How To Start a New Career (in 20 hours)

I’ve talked to hundreds of people about their next career move. Want to know the most common issue they have?

They’re indecisive about what skill to learn and what career path to choose.

So in this post, let’s focus on the skill part of the issue starting with a little story.

From Medical Scribe to Freelance Copywriting

In 2018, I was working as a medical scribe in an emergency room. 

After realizing that the medical field wasn’t for me, I decided I wanted to try freelance copywriting. I found a comprehensive blog article like this one and followed everything it said for 30 days. 

Then I created an Upwork profile and started applying to writing gigs. I landed a couple gigs and put in way more hours than I was being paid for (a normal dynamic in the beginning). 

I liked the writing itself, but hated the feeling of having to constantly find new clients. So I decided that freelance copywriting wasn’t for me. 

So did I completely waste my time? You tell me: 

Learning the basics of copywriting made me a better writer in general. 

Those writing skills allowed me to improve my resume enough that it helped me get my first remote job a couple months later. Then I used those writing skills in the job to correspond with customers, improve internal documents, and get promoted in 9 months.

Skills Open Doors

Many people feel that when they start learning a skill, they are committing themselves to one career path forever. 

Or they worry that they’re wasting their time if they later find out it’s not for them.

If I get a certification in marketing, I’ve closed the door on becoming a UX designer.

If I go to this data analysis bootcamp, I’ll never become a social media manager.

What if I spend 3 months learning social media management and then realize it’s not for me?

The reality is that with every skill you learn, every "career door" opens an inch. Every career path becomes a little more possible the more capable you are.

When you learn data analysis, you’re a bit more qualified for marketing. When you learn web development, you’re a bit more qualified for UX design. 

On top of that, every skill learn not only opens doors to other careers, but also teaches you what you’re good at. Skill acquisition is a path to finding your passion.

So how do you go about learning new skills? 

The Relative Expert 4-Step Framework

In 20 hours, you can become a relative expert. 

That means you’ll know more about a given subject than the average person after only 20 hours of learning. In a grocery store or the post office, you’ll know more than 80% of the people in there about data analysis, project management, or whatever you choose to learn. 

Another way to think about it is that in 20 hours you can become good enough at a skill to begin freelancing it.

Here’s the Relative Expert 4-Step Framework you can use to get there.

Step 1: Choose a skill

I recommend the skill you choose be something you’re genuinely interested in. 

There are plenty of relevant skills out there. Start with something you’re actually curious about or feel you would be good at. 

To help you out, below is a list of relevant skills. 

  • Data Analysis
  • Project Management
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Social Media Management
  • Content Creation (choose 1 platform like Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn)
  • Copywriting
  • SEO 
  • Graphic Design
  • UX Design
  • Web Design
  • Video Editing

If you’re feeling indecisive remember that learning any skill means you're moving in the right direction. Even if you choose something completely different afterwards, you’ll have learned something that will help you in any career.

Step 2: Choose Your Method

Choose one or two resources that you’ll stick to when learning. It can be a course, book, YouTube series on the subject, or a short certification.

Whatever you choose, stick to that method. There’s no shortage of resources on the internet so it’s easy to get pulled in a million directions.

Try Google searching the skill and some keywords:

  • Data analysis basics
  • Excel certification
  • How To learn Copywriting
  • UX Design Basics

You can also use websites like Skillshare and Udemy to find short video courses on any subject.

Step 3: Choose Your Schedule

20 hours is 1200 minutes. Knowing this, we can do some simple math to figure out how long it’ll take to get good enough at your chosen skill.

A good rule of thumb: Choose a commitment that is less than what you think you can do. This way you can always go over the amount and feel good about it.

Choose one of the options below based on how much time you can dedicate. If your only commitment is a day-job, then you have more time than someone with a job and school. And that person has more time than someone with a job and family.

Whatever method you choose, put it in your calendar.

What 20 Hours of Learning Looks Like

  • 15 minutes a day will take 80 days
  • 30 minutes a day will take you 40 days
  • 40 minutes a day will take you 30 days
  • 60 minutes a day will take you 20 days

Step 4: Practice Deliberately

Remember that this is deliberate practice. It’s 20 hours of learning. There has to be some doing involved or else you won’t get the results we’re looking for.

That means you can't just watch YouTube videos, read books, or check your phone every five minutes during your sessions.

Imagine you hired a coach for those 20 hours. Think about how focused and how much progress you’d make with every coach-guided session. 

Don't expect to achieve that caliber of practice alone and when you have no experience. But you can at least recreate that kind of dedicated focus.


Even though we’re learning in 20 hour projects, you want to have a long-term view.

A career is built over years of constant learning. So don’t expect everything to change after learning one skill. 

The next skill you learn might just teach you something important about what you like or don’t like. 

Then nothing may come of the next two. 

Then after that you might land a job with a combination of the three. 

I can’t predict the future for you. 

But what I can say is that those with careers they love have the ability to do the work. 

And that comes from learning.

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