Wanting a change in your career is something most people can relate to. It could stem from needing financial security, feeling stuck at work, wanting to do something more meaningful, or even just wanting a change for change's sake. Almost everyone goes through those periods, and most people are often dissuaded for very relatable and practical reasons such as money, time, learning a new skill, childcare, etc. Finding a way to balance everything while radically changing your norm is a very intimidating prospect, one I hope this guide can help you with even slightly.
Note: This is a guide written for people changing careers. Not for people looking for a new job doing what they are already doing or aren't trying to break into a skilled field.
Also, if at any point you find yourself wondering if I'm just talking out of my ass my Flatiron School blog post touches on my thought process fairly thoroughly.
Securing Your Finances
Career changes take time, and time does not stand still for any of us. Your same responsibilities will continue to exist as well as your obligation to meet them. This, in turn, causes a lot of people to "choose" (quoted because it doesn't really feel like a choice to a lot of people) to work in their current position while simultaneously attempting to learn the skills they need. I'll explain those challenges in a later section, for now I'll stick to the financial aspects and things you might be able to do to help secure them.
1. Do Not Rush Your Career Change. If you are desperate for immediate relief from your current situation, find another job then plan your transition, as a career change may prove to be an extremely costly regret otherwise. This is not a path to set yourself upon carelessly. A proper career change should take months to plan, not days or weeks.
2. Consider the length of time you expect to be studying a new skill, add a few months onto it to accommodate your job search (which can take as long or longer in some cases) and you have the length of time you will need to sacrifice in some way. Make your financial decisions/accommodations with this time frame in mind.
3. Income, savings, and/or credit equal to and beyond your financial responsibilities and unforeseen circumstances. If there are other incomes besides yours, make sure you know for sure how much of those incomes are available to you or what they cover. Same with savings.
Pro-tip: For the majority of people, it may be beneficial to plan your career change around the tax-return season. This may help guarantee you have some savings on hand. Obviously not an option if you expect to owe taxes back.
The real trick I recommend is having a big cushion via credit cards or personal loans, especially if you are planning to cut your hours or leave your current job. I know this path isn't for everyone for various reasons, but a healthy available credit limit/loan balance will help you secure a minimum level of comfort not just for your day to day needs, but any emergencies that arise throughout your switch. Consider building not just a good credit score, but accumulating a few cards for your use over several months or explore loan options if you are considering a move that could lead to a change of income - or to keep your options available to it later. Don't be afraid to accumulate practical debt during your career change, obviously avoiding maxing out cards or spending all your loan money on frivolous things like vacations and gadgets. But credit's primary purpose in our lives is to give us a way to achieve things we don't have cash on hand for like mortgages, repairs, and self-improvement. That extra opportunity provided to us by credit could very well prove to be the difference in giving up or being able to see your career change through.
4. Consider adjusting your living arrangements. This is obviously much harder for some than others, and for others simply not an option, but it's worth investigating what options are available to you. Do you have tolerable family that doesn't mind you moving in? If you lease, maybe plan to move to a cheaper place when it's up? Spare room in your current place? Consider a roommate/renting it out. None of these options available to you? What regularly monthly bills can u cut down on, or perhaps do without? Housing and utilities are likely your biggest reoccurring expenses, so anything you can cut down on them will help.
5. Finally, how much does your desired career change cost? Are you attending a college, coding bootcamp like I did, or maybe a vocational school? Do you have to pay for any certifications? Do you have to purchase anything that would be required (i needed a new MacBook)? How will you pay for all of this? You need to be able to secure this while you still have a job, whether via savings or loans, otherwise, it gets harder with no income to present.
Bonus: Health Insurance is absolutely critical, and is a financial decision in itself. Do not make any blanket assumptions about insurance plans: unless you have access to state-sponsored health insurance you'll be paying a ton no matter what you choose. Higher-level plans (platinum) aren't always 'better', and cheaper plans (bronze) may actually prove superior depending on your needs and location. Do you and your family a big favor and research each plan available to you thoroughly. Consider the cost of not just the premium, but what is the maximum out of pocket expense per family member, and also how likely you are to use your insurance.
This turned into a beast I didn't expect, so I broke this topic into parts. Part II will focus on your support network and what you need from them!
In conclusion, securing your finances - including taking the time and stress involved in doing so - I believe is the stage most people get discouraged at. Finding your way past this step is the difference between a dream and a goal. Don't skip any step, and welcome the challenges this brings. You will come out better than you came in.
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