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Can You Afford a Career Change?


A lot of people tell me that they can't afford to make a career change.

"I can't give up my lifestyle"
"I need to get the kids through private education and university"
"My partner lives for our holidays"

The first thing to notice here is that there is an assumption that a career change means earning less money. The other thing I can tell you is that when I ask whether they've done their sums or had conversations with their family, the answer is generally.... "No".

So, this week we're going to talk about money and I apologise if this is an unsavoury topic for you. It's time for some tough love!

Will I Earn Less Money?

Many people assume that making a change means starting again, at the bottom of the ladder and therefore on a low salary. Whilst this might be the case for some career changes, it is not true for all career changes.

If your career desire is to get some more meaning and purpose into your career, you may well come to me saying that you want to work for a Charity. This can feel like a simple route to get more meaning into your career and charities do tend to pay lower salaries, it's true. But there are many other industries and companies outside the Charity sector that could imbue your work with meaning whilst maintaining your salary at the same time. Have you thought about and researched any of these?

If your career desire is to have more flexibility and autonomy, perhaps you're thinking about setting yourself up as a freelancer, consultant or solopreneur. Many people assume that this will hit them financially, particularly at the beginning when they leave full-time employment to something seemingly more uncertain.

The assumption here is that you need to make a "cliff edge" transition: leaving one role completely to move into a new area. This is rarely the case. Most people make a gradual transition or start a side hustle to test the market. You may remember that this was the advice that Roderic Yapp gave in the Career Conversations interview last month. A gradual transition may be continuing to work part-time in employment or, like I did, making your last employer your first client. In this way you can guarantee a certain level of income whilst starting to build up your new client base.

Can I Afford to Earn Less Money?

Funnily enough, the people that say they can't afford to make a career change have very rarely looked into it at all. There are two main reasons cited: personal desire to maintain lifestyle and family's desire to maintain lifestyle. Let's take a look at these two.

Firstly, have you ever had a really close look at your monthly outgoings and worked out what you might be able to comfortably do without? When I first set up my business, I did a few things that made a huge difference: I gave up my expensive gym membership for the local leisure centre (half the price); I gave up my weekly horse riding lessons; we limited the amount of times we ate out in restaurants; and we changed how we holidayed. I even cancelled magazine subscriptions and other little bits that would leave my account here and there.

These were all done as interim measures to take the financial pressure off the transition until such time as the income was more reliable.

I have to say that I barely noticed the difference. Eating out became a real treat and we cooked more delicious meals at home. Holidays were more about having adventures in our camper in the UK or France but brilliant and memorable holidays nonetheless.
Life became simpler and no less enjoyable.

The second reason cited above "the family's desire to maintain the lifestyle" is even more interesting. Because NOBODY I've ever asked has actually had that conversation with their family!

"Darling, I have a burning desire to set up my own business which would make me really happy. It would probably mean that I would earn less for the first 12 months but I've worked out that I could be back to my full earning potential, if not more, within 18 months at the latest. I've done some sums and it would mean that we need to holiday in the UK this year as well as only eating out once a fortnight. I've also cancelled my subscription at the gym and am going to do Coach to 5K instead. What do you think?"

It's a starting point!

What to do now

If you have a strong desire to make a career change but don't think you can afford to:

  • Challenge yourself to think of jobs, industries and companies that would give your career meaning but could maintain your income
  • Think about whether you can make a gradual transition - perhaps even talk to your current employer about your plans
  • Do some financial modelling and see what the art of the possible is in terms of a temporary reduction in expenditure
  • Finally, chat through your dreams with your family. Perhaps their dreams fit with yours more snugly than you think!

If this subject matter has piqued your interest in working with me (if you don't already), please do let me know and we can have a chat about different ways of working together. I have two coaching slots becoming available in November so now might be a good time to connect!

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