I was flying back from meeting with a client last week and was reading everything I could get my hands on to try to drown out the wedding shower planning going on behind me. I was shocked to read that a recent study found that 80% of workers in their twenties want to change careers. That statistic strikes me as really high, but it inspired me nonetheless to share a few thoughts with those of you out there considering changing careers, whether you’re in your twenties or not.
First, try to bite the bullet and keep “suffering” through your current job as you explore ways to incorporate a portion of your desired career into your current routine. I’m not trying to rain on your dreams; I’m just suggesting that you gently test the waters before you do something drastic. You may find that hand-making wooden furniture, singing at a jazz bar, or making a whole lot of tiny cupcakes isn’t as glorious as you once thought, and by first approaching your desired career as a hobby or occasional activity, your finances probably won’t take that big of a hit.
If you've found that biting the bullet with your current employer or occupation is no longer a feasible option and you’re even more enthused by incorporating part of your desired career into your current lifestyle, it’s time to take the leap of faith. It’s time to take the leap of faith as long as you and/or your family won’t irreparably suffer should things not go according to plan. I’m still not trying to kill your dreams because life is pretty short, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Work is called work for a reason, and there is a reason someone is willing to pay you to do what you do. Despite being told as children that we could be whatever we wanted to be, a job you don’t completely enjoy that provides food and shelter may be better than a job you love that doesn’t. That said, if you’re convinced the risks of changing careers are worth the potential rewards, I’d advise you to make sure your spouse is completely on board and significantly boost your rainy day fund before you hand in your two weeks notice.
If you've taken the leap of faith, love your new career, and can adequately provide for your loved ones, congratulations! If you’ve taken the leap of faith and found that the grass wasn’t greener and you’re financially struggling more than you can withstand over the long haul, it’s important to know when to leap back. What I mean is that it’s important to know when to pack it up and return to your more practical, or at least more financially lucrative, career. You obviously want to make the leap back before financial ruin, but in some occupations it’s important you also consider how long you can be out of the field and still be able to pick up things relatively close to where you left off. If you made the leap of faith and things didn’t work out, don’t feel bad! At least you pursued your dreams; not everyone can say that.
Jumping from being a CPA tax preparer to a CPA/CFP financial planner was a big leap for me. I admire those of you chasing your dreams who have the courage to take even bigger leaps. Whether a big leap or a small leap, if you’re contemplating a career change, I wish you luck, but please make sure it’s a calculated leap of faith.