How to change careers

What If I Can’t Afford A Career Change

One of the biggest barriers mentioned by people considering a career change is whether it can be afforded. It is a huge question, but one that can be answered. 

First things first

The first thing you need to sort out is what type of career change you are considering because it will make a big difference in the amount of pressure you feel.

If you are trying to get out of a company going under or leave a toxic boss is one thing. Leaving one company to go and do the same work at another is a much easier career change that will have much less impact on your finances. You can easily anticipate the salary range based on the skills and experience you bring to the table and the type of work required. The test of resilience will be the waiting game while search for that new role while you stay employed.

If your career change entails a whole new type of work or a change in how you work, that is a whole other ball of wax. In such situations, you need to be very thoughtful as you approach change, particularly if you know that a reduction in compensation will accompany the change.

Change requires a personal transition

Changing careers can be one of the most exhilarating and satisfying things you can do. Trust me, I know because I did it! It signals a new beginning where you finally find the work, company, environment you want. But easy? Hardly ever. This is because a huge change forces personal transitions to be made, usually in terms of your precious time and money. It would be best if you were open to the possibility that something in life needs to shift and be willing at the very least to make it happen. 

Remembering your WHY

What is driving you to explore a career change? If I were to guess, you have an answer to this question already. You want more meaningful work. Maybe it is to lessen your stress and alleviate burnout. Maybe the current job is not what it once was and now you are bored with it. Maybe you want to work fewer hours or achieve a better balance? 

What if you COULD afford a career change? What would that do for you? Would you feel like you now have more purpose? Would it give you more personal freedom? Would it give you more time with your family and friends? Would it help your mental health? Considering a career change that impacts your finances will be hard, and it will be very tempting to say, oh, forget it, it is not worth it. But is your sanity worth it? What about your happiness? If you care about these things, then you owe it to yourself to put the work in and see what you can do to make a career change while being fiscally smart. Being able to come back to your ‘why’ will keep you going when it gets hard.

Asking yourself a different question

At this point, before you go any further, it is important to think about whether you can afford a career change by asking a slightly different question. Instead of, “What if I can’t afford a career change?” let’s reframe it to, “How can I afford a career change?” Just with that simple adjustment, your mindset shifts to a place of optimism and possibility versus pessimism and doubt. It feels more doable. Keep going back to this new question. I cannot or can’t I, but how can I? Pure and simple, this approach will give you tons of choices and possibilities to explore until you find the ones that work for you.

Figure out how to afford a career change

You will be confronting varying considerations when it comes down to planning how you can afford a career change. An effective way to approach them is to ask yourself how you want to feel and then reverse engineer it from there. This will help you figure out what is required (something you must do) versus desired (something you want to do), bringing you a ton of clarity when making choices in the following areas.

  1. Training and education 

If your career change takes you into a new work line that requires a new set of skills or education, it will be important to plan for those things. Finding out if you need additional training, classes, or a degree will not be just an investment of your time; it will also be an investment of your pocketbook. How much depends on different factors, but is it largely centralized in three areas: what you need, where you get it, and how long can you take to complete the training or degree. These will all influence the ultimate cost.

So, how do you feel about your readiness to take on a new career? If you want the clout of a top-notch degree, you will want to explore the best schools and degree programs in the field, which will likely require a lot of cash. On the other hand, if you want only what meets most employers’ minimum qualifications, that gives you a different set of options, some of which may be way more cost-effective.

Considering a career change that impacts your finances will get hard and it will be very tempting to say oh forget it, it is not worth it. But is your sanity worth it?

  1. Lifestyle changes 

If your current lifestyle allows you to go on a dream vacation, drive fancy cars, eat at expensive restaurants, and wear designer clothes, you may be having heart palpitations about letting these things go. It is time to reframe everything through the lens of what you CAN do, not what you cannot do. How can you still travel if that is what you love to do? How can you make smaller

changes at home to make it cozier and more comfortable without massive renovations? How can you look stylish without breaking the bank?

Again, how do you feel about the lifestyle you live? If you want you and your family to be lavishly pampered while seeing the farthest corners of the earth, then you will be spending a lot of dough to make that happen. If you want to create more connection by spending time on a family vacation, even a staycation in your own city will fit the bill quite pleasantly and more economically

Lifestyle changes do not mean stopping shopping or staying home 365 days a year. But it does mean thinking about what you really need to create a sense of fulfillment and connection for you and your family. Often, we fill our lives with stuff because we are not happy. If our careers make us unhappy, it is easy to say, ‘well, at least it pays me well.’ But what if you could get happier in your career? You might find you do not need the stuff you are spending a lot of money on now to fill the void

3.Debt, Savings, Risk, and Budget

Your financial planning is key to affording your career change.  

Debt : If you are in debt, get out. Figure out a plan and start now. Maybe this is all you focus on for one year before you make the career change you want. 

Savings: Where are you at with your retirement savings? Do you have an emergency fund, and how much do you need in it? If you do not have a financial advisor, get one to maximize your savings and plan smartly. Meet annually to review and adjust your financial plan.

Risk: Who do you need on-board for a potential change in income and spending and saving habits? And are you willing to take a risk and with how much tolerance

Budget: Look at your budget and where your current income goes. Where can you eliminate or reduce spending? Small changes can add up. Estimate the amount of income you would have with a career change and test drive living on a reduced budget before it happens. This will take a lot of commitment, but it is a fail-proof way to test what works and what doesn’t before you actually do it. Again, how do you feel about how you manage your finances for the short and long term? Answer it through the lens of your debt, savings, risk level, and budget, and then reverse engineer it to figure out what your next steps are. 

You cannot put a price tag on peace of mind

If you are stressed, bored, unfulfilled, and missing out on time with your family, or just miserable in your current career, ask yourself if a higher salary is worth it? Is that the trade-off you want? Can you live with it until you hang up your boots and retire? What about your happiness? Ask yourself what your happiness is worth? I will bet the answer is priceless, and no amount of income is worth the sacrifice of happiness and well-being. No one should put a price tag on that, so why should you?



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Julie Brendich
Julie is the owner of Harmony & Success Personal Coaching, LLC. She’s a long-time leadership development expert having spent over 20 years working in multiple industries, helping leaders become more effective and successful. She works with clients on the wisdom of the “Midlife Awakening” and how it can be the catalyst for massive, positive life transformation in not just their careers but also in their most precious relationships, self-care, and spirituality. She holds advanced degrees in psychology and is credentialed as a Master Spirit Life Coach and Certified Professional Coach through the International Coaching Federation. A midwestern native from the suburbs of Chicago, Julie approaches the coaching process with her clients in a down-to-earth way where each client can be their true selves. It is her life’s purpose and biggest joy to help midlife women achieve their goals.
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