Is a dual career for you? Sheldon Barris, other execs on making the leap


Today, many people change careers, and not necessarily just once. According to the website Career Change Statistics, the average person will change careers five to seven times during their working life. Gone apparently are the days of staying at one job for three or four decades then retiring with a gold watch and a farewell party.

This happens for a number of reasons: burnout, disinterest in one’s chosen industry or even just a desire for change. One person teaches school but really wants to work in marketing. An outdoors-loving accountant would rather be a landscaper. An attorney leaves his or her firm to run a movie studio in Los Angeles. A tech leader likes what he does by day, but gets much more personal satisfaction by teaching guitar at the local community college at night.

If you’re not content in your current career, it might be worth exploring other options. The good news is that you don’t have to make a dramatic change. This is because we now live in a professional culture that offers opportunities for “side hustles” — revenue-generating after-work ventures that allow you to practice what you’re passionate about while creating a new, independent stream of income.

Consider the nine-to-fivers who open eBay stores, engage in online trading, build websites, and get involved in other entrepreneurial activities on their own time.

Simply put, if planned correctly, side hustles as well as career changes are both possible, as evidence by the sheer number of people who have done it and those who continue to explore new possibilities.

Samantha Clarke, a career consultant, tells an interesting story. “A lawyer I know had a passion for jewelry-making,” says Clarke. “So she approached her boss, told him that she loved working for the law firm and didn’t want to quit, but also wanted to explore her calling in jewelry.”

As a result, the lawyer rearranged her schedule to accommodate both of her careers. She continued working as a lawyer by day while also launching a jewelry business on her own time that catered to professional women.

Similarly, Toronto executive Sheldon Barris has enjoyed success in not one, but two careers. In his case, he moved from one to another. During the 1980s, Barris was working at a prestigious law firm after having been recruited by the man who would eventually become his mentor.

As a young lawyer, Sheldon Barris learned everything he could about real estate, financing and corporate commercial law. His career was on the fast track as he earned a professional reputation for integrity, talent and hard work.

“During the early years of practicing law,” Barris says today, “I gained so much knowledge in these areas and they really peaked my interest. So I took my entrepreneurial journey further and established my own finance lending company, Jorlee Holdings in 1992, while consistently maintaining my close connection with law.”

Barris realizes that not everyone has the confidence to change careers, but advises those who really want to do it to go for it.

“My advice to those individuals who are afraid to make the leap to a new career is to just do it,” he says. “You will never regret trying to improve yourself and it only shows others that you have the determination to follow your passions.”

Then there’s Jenny Dorsey. Prior to becoming a professional chef, she was a management consultant. She had a successful position and title but was deeply unfulfilled — so she made the decision to pursue her passion for cooking.

“I yearned to create more, especially tangible things that would have real impact on people’s lives,” says Dorsey, who ultimately decided to sign up for culinary school.

Veronica Sopher, a marketing communications expert at Microsoft, knew she wanted to make the leap into the tech field. Like Barris, her attitude is that there’s no time like the present.

“There is no good time, so do it now,” adds Sopher. “This has held true for me across any difficult transition I’ve made. The coy ability of time to make future decisions seem less formidable is something to be reckoned with, but the truth is it only gets harder, not easier. Take the plunge now, and don’t look back.”

If you’re planning to make a professional change, be aware that pursuing dual careers takes some thought and planning. It’s not for everyone, and it does require time, talent and a willingness to work more hours than many. The upside, though, is that for those who seek fulfillment outside of their current career path, it’s worth exploring.