distractions, but my passion and maturity was not strong enough to make an impact.

What were some of the obstacles you faced when transitioning between careers that you didn’t expect?
There is a lot of pressure in trying to make all this time, money and effort translate into a successful business. I work much longer hours now and quite often it doesn’t reflect financially (compared to being paid by the hour at a job). The other barrier, especially in the beginning, was confidence. Initially, I questioned whether I was good enough to be hired for my filmmaking services. Is our brand strong enough; is our equipment up to the task? Time and experience have changed all of this though. I’m lucky in that my wife, Clare, takes care of most of the business end so I can continue to further explore creative avenues and other opportunities related to our field. Dealing with clients is never straightforward either. Learning how to read people and having boundaries is a big learning curve.

How has your career change affected your family, if at all?
I’m pleased that my wife and I have more time together. We mostly spend the hours editing video clips we shot for clients, making arrangements for the next shoot and working on business strategies. Our work sometimes takes us to other locations, which can feel like a holiday. For example, one of our clients flew us down to Melbourne for a few days as part of a documentary assignment. It was hard work, but the joint effort was gratifying. We also find that our time with extended family is more flexible, especially on non-filming days. Our relationships seemed to have gotten even stronger since I embarked on this career change, and we sometimes even have friends and family involved in our productions.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of re-skilling to pursue a new career?
Research, research and more research. Technology changes rapidly and so too does job placement. There’s a lot of competition out there for many kinds of professions, and something that’s on trend now might be lacklustre by the time you upskill or graduate. Find the right training institution that is recognised and respected in the field of study that you wish to undertake, and make sure it meets the current standards for RTOs. Recently, I was astounded to find a couple of training colleges in my area, which I was hoping to teach part-time at, were struggling to pass the current nationally approved quality standards. Those qualifications we used to get in cornflakes boxes are no longer valid in the real world. Be prepared for the long haul and understand the financial and logistical implications.


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