I pinch myself again.–Jhett Tolentino

Jhett Tolentino won three Tony Awards as Producer – Best Play in 2013 for Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike; Best Cover of a Play in 2014 for A raisin in the sun; and Best Musical also in 2014 for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. Tolentino also won a Grammy Award in 2017 for Best Musical Theater Album for A purple color. Currently, he directs and produces, Asian persuasiona romantic comedy feature film, as executive producer for invisible nursea documentary about Filipino nurses in the United States and reviewing over 30 projects for future development.

However, Tolentino’s early career was in accounting, sales and marketing, and healthcare. Tolentino graduated with a degree in accounting from the University of Iloilo in the Philippines in 1997 and has worked as an accountant, accountant and auditor in the Philippines. He moved to the United States in 2002 for a sales and marketing position at a consumer electronics chain, then moved into healthcare again in 2006 as a nursing assistant.

How do you change careers something you like? Jhett Tolentino’s journey from accounting to Broadway reflects five key lessons that any budding career changer can use to earn a living pursuing their passion:

1 – Start from where you are and move forward in the direction of your interests

Asked about his pivot to the Broadway producer, Tolentino doesn’t describe typical job search activities, such as taking classes in your new field or applying for jobs. Tolentino’s theatrical journey began as an after-work hobby. He estimates that he watched over 1,000 shows before producing anything. He watched five shows a week, met and interacted with other theatergoers, and started a blog reviewing what he saw in 2008. Within a year his blog had over 2,000 subscribers and he began to receive invitations from show producers.

Too many job seekers assume that a career change requires a formal activity like going back to school or requiring quitting one’s job. It makes taking that first step risky and scary. However, you can start small, after work (so you don’t have to quit your job) and make it fun.

2 – Listen to the market even if it means pivoting again (and again)

While his blog was a success, some people in his theater community expressed hurt feelings when he wrote a review of their project. Tolentino wanted to stay involved without the negativity, so he put blogging aside but continued to attend shows and nurture his theatrical connections, while he considered his next move. In previous pivots, Tolentino moved to accounting mortgage financing after a layoff. He also turned to health care and transitioned into a whole new career when the 2008 recession hit the mortgage market.

Career change is not a linear path. Try something and refine. You may need to pivot multiple times depending on what you hear (like Tolentino’s comments on his Theater Network) or what’s happening in the market (like a layoff or recession).

3 – Maximize the support and resources you already have

As a nursing assistant, Tolentino worked in home care for wealthy families. One of his clients suggested the role of producer as a way for Tolentino to combine his interest in acting with his training as an accountant. It was also one of his clients who provided the money that allowed Tolentino to start investing as a producer. Tolentino provided the insight and theater connections, while someone else provided the money.

You don’t have to go it alone. You also don’t have to completely sever your ties to a career to move on. In fact, Tolentino’s big insight and big break as a producer came from his former career in healthcare. Look around you at what you already know and who you already know. If you have a strong relationship with your manager, they could be a mentor for your next move, even if it takes place outside the company or industry.

4 – Find your unique voice – and be prepared to disagree with the experts

Tolentino began producing as part of a larger investment group which produced several projects. It’s a smart way to learn from others and minimize your risk. However, Tolentino recommended a project which the bigger band turned down, so he went out on his own (the project turned out to be the hit musical, Naughty boots!). When this project made good returns, it was able to participate in other projects and, in 2012, finally got producer billing (where your name appears as the producer, instead of just behind the scenes).

Tolentino could have continued working with that initial investment group — he’s already pivoted his career and was working in theatre. However, eventually he wanted more, and that meant yet another move. You, too, will outgrow your first step in career change and need to make more moves.

5 – Keep working on your career

After 3 Tonys and 1 Grammy, Tolentino is still pushing himself. It focuses on supporting Filipino artists. He went to the cinema. He is still fundraising and looking for other projects.

A fulfilling career is a series of jobs, projects and goals. There will always be more moves to make. Start from where you are, listen to your market, use the support you already have, find your voice and keep working.