How can you get your foot in the door of a new industry if you don’t have the traditional credentials, experiences, or education required? Brad Stewart went from being a tattoo artist to a real estate professional to a marketing manager in the financial sector in spite of lacking the formalised experience or education of most other candidates. In this episode of the Career Relaunch® podcast, we’ll discuss how he pulled off his major career changes by overcoming judgment, imposter syndrome, and adversity along the way. I also share some thoughts on how I manage the opinions of others during my own career transitions.

Key Career Insights

  1. One way to figure out if you’re on the right path is to look at the people around who have been in your industry for longer than you and asking yourself whether you want to turn out like them.
  2. It’s inevitable that people may initially judge you based on your appearance, but the onus is still on you to have your work and results speak for themselves.
  3. Career change often involves a total life change too, including your circle of friends, lifestyle, habits, and attitudes.
  4. Imposter syndrome faces us all, but doing your best to be logical rather than emotional about how you react to it can help you manage it.
  5. Be careful who you listen to. Always seek feedback, but be careful what you take on board.

Tweetables to Share

Resources Mentioned

At end of the Mental Fuel segment, I mentioned a quote from Baz Luhrmann’s “Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen” song, originally from Mary Schmich’s 1997 Chicago Tribune article. Here’s the full music video:

Listener Challenge

During this episode’s Mental Fuel segment, I talked about the importance of thinking critically about whose feedback you take on board. If you’re struggling with how to navigate your career transition, definitely solicit the opinions of people you admire, but when you do, sense check it against your own gut and what you feel is ultimately going to make the most sense given your specific situation. This is your journey, so do what you feel works best for you.

About Brad Stewart, Tattoo Artist Turned Marketing Manager

Brad Stewart Rest

Brad Stewart has had quite the career journey. He left high school to spend a decade in the tattoo industry as a tattoo artist, working at and managing various shops around Sydney, Australia. He lived & breathed the lifestyle. We’re talking gangsters, parties, drugs . . . you name it. He describes his late teens and early 20’s as quite a wild time in his life. Then, at the age of 27, he did a complete 180. He went through two years of intensive laser tattoo removal as he pivoted into a career in real estate, which was part of his total life transformation.

After 5 years in the property industry, Brad gained some marketing experience by taking an entry level job at a ticket-selling company. Eventually, he landed a job in the financial services industry where he currently works as a marketing manager for one of Australia’s largest retirement funds. Follow Brad on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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Interview Segment Music Credits

Music provided by Podington Bear

Episode Interview Transcript

Teaser (first ~15s): I would go through a full 45-minute, hour-long interview just for them to turn around and say, “We love the way that you are. You’ve got a great energy about you. You speak really well. We’ve got no doubt that you’ll do really, really but you can’t have a job with us because of the way you look.”

Joseph: Let’s dive right in here. I would love to start by understanding what you’re focused on right now in your career and your life. Then, we’re going to go back in time and talk about your very interesting career journey from there.

Brad: [04:25] I’m from Sydney, Australia. As your listeners could probably tell by the accent. I’m married. I’ve got a lovely little family, two beautiful chihuahuas, and a cat here. I’m currently a marketing manager for a superannuation fund. Superannuation is the Australian equivalent to the 401(k) that is over there in the states. When an employee has a job, they get paid a salary. On top of that salary, it’s compulsory that the employer pays an extra 10% in superannuation. That superannuation goes to a fund. We manage that money on behalf of that particular member. We make sure that their returns and their retirement outcomes are the best that they can be. They can draw down on that money in the form of a pension or a lump sum when they retire. It sort of helps them in their older years.

Joseph: You mentioned that you’ve just recently married. You guys got married right at the start of when COVID kicked off. How’s that been like? How’s married life been during COVID?

Brad: [05:41] It’s been really good. It’s been great. We were due to do something in 2020 when COVID first hit. We decided to hold that off and see what happens. My partner’s got quite a big family, and we would have loved to have a beautiful celebration as everyone would. But, when we sort of hit the start of 2021, and then things weren’t looking like they were going to go away, we decided to basically just elope here in Sydney. We woke up one day and decided, “Hey! Today’s the day;” and away we went, just her and I. It was beautiful. We’re coming up to 12 months now. Married life is bliss, Joseph.

Joseph: Very good to hear. You mentioned you’re working at a superannuation fund right now, in the space of retirement planning that is very different from what you started doing at the very beginning of your career. I was hoping we could go back in time and talk about the chapter from your teenage years through to your late 20s when you were a tattoo artist. I think it’s probably fair to say that that’s probably not the very first thing that most kids would say they want to do when they grow up when you ask them what they’re going to do when they’re going to grow up. How did you get into that? We can move forward from there.

Brad: [06:58] Growing up, Joseph, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I sat in school, and I went through school, didn’t particularly want to be there. I had a lot of anxiety as I hit my early teenage years thinking, what am I going to do when I leave school? I have no idea. You know people that they grow up wanting to be policemen. They grow up wanting to be firemen, doctors, whatever the situation was, and I just had absolutely no idea. I ended up hanging out with a couple of kids around the neighborhood, who, one in particular’s older brother owned a tattoo shop. That whole lifestyle of tattoos and big tough guys, and that whole scene for an impressionable 15-, 16-year-old, not having much direction with where they wanted to go, seemed quite appealing. It’s something that I kind of just fell into, if that makes sense. The more I sort of immerse myself in that lifestyle, I had a natural talent for art that I didn’t realize I had until I started in that particular role. I fell into it, and it just kind of snowballed from there.

Joseph: This was during high school, is that right? That you left high school to pursue tattoo?

Brad: [08:22] Yes. I left school at the end of year 10. It was just before I turned 17. I started working in a shop, in a place called Parramatta, which is here in Sydney. It’s probably the second-largest city in Sydney. I started my apprenticeship and away I went.

Joseph: Were you thinking that you were going to leave high school when you started high school? Were you planning on finishing? Is that something that was crossing your mind on?

Brad: [08:55] No, I always wanted to leave. School for me was just a place I had to go. I wasn’t a naughty kid or anything like that, but I just didn’t want to be there. I was just disinterested in school. I had the issue on the other side. It was like, “Well, what am I going to do if I’m not here?” I sort of found a job in a shop, and that was an excuse for me to get out of there.

Joseph: You get into this world of, let’s call it broadly, “becoming a tattoo artist.” I know you sent me a few articles before we spoke today about the scene in that industry. Can you just give me a glimpse into just what the scene is like in the tattoo industry and working at a tattoo shop? Part of the reason why I ask, Brad, is like you and I have met virtually on camera. You probably can tell I’m a fairly clean-cut guy. I have to admit, I’ve never stepped foot in a tattoo parlor. What’s that world like?

Brad: [09:57] It’s different. I think since I’ve left, things have somewhat changed and cleaned up a little bit. The industry in Sydney is essentially run by outlaw motorcycle clubs, so biker gangs. To own a shop, you need to be in a bike club, or you need to be paying someone in a bike club. Along with that comes the consequences. I know some of the articles that I sent you across back from when I was working in the industry where tattoo shops getting shot, firebombed. I think I sent you one.

Joseph: Rammed with vehicles.

Brad: [10:39] A car was rammed into a front of a shop and set on fire because they wouldn’t pay their stand over money that they were told they had to pay in order to operate. That was fairly common. Something would happen like that on probably a fortnightly basis in Sydney. It was a dangerous industry to be in, and it was a dangerous workplace to be in. I know that there was a particular shop that I was working at in Western Sydney. Once every couple of weeks, the boss would walk in and he’d say, “Lock the back door. Lock the front door. Don’t let anyone in except your customers because all that’s going on, and we might get a knock on the door.” It’s a very dangerous environment to be in. It was an environment where if you didn’t have your wits about you, and you weren’t very aware of your surroundings that at times, you could have got in a lot of trouble.

Joseph: Was this something that you felt each and every day? I guess what’s behind my question is the average person who comes on to this show is not someone who works in what we would consider a dangerous industry. Did this bother you at all? Did it just seem like what was normal in your world?

Brad: [11:52] When I first got into it, I was attracted to that sort of lifestyle. The whole ego image that you’re projecting, that people I’m working in a tattoo shop and hanging out with these kinds of people. It’s one of those things that made me puff my chest out and be proud of. There was a time when I was about 22, it was a couple of days before Christmas, where the boss that I was working for at the time had upset somebody. I worked in the same shop in Parramatta that I started in. It was upstairs, it was on a street called “Church Street.” Anyone in Sydney knowing Church Street, Parramatta is it has very, very busy restaurants everywhere. A bunch of people walked into the shop, and they smashed the entire shop. They smashed me up with the shop.

I don’t remember a whole week of my life after that. From that point on, there was probably maybe three to six months, I took a break from the industry after that because that was something that kind of really opened my eyes and sort of shook me up a little bit. But, once I got over that, nothing bothered me after that, in a weird way. That happened, I took a little bit of a break and just did some odd jobs here and there to pay the bills and so on. It was like if that didn’t stop me, nothing will. I was totally fine after that.

Joseph: At this point, you’ve been in the industry for a few years, and you have this happen. You decide you’re going to stay in the industry. Before we talk about your transition, can you also give me a glimpse into who was your clientele like? Could you give me a sampling of the types of people who would come into your shop to get tattoos?

Brad: [13:42] It was everybody. It was anybody from your 18-year-old guy who wanted to get tattoos to impress the girls and impress his mates, to mothers who had lost children, getting small little memorial tattoos, to people in biker clubs who wanted to get a lot of tattoos as well. It was very varied. I would tattoo policemen, doctors, and a lot of people that are in the corporate environment now, as well as people that you wouldn’t expect. I tattooed a love heart on a lady in her late 70s, who I remember being my oldest client. She just wanted to do it, so she got a little love heart on her upper arm. It was a varied clientele, no particular demographic.

Joseph: As someone who worked in that industry for over a decade, do you feel like there’s any common misconception that people have about tattoo artists or tattoo shops that you feel you could just dispel right now?

Brad: [14:45] Probably not tattoo shops, but tattoo artists and people with tattoos. There’s that stigma where if you’re covered in tattoos or you’ve got a lot of tattoos, you’re some kind of horrible criminal or some kind of a really bad person, or whatever the case might be. But, everybody gets tattoos. I said to my mother when I came home with my first really visible tattoo, I said, “If this is the worst thing I ever do, you should be happy.” It’s a reflection on who you are. People are putting on their bodies things that mean a lot to them, that represents them. It’s a way people tell their story of their life and who they are through pictures on their body. The rumor that I would dispel is that people that have tattoos are bad, horrible people which is just not the case.

Joseph: I’m one of those people who is probably somewhat judgmental with people who have tattoos. I don’t know why. It’s like a stereotype.

Brad: [15:46] For what reason though? I mean, if you look at these shows on TV and these news reports.

Joseph: Prison Break, or something.

Brad: [15:52] Prison Break. Even like reality crime shows, and Australia’s or America’s Most, there are always tattooed people against us. They’re always tattooed and there’s that stigma. It’s the normal people that also enjoy looking that way and doing those kinds of things that are totally normal. It’s a funny one because even myself now, I often look at some people and go, “Oh God! I don’t want to walk past you.” And then, I kind of look at myself and go, “Hang on a minute. What are you doing?”

A funny story was my wife boarded an Uber once. She refused to get in it because the Uber driver had a sleeve tattoo and had a tattoo on his head. She goes, “I don’t want to get in the car with him because he’s covered in tattoos.” I said, “Darling, look who you’re married to.” There is always that stigma there. It’s very hard to get rid of.

Joseph: You’re working in the tattoo industry from your teenage years through to your late 20s. That moment you shared earlier when you got beaten up in the shops and the shop got kind of ransacked, but can you take me back to the moment when you did decide, “Okay, something’s got to change in my career”?

Brad: [17:15] It was a culmination of things. I was in the industry for circa 10 years at the time, and I was looking at older people, older tattooers that had been in the industry for 20, 30, 40 years. I was just starting to observe as I got older myself, and started to mature a little bit myself, how I wanted the rest of my life to pan out. There’s no better way than seeing how you’re going to turn out. I don’t think than seeing the way the people around you are or have turned out. For me, it was a decision that I literally woke up one day and made the decision that there was more to life for me. I wasn’t interested in doing this anymore. I wasn’t interested in being around this environment anymore, and I made the decision to change. There was no catalyst. It was just a build-up of probably 6 to 12 months of seeing this person over there, seeing that person over here, and just saying, “I don’t want this life anymore.” I want more.

Joseph: What did you do next when you realized that you wanted to make a change?

Brad: [18:31] I started to change myself. I always had the short Mohawk haircut. I was always someone who never really took a great deal of pride in my appearance when I was in that industry. I started by making some changes to myself. The way I dressed, the way I’ve had my hair, the way I spoke, the way I interacted with customers, just to bring myself a level above what I was previously. The big decision for me, Joseph, was, “What am I going to do?” By this point, I had tattoos on my hand right down on my fingertips on both hands. I had tattoos right up to my chin, all along my throat, my neck. I’ve got tattoos on my head. I kind of sort of thought, “What am I going to do for the rest of my life?” I’ve made the decision that working in the tattoo industry isn’t it, but what is?

I started to research what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I sat down one afternoon, and I went on Google. I googled something along the lines of “What job can you do where you don’t have a qualification that pays a fair decent salary?” Bearing in mind, I have and still have no formal qualifications, no university degree, or college degree, or anything like that. I’ve got a couple of little certificates here and there that I needed as part of my career transition, but what am I going to do? The one role, the one industry that kept popping up was real estate, and that was it. It had to be real estate.

Joseph: How much did the education come up as a barrier for you? Not having the high school education, not having the college degree. Was that an issue or was it not so much an issue?

Brad: [20:17] It’s proven that it hasn’t, so far. I think the higher I get up in the corporate environment, I think it might become somewhat of an issue. Especially nowadays, a lot of it’s about your output, and about results, and about what you can do, and your ability and willing to learn. So far, I haven’t been held back by not having any formal degrees, and I’m hoping that’s going to continue. I have to see how that one goes. I’ve had some different feedback on that. Some people are saying you will need to do something or you’re only going to get to a certain level without it. But, we’ll just have to see.

Joseph: Real estate popped up as an option. Can you take me through exactly how your first opportunity panned out in real estate? I know you mentioned that you were covered in tattoos. I’d be interested to hear how much that played a role in your first job or attempts to get a job in the real estate industry.

Brad: [21:13] I ended up googling every real estate agency in Sydney. I ended up then emailing just about every real estate agent and agency in Sydney that explains who I was, what my background was, how I looked, what I was hoping to achieve by changing industries. I just sort of shot that out to everybody in the hope that somebody would come back to me and say, “However, [unintelligible], you can have a job with us.” I got a lot of responses. Some responses I got pretty instantly were, “No, thank you. We’re not looking at hiring.” Some were, “If you’ve got tattoos, this isn’t the industry for you.”

Joseph: That was because of your appearance that they were saying no to.

Brad: [22:04] Because of the appearance. I got interviewed on many occasions. I would probably say maybe 8 to 10 agencies called me in for an interview. Here’s me, putting on my suit and tie, and thinking, “I’ve got a real shot at this.” I would see it go through a full 45-minute, hour-long interview just for them to turn around and say, “We love the way that you are. You’ve got a great energy about you. You speak really well. We’ve got no doubt that you’ll do really, really well in this industry, but you can’t have a job with us because of the way you look.” That happened multiple times. Luckily, I’m stubborn. I know what I want and I’m a bit stubborn, so I didn’t let that stop me. I just kept pushing, and eventually found an agency that gave me a shot which was really, really good. But, that issue of the way I look never went away.

My first day with this new agency, again in Parramatta, funnily enough, I walked in the front door of the office on my first day. I said hello to my boss, and he gave me a key instantly to the back door and said, “When you enter or leave the office, can you do it through the back door? Because I don’t want my clientele seeing you with all those tattoos at the front of the office.” He gave me a desk at the back of the office. My role was basically on the phone. There was no sort of face-to-face interaction, and like I said, I was to enter and leave through the back. He often said that I was a little bit of an experiment for him just to see whether or not someone that looked like me could do any good. I ended up doing okay which was interesting. I eventually ended up getting face-to-face in front of real-life clients that the way I looked was quite refreshing to them because real estate agents, they all kind of wear the same cheap suits and drive the same flashy cars. And then, here’s me with tattoos on my neck and on my hands and had a really different look than what everyone else in our area had. I was definitely memorable, Joseph.

Joseph: I’ll bet, yeah. You’re working in residential real estate at this point in time. What was the journey like for you once you got past the initial resistance to things like your appearance, or maybe the lack of education, or things like that?

Brad: [24:33] It was a great one, Joseph. I did learn a lot about who I was as a person. I was making 2,500 cold calls a month by that stage. I was able to get out into the open and into the public. I was knocking on 50 to 100 doors a day, asking strangers if they wanted to sell their houses. I learned a lot during my time as an agent about things like resilience, how a business worked. I was learning a lot about how to get people, how to influence people to do things. I was learning how to sell. I was learning how to sell myself. I was learning how to sell a product. I was honing those skills of people management, stakeholder management. Trying to make sure I was engaging at every step in the journey, presentations, developing strategies. I was putting in the groundwork of what would be my current role now in marketing. I didn’t really have a purpose to be there, if that makes sense. I sort of fell into it because that’s the only thing I felt I could do at that particular time. I didn’t really have a why and why I wanted to be in the industry. It was just, “This is all I could do.” It’s something I wasn’t overly passionate about. But, I would go back and do it again because it’s laid an outstanding foundation for me to be able to build on for the rest of my career.

Joseph: What triggered you to then start to explore other sectors? I know that you eventually moved into financial services. How did that come about for you?

Brad: [26:13] In real estate, it’s a very tough industry in terms of you’re not paid a salary. You’re on commission only, which means if you don’t make a sale or find a listing, you don’t get paid. Along with that comes the cutthroat culture in a particular office where you’d be, in some instances, fighting with the person on the desk next to you about who’s going to get the particular listing or who gets to make the sale. If you’re not in that industry for a very long time, you don’t get the opportunity to develop that clientele and develop those relationships. If you’re not in an office that supports development and growth, and you’re in an office that’s focused on nothing but numbers, it gets to a point where you’re not doing very well, and you are sort of bound by market forces and other different things. So, the market will go up, the market will go down, nobody will sell. Then all of a sudden, it’ll roll over again and there’ll be a lot of properties on the market for sale. For me, financial securities are really important thing, and I wanted to be in a role where I had a steady income and a steady salary. I also wanted to be in an industry and have a role that had meaning to it for me.

I started to enjoy the more marketing and strategic side of real estate, more so than the interaction with people and the sales. For me, it took probably again 6 to 12 months to try and understand where that lay outside. As I mentioned before, financial security is quite important to me. My parents were self-employed. Growing up, I saw my dad get up and go to work every day to make sure that we could pay for the roof over our heads. He’d get up at dark and come home at dark. Seeing that as I was growing up made me feel a lot about financial security and wanting to help people be financially secure, which led me to financial services.

Joseph: I’m listening to your story here, Brad. First of all, it’s very impressive that you’re able to make these moves from the tattoo industry into working in real estate, and then eventually into the finance industry. Did you find anything, in particular, to be challenging along the way? I’m thinking in particular about just being new in a brand-new industry. You’re the newcomer and you don’t necessarily have the traditional kind of linear background most people might have in that industry. Was that ever a challenge or an issue for you? I’d just be curious to hear about that because it’s something that comes up a lot with people who are moving into new sectors or roles or functions.

Brad: [29:26] They’re extremely challenging. There’s not been a move that I’ve made that hasn’t been challenging. There’s two big points, right? The first point was moving from tattooing into real estate. That was challenging because, not only a career change, that was a whole lifestyle change, right? I cleaned up the entire way. I live my life. I changed my circle of friends. I changed the way I spoke. I changed the way I look. I changed the way I interacted with people. I changed what I did for a living. Probably, the change into the change of jobs was probably the easiest change as opposed to the rest of my life that I had to change along with it.

Moving from real estate into the marketing world was a big challenge, and a challenge I kind of still face today even though I’m in a position where I feel like I’m supposed to be. The marketing world, as you probably know yourself, it’s very much based on experience. Not having that qualification, not having in real estate, the formal marketing experience, even though a lot of what we did in real estate was marketing. To get into financial services, I needed, as silly as it sounds, I needed at least 12 months with the word “marketing” in my job title. What I had to do was go from that time in real estate where I was doing okay. I was kicking goals. I wasn’t setting the world on fire, but I had a level of a reputation around the area as someone who knew what they were doing was fairly competent and I didn’t have any issues in that regard. To looking for an entry-level job purely because it had the word “marketing” in it, which would allow me to take my next step.

Taking a step backwards to go forwards was really, really tough. I had to do that twice. I had to do that moving into marketing. I went into an eCommerce sales-based business where we sold tickets to events and I had to move right back to the start, do almost a 12-month apprenticeship for it to be formalized. And then, take that same entry-level role into the financial services industry where I could get 12 months of financial services experience before I could take a step out and get into an actual full-time proper marketing role. That whole transition was probably the toughest point of my career so far, I think.

Joseph: I can imagine. I’m just thinking that with each of these steps, it sounds like you were just patiently and persistently progressing in the direction that you wanted to go. Did you deal with any sort of imposter syndrome along the way? And if so, how did you manage that with each of these steps?

Brad: [32:26] Imposter syndrome. It’s something that I even faced today. It’s something that I’ll have for the foreseeable future. I think a lot of people have that. The fact that I had such a different background. The fact that I looked the way I looked, especially moving into real estate. Having those naysayers who said, “You’ll never get anywhere. You’ll never do well because of the way you look. People don’t want to talk to you.” Things like that always play in the back of your mind. When you’re sitting in the living room, and the mother and a father who were looking at selling their family home, I often thought, “Are these people not going to give this to me because of the way I look?” I always felt like I didn’t belong where I was.

Moving into the business outside of real estate, that ticketing business. I felt like I didn’t belong there. I wasn’t supposed to be there. I felt that I was supposed to be somewhere else because I knew that I was worth so much more than what I was in that particular business. Then moving into financial services, I took another step back and kind of felt like, “I’m in a real business now. This is a business that manages a lot of money, has a great responsibility that comes along with this particular role. I’m under-qualified. I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m going to get a lot of mischief here because I’m going to get found out and all these particular things that you worry about.” At the end of the day, I’ve got a great support network, my wife. She’s unbelievable. She really puts things into perspective for me and she just said, “You know what you’re doing. You’ve got all the experience. Just back yourself and you’ll be fine.”

Once I realized that’s just the anxieties of the change, that’s probably all normal. I felt it more than most. But, sitting back, understanding where I was looking at things logically, instead of emotionally, I was really able to sort of just calm down and take it step by step. Now, things are working out well. I still feel it now and again. I try to overcompensate with things that I do to make sure that I’m always on the front foot with things. Using a lot of initiative and starting new things and going above and beyond in that particular role just to prove a point, “Here I am. Here’s what I can do,” which helps me mentally. It’s been tough at certain points.

Joseph: I want to wrap up, Brad, with a few of the lessons that you’ve learned along the way of your very interesting career journey. I suppose the very first thing that comes to mind for me is just thinking about how radically different your world and your work was as a tattoo artist versus what you’re doing now in the superannuation fund, in the marketing space. What, if anything, did you learn during your days as that tattoo artist that now shows up in your daily career or even your life right now?

Brad: [35:32] That’s a tough one to answer because the craziness of that tattoo world became normal. Since I’ve moved on from there, I try and block a lot of it out. But, a lot of the things that I learned back then that I’ve been able to use now is how to deal with people. That whole self-awareness piece. One minute, I might have been tattooing a mother who had lost a child and was upset and was getting a tattoo as a memorial to that particular event. And then, my very next appointment after that might have been someone in a bike club who was really, really angry, and just didn’t have time to talk and was just a mean nasty person. I really had to learn how to deal with those two conflicting situations because no two people are the same, and people are very funny creatures. Understanding how to read people, how to analyze a situation, how to learn when I was in a dangerous situation or a dangerous position, or a position where something could have gone wrong, and understanding how the mechanics of how all that works is something that I’ve taken on and still use at some point to this day. I sort of translate that into making further career moves and career steps, and people you align yourselves with, and having a bit of a strategy as to how the rest of you know my career is going to pan out. It’s sort of indirect, but there are a lot of things that I draw on from back in the day of being a tattooist that have somewhat followed me through. It’s a really difficult question.

Joseph: You mentioned strategy there, Brad. Now, if you had to give advice to your younger self, as it relates to navigating these career changes, what might that be?

Brad: [37:38] I think there’s two things that I would tell my younger self. The first thing is to be careful who you’ll listen to. Always seek feedback and advice but be careful what you take on board and who you take that on board from. We need to remember that people’s feedback and people’s advice and people’s opinions are always based on their own experiences. It includes their insecurities and their own biases. Sometimes, feedback can be really, really useful, and really, really helpful, and really insightful. Sometimes, feedback can say more about the person giving it than it can about you, the person receiving it. There’s a lot of frenemies in the corporate world I’ve come to learn. It’s understanding who’s on your side, who’s on your team. And, just being careful around that.

The second thing that I would tell myself would be make sure every move you make is very deliberate and very purposeful. Not getting distracted with flashy lights and things that shine all the time. Making sure that everything you do aligns to why you’re doing what you’re doing. Every career move you make aligns to your long-term goal. And block out the distractions, and don’t be too easily influenced.

Joseph: That is some great advice there, Brad. I think that there’s so many people who whether you solicit the opinions or not of those people, they want to weigh in on your career decisions and your moves. You’re absolutely right. It’s completely biased by their own experiences and their own insecurities sometimes. It’s hard to find somebody who’s truly objective with this.

Brad: [39:33] If I listen to everybody for every interview I went into as a real estate agent, if I listen to all of them, I wouldn’t be here today. I’ll probably still be sitting in a tattoo shop somewhere because to them, they had a bias that tattoo people weren’t going to amount to anything or wouldn’t fit in the industry. I chose not to take that on board when I very easily could have taken that on board. If I had, I wouldn’t be here. It’s just being very mindful about who you listen to.

Joseph: Last question here for you, Brad. You mentioned earlier that you learned a lot about yourself as a person through some of these moves. Clearly, you’ve faced a lot of naysayers along the way. Yet, you persisted through it all. When you think about your career change journey, going from tattoo artists to working in real estate to financial services, is there one thing in particular that you have learned about yourself that stands out to you?

Brad: [40:28] What I’ve learned is I’m actually able to do anything I want to do. Going through life, there’s always doubt. You always question whether what you’ve done is the right decision, and you’re always thinking, “Should I have done something different? Am I on the right path?” What I’ve learned about myself is I have the guts to change. I’m pragmatic enough to be able to do that. I’ve learned that I can shape my own future however I want to, and it’s up to me to do that. I’ve got the ability to do it. It’s that whole part of believing in myself. Even though there’s been times where I’ve felt like I’m in that position or in a role where I haven’t belonged, I do belong right where I am right now. I can do anything I put my mind to.

Joseph: Thank you so much Brad for telling me more about your former life as a tattoo artist and how you made some of these radical career pivots in the face of a lot of challenge. As you just mentioned, the importance of being selective about whose opinions you take on and the power of belief. Best of luck to you with your current role. I hope it all continues to go well for you.

Brad: [41:48] Thank you very much, Joseph. It was great to have a chat with you. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to come on your show.

Joseph: I hope you heard some useful insights from Brad about overcoming the judgments of others, managing imposter syndrome, and entering a new industry when you haven’t followed a traditional career path to get there.


About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu is dedicated to helping people relaunch their careers and do more meaningful work. As a public speaker, career consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch® podcast, he shares insights from his decade of experience relaunching global consumer brands to help professionals to more effectively market their personal brands.

About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu helps aspiring professionals relaunch their careers to do work that matters. As a keynote speaker, career & personal branding consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch podcast, his passion is helping people gain the clarity, confidence, and courage to pursue truly meaningful careers. Having gone through three major career changes himself, he now shares insights from building & relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals and business owners to build & relaunch their personal brands.