10 Survival Tips for Changing Careers

Click here to download our Complete Guide to Changing Careers in Your 50s.

The recent Covid-19 pandemic has made a big impact on the working world. Whether you’re working from home, the office, or a hybrid of both, chances are you’ve felt the impact of some major changes over the last couple of years. 

Those changes have inspired millions of Americans to quit their jobs and consider a career change, whether it’s for higher pay, more flexible working arrangements, or even for a chance to pursue their passions. 

Whether you’ve just begun thinking about joining the movement or you’ve already typed and printed your resignation letter, these ten survival tips can help you navigate your career change journey to find success.

1. Make Sure You Know What You Want to Do

Before you make the leap into a new career, it’s important to know for sure what you want to do. We recommend you follow these questions, based on a structured decision-making model, to get to the root of what you want:

  1. Why do you want to switch jobs?
  2. What will you get out of a new career?
  3. Are there any drawbacks?
  4. What are your options?
  5. Is it worth it?

Answering these five questions can help you gain insight into your desires and motivations, so you know exactly what you’re looking for in your career change.  

2. Look, then Leap

Don’t move before you’re ready – that means that while you’re still at your old job, you should plan out your transitions step by step.

Maybe you want to build in a sabbatical between jobs, or maybe that’s not an affordable option for you. 

Whatever route you take during this transition, having a plan in place can help you make sure you’re prepared to make the transition as smoothly as possible. 

That being said, once you’ve looked, make sure you leap! Making a transition and stretching out of your comfort zone into the unknown can be daunting. But with a solid plan in place and your eyes firmly set on your ‘why’ you can move confidently towards the life of your dreams.  

3. Save a Little Extra Just in Case (and Don’t Touch Your Emergency Fund)

When you’re switching careers, there’s bound to be some length of time where you experience a gap in income, no matter how small. 

If you know you’ll want to switch careers in the near future, it’s a good idea to build up a little extra in savings – that way you can avoid touching your emergency fund. 

Your emergency fund is intended to help you during unforeseen circumstances, like a medical situation or your car breaking down. Whenever a foreseeable change is on the horizon, try to plan for it. You should always try your best to keep your emergency fund for emergencies only. 

4. Figure out How Your Spending Will Change with Your New Position – and Take Your Potential New Budget for a Test Drive

If you expect to work more hours, have a longer commute, or generally just have less time, it might be a good idea to enroll some help, at least temporarily. Maybe you’ll want to hire some extra cleaning help around the house to take some of the pressure off during this transition. Or maybe you’ll want to order a food delivery service to save time on cooking for a few weeks. How will these extra costs fit into your budget and lifestyle?

On the other hand, if you know that your new job comes with a pay cut, you’ll likely need to figure out ways to cut spending in your life. How much can you save by making that morning coffee at home rather than going through the drive through? (I know, coffee is always the first thing on the chopping block in saving discussions, but it can really make a difference!)

Before moving to your new job, try living off your estimated new budget for a month or two to see how it feels. Is it sustainable in the long run? What kind of lifestyle changes will you need to make for your new budget to work?

5. Make a Plan for Your Retirement Plan

If you have a 401(k) or other employer retirement plan, figure out what will happen to it when you switch employers. Some of your options include:

  • Keep it where it is, without making further contributions
  • Roll it over into your new employer plan to continue making contributions
  • Roll it into a Roth IRA

If you’re unsure what the best decision is for you, a financial advisor can help you figure out the pros and cons of each option and choose the one that makes the most sense. 

It’s also worth considering that you may have to wait to be eligible for your new employer’s retirement plan. That’s not to say you have to stop saving in the meantime – you could be contributing to an IRA in the interim so you’re still making progress toward your retirement goal.

6. Get Covered

Before you quit your job to pursue a new career, you’ll want to figure out a way to maintain coverage during the transition. You may be eligible for COBRA coverage if you’re currently covered by your employer, but if you’re planning to start your own business or go out on your own, you’ll need to shop around for health insurance

It’s important to figure out how long your employer-based insurance will extend after you leave your current position, in addition to how long it will take for your new coverage to kick in. 

You may also want to shop around for other insurance benefits that lapse when you leave, like disability and life insurance. It’s worth asking your HR department if you have any options for continuing existing coverage (after you submit your resignation, of course). If not, you’ll need to shop around for your own plan.

Regardless of whether you’re planning on employer-based insurance or planning to snag your own plan through the marketplace, a financial advisor can help you evaluate your options and figure out what you need.

7. Consider Your Student Loans

If you have student loans, your repayment options may change when you switch employers or move into a different income bracket. 

For example, you may become eligible (or ineligible) for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which forgives the remaining balance of your loan after you’ve made at least 120 monthly payments while working for a qualified employer. 

There are also other options you can explore, like alternative payment plans or student loan relief programs that are industry- or location-specific. 

Your new employer may even have a student loan program. It’s worth investigating all your options to find the best fit for you.

8 . Explore Your Tax Planning Options

A change in income, whether higher or lower, can have an impact on your taxes. You should consider meeting with a tax specialist to learn about all the potential tax implications of your employment change.

You may need to increase your withholdings or make estimated tax payments, and there may even be new opportunities that didn’t exist before because of your income – like Roth conversions and various tax credits.

9. Prepare Your Life for the Shift

The reverberations of your career change will extend beyond the hours of 9 to 5. Sit down with your loved ones and discuss the changes you’re expecting and how you feel about them. Let them know that you may need a little extra grace or support as you transition to your new career. 

You also need to mentally prepare yourself for the unexpected. Even if you plan ahead and test your budget, changing careers inevitably involves multiple question marks.  What if your current employer offers a promotion to get you to reconsider your resignation? What if it takes longer than you expected to get started on your new path? Preparing yourself mentally to step into the unknown can help you stretch out your “flexibility muscles” so you’re ready to use them when the time comes.

This may also be a good time to step back from any community commitments. Take a break from serving at your church or volunteering with any organizations in order to give yourself some extra space during this time.

10. Remember Your ‘Why’

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again (and again). As you encounter the challenges that come along with any transition, it’s important to stay focused on the reasons you decided to make the change in the first place. Remember your why and tell your loved ones about it. Having a cheering squad that holds you accountable and driven towards your goals can make all the difference.

This is where the hard work you did to evaluate your decision in the beginning will pay off. Take a moment to remember what’s motivating you to make the change. Anything is possible when you have the drive that comes from working toward goals aligned with your true values and purpose. 

We’ve Been There, and We Can Help

As I’ve said before, I didn’t become a financial advisor until well into my 30s, long after I had settled into life in academia. Entering an entirely new field was an intimidating prospect, but it was totally worth it.

Changing careers can be complicated – but with these ten tips for survival, you’ll be well on your way to scoring your dream job. 

And if you’re looking for help with your career change journey, reach out to Clarity Wealth Development today to schedule a consultation.

Latest Posts

The Millionaire-Next-Door’s Guide to Safeguarding Wealth

The Millionaire-Next-Door’s Guide to Safeguarding Wealth

After years of hard work, smart savings decisions, and a commitment to living below your means, you’ve finally reached that coveted “millionaire-next-door” status – but now what? When your net worth crosses the million-dollar threshold, you’re in the top 3% of all...