I know all too well what it’s like to graduate from school and not know what to do next.
Personally, I work as an attorney for a big law firm, but my passion is finance. I am trying to tie the two together (bankruptcy or corporate finance, for example), but in the meantime, I blog about finance because I love it.
I quit my job as a corporate attorney and I am now a financial planner, blogger, and freelance writer. I’m living proof that you can make the change you want so badly for yourself and have a fulfilling career.
For someone who is interested in a career change (regardless of the reason), having a plan is the key to success.
1. Decide what you want
You need to decide what you want to do for work. This may seem obvious, but I’m sure you know someone who hates her job and decided to go back to school just because she was in an awful job – don’t let this be you! If you do not like your job, before you make a change, figure out what you do want to do. If you go back to school without knowing what you want, you may end up at another job you don’t like except now you’ll have student loan debt. So, be sure you figure out what it is that you want to do. Think about what excites you; what you passions are. These are areas where you should consider looking for a new career. If you’re deciding between a couple different professions, shadow people in those fields. Shadowing is a great way to see what the daily life is like in a particular profession.
2. Figure out how much it will cost to get what you want
Research the path to getting where you want to be. If you want to be a hair dresser, look at different beauty schools and compare tuition costs. Similarly, if you want to make a career change that requires a lot more schooling, see if there are schools in your area that offer night classes and what the timeline and cost is for those. Be sure to consider schools that offer special programs that allow you to continue working full time while going to school.
3. Take financial inventory
Take a close look at your finances right now, including your cash flow (income and expenses), net worth, savings, debt, credit reports, and anything else. Before you make a career change that will presumably change your finances, be sure to know where you stand.
4. Create a plan (and be realistic)
After you know what it’s going to take (cost and time) to make a career change, compare where you want to go to where you are right now. Then ask relevant questions. How big is the gap? Do you want to go into a profession that would lower your income? Do you need to go back to school? Should you create a larger savings cushion before making the transition? These are a few important questions to consider.
Creating a plan means you have a projected timeline, financial details, and specific steps in order. For example, if you want to become a hairstylist, you should create a timeline showing each step you need to take, including the application process, how long school will take, and the cost of everything. Your timeline should also include any savings you need to do before you start. In this example, suppose you need $10,000 for beauty school. Your plan may be to save $10,000 before you enroll to avoid putting your family into debt. Saving before you start going to school is still part of the plan even though you haven’t enrolled yet.
Being unhappy in a job is no way to live, but for the transition into a new career to be successful and worth it (for you and your family) you need to be smart about it. It may be a good idea to consult a financial professional, such as a CFP, to take a look at your current finances and help you create a plan to change careers without your finances being negatively affected (avoiding student loans, for example). If you change careers without making sure you’re financially prepared for the change, you may end up worse off.
5. Implement your plan
At some point, you need to take action. Once you go through steps 1-5, you may find it easier to take action than you would if you were just stuck in a job you don’t like. But even if you’re still hesitating, notice your hesitation (or procrastination) and commit to starting on a specific date. There is no sense in waiting “until the time is right”. If you need to wait, decide exactly when you’re going to start. In the example above: set a goal of saving $10,000 in one year and enrolling in beauty school August 1st, 2015. This will give you a timeline and a plan to stick to instead of just having a vague idea of doing it in the future.
Do you have any personal experience doing any of these things when you made a career change? If not, do you wish you did?