How to Invest in Yourself When Changing Careers

With 2022 continuing to be the year of The Great Resignation, we thought we’d ask our friend, Ruth The Happy Saver, for some tips on changing jobs and careers. After all, this Jill of many trades has done everything from driving trucks at a gold mine, to working for the Lotteries Commision, and now, as a successful blogger and podcast host!

I never run out of things to write about in my blog, The Happy Saver, because I’m constantly reminded that having money stashed away, saved up, or invested gives you options. 

Money does not solve all of your problems, but it does help. It is hard to explain to people why something as simple as having an emergency fund of three to six months of living expenses gives you options. If they live their lives and are content that family and work are fine, and the bills are being covered, it’s tough to imagine that you might not be one day.

One of the critical times people seek my thoughts is when they become dissatisfied with their job or career. The gloss wears off the contented life they once led, and a tipping point is reached where they want a change. I’ve got a lot of experience with changing jobs and careers, and I feel I can give you a few ideas about how to transition from one position to another.

Start with a solid financial base

For every hour you work, set aside a portion of your hourly rate for some future, as yet unknown purpose. Let it build up, and you will see it on your PocketSmith dashboard quietly saying to you, “I’m just here if you need me. Anytime”. 

Whether it’s six months or six years from now, knowing you have a cash buffer that tides you over while you take a break from work will give you peace of mind. It makes your decision to change roles or careers that much easier because money is taken right out of the equation. Having your cash sorted gives you wiggle room and lets you focus more on the role itself, not its remuneration.

This is particularly important when you have a family relying on your income. Having a financial buffer allows you to provide for your family and transition to a job you love. There is nothing worse than being stuck in a claustrophobic job.

Don’t overthink it

It’s okay to want to change roles. For whatever reason, many of us get sick of what we are doing at some point. Despite the money you may earn, despite how great the role might once have been, you might still feel like a change in a career once you have exhausted all the great things your job has to offer you. 

I’ve hankered after a job, finally secured it, worked in it for a time, satiated my curiosity about what the job might be like, and then wanted to move on. And that’s perfectly fine. I gave it my all while I was in it, enjoyed my time there and moved on before I could get stale and resentful.

Get on with changing your job

I have a short checklist that I go through if I’m considering a career change, and I have used this simple structure for many years to significant effect.

If I’m unhappy at work, I see three options:

  • Change the situation
  • Put up with the situation
  • Leave the situation

I’m a problem solver, and if someone comes to me saying they are unhappy at work and want a change, I want to see them go through that checklist. 

First up, what makes them unhappy at work, and who can they speak to? What steps can they take to improve their situation? If they have gone through all possibilities and are still unhappy, can they just put up with it? Most can’t, which leads to the only other option; it’s time to go. I always left a role when the desire for change was stronger than the desire to stay. 

I don’t have much tolerance for people who constantly complain about work. It’s entirely up to them to change it: less talk, more action. So, make a plan, position yourself to change and get on with changing it!

Once you reach your turning point, change your job with confidence - don't wait until it becomes unbearable!

Scout widely

It’s taken me a long time to realize that I’m different from most in that I love talking to a wide range of people. I’m constantly intrigued about what people do for a job, what they love about it, and why they chose that field. 

I believe that people are endlessly interesting, and that a lot of us love to talk about ourselves.

This is all super handy when working out what job or career to move into next. I encourage you to consult other people about what they do because it will open up a world of possibilities for yourself. If you are interested in a particular role, find people currently working in it and ask them about it. Speaking with others has led me to research books, blogs, podcasts, online study options and even tertiary study to upskill myself for a particular career. I remain curious and try to take every opportunity to learn something new.

Connect with others

I’ve found that connecting with others is a lot like standing in front of a door — someone will offer to open it for you before too long. 

My previous three roles have come about due to connections with other people. I’ve had interesting conversations and made some interesting connections, and they, in turn, have opened the door for me to connect with someone else. I’ve done this countless times for others too. 

I’ve secured many a job through large recruitment companies, and it’s intense and complex, but I’ve found that making connections with others is the nicest way to transition into a new role. In smaller towns and cities, getting out and meeting new people might bring you into direct contact with your new employer!

Fulfill ‘most’ of the job criteria, but not all

If you see a job advertised with a list of requirements or skills, having some but not all of them is often enough. Rework each job application you make to be specific to the role, and if you can personally connect with the person viewing the applications, all the better. The company is primarily looking for someone of great character who will fit in well with the team already there and has the general skills required. Those missing skills can quickly be learned if you have the motivation and attitude.

Make ‘getting a new job’ your new part-time job, and sign up to all job seeker sites and company job vacancy websites so that you instantly know when a new position is available.

Don't be put off by job descriptions where you don't check every box - most companies will be happy to fill your knowledge and skill gaps if you're a good candidate

Transition smoothly from one role to the next

Don’t burn your bridges because you might need to walk back across them one day.

I still recall my husband being unwillingly included in a company-wide group email where a colleague left her position with the company under a hail of bullets. All fired by her. It was spectacular to watch, but the company she left, and every single employee who witnessed her exit, would be sure to keep a reasonable distance if she ever turned up again! Photos of sinking ships were shared, closely followed by photos of bridges going up in flames. And a steel door clanging shut to end it all.

Past employers and colleagues all form part of your network, and they may well advocate for you in the future. And you for them.

Don’t assume you will earn less

The grass may indeed be greener on the other side of the fence. It’s okay to feel apprehension that the job you are leaving might be the best you ever get. But it probably won’t be! A new role comes with unique perks, new pay and new conditions. And best of all, you get to negotiate them before you even say yes to the position. So, if another week of annual leave is what you want, then ask for it! A job change to something you love should not mean a drop in income, and your ability to negotiate increases with your skill level and availability of workers to fill the role.

It begins and ends with the money

Whether you are a minimum wage employee looking to transition to your next role, or an executive looking to change, there are still many similarities.

I’m always encouraging people to become financially independent as soon as possible. Primarily we work for the money. Only when we work ourselves into a secure financial position can we say we work because we love our job, not because we need the money. The author JL Collins talks about “F.U. Money” and I’m sure you can work out what that means.  

If you have an excellent financial buffer, you get to work because it’s entirely your choice. You choose to work; you don’t have to work. That is an immensely powerful position to create for yourself. I encourage you to build up a solid financial foundation so that you get to choose your role and derive satisfaction from your chosen career, whatever that may be.

Ruth blogs at all about how she and her family handle money. What’s the secret? Spend less than you earn, invest the difference, avoid debt and budget each dollar that flows through your hands. She firmly believes that if you can just get the basics right, life becomes easier from there on in.

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