Recently, a colleague introduced me to a group of college students during a presentation about networking skills as “Career Coach, Bethany Wallace, who is going to share with you tips about networking and her story about how she has reinvented herself in her career.” Wow, I thought. That’s exactly what I’ve done, isn’t it? Sometimes we need to see ourselves through others’ eyes to appreciate our hard work, creativity, risk-taking, and perseverance. My mentors and colleagues always help me recognize and appreciate my achievements on my career path.
One of the most intimidating career decisions I’ve ever made was the decision to leave a fabulous job as Content Manager of College Recruiter in 2016. I made this decision shortly after starting my own career coaching business. I knew I was making a major change and altering my career path considerably. Career freedom was one result. However, the pathway to this career freedom was like a roller coaster—full of ups and downs. I felt sick half the time while on the ride.
While attempting to decide whether to leave my full-time position, I knew I needed to pour more of myself into my business to give it a chance to succeed. I also wanted more scheduling flexibility. Staying home with my daughter, who was three years-old at the time, mattered to me. I also hoped to return to the college classroom part-time. But the notion of leaving a well-renowned company in the job board industry, which afforded me the opportunity to earn a solid income and provide benefits for my family… ugh. I felt torn about this for months.
Finally, I bit the bullet and eased my way out of my position. I requested the option to move from full-time to part-time. After a few months, I left the company entirely. While making the decision was difficult, it gave me total career freedom and autonomy. The career path change was a positive one. I now manage my own business, create content solely to promote my own business, market and sell my own services, and work directly with my clients. This arrangement might not be a great fit for everyone (or we’d all be entrepreneurs), but it’s the right fit for me.
Here are a few tips I’d offer anyone considering altering their career path to achieve more autonomy or freedom.
Live below your means.
Leave yourself open to changing careers—or even changing jobs or relocating—by simply living below your means. If you rope yourself into purchasing a new car every time you earn a small promotion at work, you’re tying a noose around your neck financially. You don’t leave yourself the option to alter your career path if your values and goals change. If you buy the nicest house you can afford in the best neighborhood of your city, your family and friends will be very impressed. But your options will be limited if you find that over a period of two years, you become increasingly less interested in your career field.
Not always–but often–when you change career fields, you take a step backward in terms of income because you have less experience in that particular field. Setting aside some of your income each month prior to switching careers is a good idea. In addition to saving money, it’s also a good idea to become comfortable with living way below your means. You will feel much less freaked out when you’re earning little to nothing for a while if you’re temporarily unemployed, underemployed, or acquiring clients when you start a new business.
Eliminate as many risks as possible.
To follow up on #1, we’re in a true gig economy. Check out FlexJobs, for example. There are a myriad of great gig positions and part-time jobs available, many of them affording you the option to work remotely. Before you jump ship and start looking for a position in a brand new career field—going for months without income—why not land a great gig or part-time job to help supplement your period without full-time income? This way you’re easing into a new road on your career path rather than changing your life cold-turkey.
I taught one online course for a community college during the first several months of my business being open. This was a lifesaver. Adjunct faculty members don’t earn much (newsflash for those of you who thought we were highly paid professionals!), but the extra income did supplement our overall family income, and it helped ease my financial fears while I worked diligently to market my services and attract clients.
Stick to your guns in terms of pursuing your dreams and passions.
When you make a major career change—whether switching careers entirely or starting your own business—you may be surrounded by a mixed bag of naysayers and cheerleaders. Focus on the cheerleaders and ignore the naysayers.
Obviously you need to make calculated, wise, strategic decisions about your career. That’s where working with a career coach comes in. You should also consult your career mentor when facing major career decisions. Take other steps to assess your level of contentment, create a budget, etc.
But once you’ve taken the plunge—thoughtfully and carefully—don’t look back. You don’t want to lose momentum by focusing on negative tidbits others feed you about how you are killing your career. Don’t focus on how hard it’s going to be for you. Let your friends and family work through their own issues regarding fear for your career.
Separate yourself from negative people. Focus on pursuing your original career goals. Map out your career plan in manageable bites so you will not become overwhelmed. Then start pecking away at that plan slowly but surely.
Before you know it, you’ll be doing the exact things you envisioned yourself doing when you began dreaming about your new career. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be doing those things sooner rather than later.
Career freedom is right around the corner—but you have to pursue it.
For help making a career change, reach out to me to schedule a free consultation.