Changing Careers

How to make a successful career change (it’s surprisingly simple!)

November 6, 2019

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A question I often get asked is how to make a career change work financially. 

We all have commitments and bills to pay, so leaving a secure job feels risky at best and downright terrifying at worst. It puts a lot of people off even thinking about a career change, which is really sad as there are a few surprisingly simple ways to make a career change work. 

Let me immediately bust a myth here: a lot of people seem to think a career change is quite radical. You quit your job and leap into the unknown. This is absolute BS.

You don’t need to quit your job and make a huge leap to make a career change work. 

It is a way to do it – and the right way for some people – but there are alternative strategies to go about moving into a new industry or starting your own business. 

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Here they are, from least risky to most risky. 

Keep your job + make side hustling your thing

What is it? Pretty much what it says on the tin: you keep your job and start making moves towards a new industry or start your own business on the side. 

Why should you do this? This is definitely not an easy route to choose (what is though?).  Juggling a job and pursuing a new career path at the same time is hard work, but the big advantage is that it’s financially sustainable. You’re not eating into your savings and if your salary allows it, you can do things like build an escape fund or invest in your business or in your personal development without worrying that you’ll run out of money. 

Is this for you? If you’re okay with your current job (in other words: can stick it out for a little while) and can make time in the evenings or weekends to pursue your new path, then this is for you. 

Pro tip: negotiate the terms of your current contract. Would it be possible to change your working hours, so you can go home earlier and have more time in the evening to spend on your side hustle? Could you go part-time? Could you do your job as a contractor or freelancer? The extra time or money that you’ll gain can speed up your transition! 

Leave your job, but stay in the same industry for a bit + side hustle

What is it? You’ll swap your current job for more flexible work in your current industry. Could you do your job (or something similar) at another company as a part-timer or contractor? Are there any freelancing opportunities available for someone like you in your field? 

Why should you do this? You get to keep the security of a steady(ish) income, but you can create more favourable working conditions for yourself so you have more time, energy or money (or all!) to work on your career change.

Is this for you? If you can’t stand the idea of staying in your current job (because of your boss, the toxic work culture, the ridiculous hours, the long commute), but you can see yourself staying in your current industry for a bit longer whilst you work on your career change, then this is for you. 

Side note: not all roles or industries are suitable for part-time, contracting or freelance work, but it’s worth looking into. 

Hand in your notice and make the leap

What is it? You pack up your stuff and leave your current job, so you can focus fully on your new career path. 

Why should you do this? You give yourself the opportunity to focus all your energy and time into pursuing a new career. Not only that, leaving your job allows you to take a step back and more clearly assess what’s next for you. It’s always harder to find a new path if everyone around you continues to do the same old. Leaving your current job means you can surround yourself with like-minded people who are doing or pursuing something similar. All of that is very powerful. 

Is this for you? If your current job sucks the life out of you and you can’t bear the thought of staying at it for at least another 6 months, this might be for you. I’m deliberately saying might be here, because you need to have a financial back-up plan to make this work. Savings are a good place to start, but please take this from someone who’s gone this route (me): double the amount of money and amount of time that you’ll think you need. Someone gave me this advice before I left my corporate job and I naively ignored it. Looking back on it, he was right and I should’ve saved double the amount of money and given myself double the amount of time I thought I’d need to make this career change work. 

Another way to make this strategy work is to find part-time work that’s not too mentally demanding, so you have enough energy and time left to focus on your career change whilst also making a bit of money to keep you going.

These are just 3 strategies on a spectrum from least risky to most risky, and it’s by no means an exclusive list. There are tons of other options possible that fall somewhere in between. 

The most important thing to take away from this is that you need to figure out what suits your situation and personality most. There’s no right answer, but if you apply a bit of creative and smart thinking, you can make a successful career change happen, one way or another. 

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