Meeting the challenge of career change
Ways to keep your stress level down
Sophia Harding, Senior Private Wealth Advisor
Everything changes, but few lifestyle changes are more challenging than changing careers. Even when you’re moving up the ladder or into a more personally fulfilling position, change is stressful. Especially when it involves nearly every waking hour of your day.
Preparing for your big transition both psychologically and financially can help you lower your stress curve and ease you into your new life.
The normal that’s now
Remember the old days, when people stayed at one job for their whole career and then retired, never to work a day again? Right, probably not. That’s because Americans change jobs often—and have for decades.
Changing jobs is normal now.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a federal agency that focuses on broad labor market data.1 Agency researchers studied nearly 10,000 people for more than 30 years, and here’s what they found: People held more than 12 jobs between ages 18 and 52.2 About half of those jobs came and went before age 24. But even as people matured, they tended to change jobs every few years. In fact, 75 percent of jobs started by 35- to 44-year-olds ended in less than 5 years.2
One thing that’s hard to track is whether those job changes were career changes. The BLS doesn’t track that specifically—because it’s too hard to define what a career change is.3
Sure, sometimes it’s obvious. If you quit your nursing job to become a wedding photographer, you’ve made a career change for real—a dramatic shift that requires new skills, a new language, and new ways to measure success. But what if you’re promoted out of production and into management for the same business? Was that a career change? Hard to know.
However, what I’ve found across clients and friends is that, no matter how you define it, changing jobs or careers is stressful. That’s why it’s important to prepare.
Get clear on your why
One key way to smooth your transition from one job or career to another is to get clear on what’s behind the change. That way, when stress rises, you’ll be able to remind yourself why you’re here and where you’re going.
Maybe you had a windfall or a liquidity event that’s given you an opening to make a move toward a personal dream. Congratulations! Start by reaching out to an Umpqua financial professional to update your estate plan, consider the tax ramifications, and explore your dream. We’ll help you handle that windfall in a way that could benefit you. Then, if you can, just wait. Some people recommend waiting six months to two years after a windfall before abandoning your life anchors and making a dramatic change in lifestyle and work.
Another great reason to change careers could be to leapfrog past the salary increase or incremental promotion you’re likely to get in your current position. Few employers are making lavish gestures these days, and finding a new place to plug in could net you a bigger bump on both counts. You can use this as a clear-cut reminder—I’m getting ahead!—on days when you may not be positive you made the right decision.
If you’re driven more by a desire to leave your current job than a desire to gain a specific something new, strategize about what kind of career change would be best for you. Check the data about in-demand jobs and match them up with your skills and what makes you happy. Consider what kind of education or training you’d need to make the shift. And weigh the average salary against your needs.
Sometimes annual take-home pay isn’t the most important data point if you’re deeply unhappy in your current career. If you find yourself wanting to change careers to be more personally fulfilled, one of the best things you can do to promote a smooth transition is get to know yourself and what you really want.4 Maybe that’s with a therapist. Or you could start with self-assessments.
For example, what are your values, interests, aptitudes, and personality type? How is your emotional intelligence? How about your cognitive abilities? A dizzying number of personality and career aptitude tests—many of them free—are readily available online. Which career paths and industries are most satisfying for someone with your personality, desires, and aptitudes?
The finance of change
Another critically important thing you can do for yourself when you change a job or career is to make or confirm a financial plan. How will your job change affect your day-to-day finances, your long-term savings, your healthcare costs, your investments? What kind of budgeting will you need to do to smooth your transition from one income stream to another?
I and the other financial professionals at Umpqua can help you explore what you need—professionally and financially—and create a financial plan to help you bridge to your next career.
Make sure you’re doing all you can to support your transition to a new job or career, starting with a solid financial plan. Contact an Umpqua financial professional today to discover more about our approach to financial planning.
You can also learn more about setting priorities and simplifying your financial life by downloading our Umpqua topic paper, “Career change.”
Download the paper
- About the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/bls/infohome.htm
- Number of jobs, labor market experience, and earnings growth: Results from a national longitudinal survey. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/nlsoy.nr0.htm
- Frequently asked questions. https://www.bls.gov/nls/nlsfaqs.htm#anch43
- New year, new career: 5 tips for changing occupations. https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2017/article/new-career.htm?view_full