WATCH NOW: Moneywise speaks with Freddie Ransome about career pivoting
It’s never too late for a career change
While the past couple years have seen an exodus of workers abandoning their jobs for better opportunities in a tight labor market, many of them may have also ended up in completely different careers.
A 2022 report from the Pew Research Center indicates that from 2019 to 2021, on average month to month, nearly half of workers who changed employers also found themselves in a new industry.
It’s a trend career coach Chelsea Jay observed increasing in popularity, especially after many workers have watched their friends and family members successfully switch their own careers.
She says plenty of more experienced workers may have originally started their careers with the sole aim of making enough income to support themselves and their families, but are now rethinking their passions and hoping to find a more fulfilling role until they hit retirement age.
“It is never too late,” says Jay, noting that she’s coached a lot of professionals who are 55 or older who wanted a different career. “I know a professional who went back to school at 60 to get their PhD and pivot their career … As long as you are still living and breathing, you can try something new.”
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Financially preparing to pivot — at any age
For many people thinking about taking a leap, their biggest reservation will be money. Ransome acknowledges that her relationship with money drastically changed when she became a freelancer.
“I was doing my little savings — like $200 every paycheck — but I was also spending,” Ransome recounts. “I wasn't super precious with money.”
She says she’s become more rigid and risk-averse with her finances, even though she now earns a higher income — because freelancing comes with less stability. But she’s since gotten a financial adviser to help her manage her income.
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Most people who struggle with pivoting between careers haven’t financially prepared, says JJ Burns, a certified financial planner based in Melville, New York.
Burns says you need to set SMART goals — specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound — and then create a budget. You’ll also need to replace those lost benefits from your old job, like health, life and disability insurance.
Jay generally advises her clients to build three to six months’ of savings to help float them through the transition period.
If they’re moving into a field that comes with less security or pay, she recommends at least six months’ of savings or more. It may also be helpful to supplement your income — say, with a side hustle — or cut back on discretionary expenses, like travel.
Make the leap, but do it safely
Jay suggests “dipping your toe” first before plunging headlong into a new career. You might consider volunteering or job shadowing someone who already works in your desired field. If you don’t already have any contacts, you can find people on LinkedIn or attend industry events and conferences.
She emphasizes that it’s important to arm yourself with as much information as possible and ask the hard questions. “What do you love about this industry? What do you love about this job? What do you hate about it? What do you wish would change?”
Burns agrees, adding that you’ll need some financial backing when you’re first exploring a new career. “Don’t give up your day job.”
He says he’s seen some people simply quit and dive into a new business while job demand has been high — but you might want to rethink something so drastic in a volatile economy.
He recommends using personal and vacation days at your current job to prepare for the new one.
“So when you eventually pull the trigger, you are literally stepping into something — not having to set up something — to make that occur.”
And finally, Jay says she wouldn’t advise anyone to change their career solely for the money.
“If you're not passionate about the role, if you don't enjoy the industry, if you don't like what you're doing — the money won't matter long term.”
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