Evaluating Your Financial Freedom vs. Your Career Path

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What do you really want to do for a living? 

During this time of the Covid-19 pandemic with the disruption of businesses, new and different work routines, and widespread job loss, many may be re-evaluating their professional pursuits. Some may be questioning how much job security they had during the pandemic, others may be questioning whether they were fulfilled by their job now that their daily life has changed and they have had the opportunity to look at it from a different lens.  In any event, settling on a career choice that is fulfilling and, also, provides financial security is often a challenge during any time. 

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”  George Eliot 

Practicality vs Passion 

I have had several careers throughout my professional life. I started as a corporate securities lawyer, morphed into an investment banker, followed my passion for fashion and became an entrepreneur, realized that as much as l loved fashion, I wasn’t a fan of the business of fashion, became a CFO of a different enterprise, and now I am a wealth manager. It has been a long and circuitous journey, and over the years, I was able to distill which elements of each job that I enjoyed and those I did not.  Being a wealth manager has allowed me to combine my interest in finance and the capital markets, with my entrepreneurial spirit, and my passion for helping people to achieve their financial goals.  That said, along the way, sometimes I needed to take a step back and earn less, while I laid the foundation for a transition and built up my experience in my profession. 

The reality is that life choices need to be practical.  I am not trying to quell any passions, I am just trying to keep it real.  The fact is we need to financially sustain our lives, and sometimes pursuing our passions just does not put food on the table.  However, over time, we can work towards building a career that allows us to find the right balance of passion and practicality.  

It’s about compromise… 

We all need money to survive, but it shouldn’t be the only decisive factor in job choice.  There are plenty of options that can provide a decent standard of living in which you can be happy.  You don’t want to suffer from pursuing your passion professionally.  It is wiser to have a solid financial foundation so that you can make small changes to get to your end goal, without having the stress of financial turmoil.   Most people can’t quit their day job to follow their passion, at least not initially.  But there may be jobs that are generally in the realm of your skills and passion in which you can make a living and you can continue to pursue your passion outside your day job.  For example, Ernest Hemingway was a reporter before he was a novelist. 

Ask yourself what matters to you?  What intrinsic qualities are you looking for in your work? Evaluate your core values too because it is significant in career satisfaction that you live your principles and your career affords you the opportunity to do so.


Let’s take a step back… 

You need to develop a long-term strategy and focus on your career and goals not only your day-to-day job responsibilities.  Ask yourself what do you want to be doing in 5 years?  In addition to wanting to pursue our passions, the reality of job insecurity is present for everyone; today’s work environment is more fluid with company acquisitions, automation, and other unforeseen factors that can dislocate certain positions.  Hence, we all should be strategizing and considering what careers suits passions, skills, talents, lifestyle, and long-term security.  

Ask yourself if your current career choice was really a choice.  Sometimes your career can be the result of random occurrences and not something consciously pursued.  Perhaps when you made that choice you had pressing financial concerns, or you had a particular skill that was needed but it isn’t something you can see yourself doing for the long-term.  

How do we shift gears professionally to drive change? 

Changing careers is never easy or immediate especially if you have been working in a certain field for a long time.  It can be intimidating and frightening to contemplate making a big change. But have faith and keep your resolve because the right choice is there for you. The following actions can help you to effectuate the change: 

  • Free up your own time.
    • Delegate or prioritize the responsibilities you would like to handle while giving yourself time to develop outside of the workplace.
  • Embrace the change.
    • This “in-between’ your current situation and a future that is still uncertain may be disconcerting, but this unsettled stage is a necessary part of the journey. 
    • As William Bridges states in his book Transitions,“We need not feel defensive about this apparently unproductive time-out at turning points in our lives … In the apparently aimless activity of our time alone, we are doing important inner business.”  
  • What are the short-term goals that you can achieve that will add up to your long-term goal? 
  • Ask yourself why you are craving a change. 
    • First things first: Do a little soul-searching and ask yourself, “why now?” “Find out what’s actually driving your decision to switch careers,” says certified professional career coach, David Wiacek.
  • Consider further education.
    • Pursuing further education can facilitate a pivot into a new industry and will make you a competitive candidate. 
  • Create an advisory board for your career.
    • “Establish a personal board of advisors,” says Lawler Kang, author of Passion at Work. “Your board could include an HR person, a mentor, a person from an industry you want to get into. Get their feedback on your plans — their support is amazingly powerful.”Be proactive and seek out people who can help you get clarity in your vision and strategy. 
  • If you have the financial ability, consider getting a career coach.  Coaches can explore with you what is missing in your current employment/profession and they can help you crystalize what you are searching for. 
  • Consider pursuing your passion as a side-hustle as you build up your experience in that area enough to make a permanent change.
  • Manage your expectations.
  • If you have a senior position, you may have to take a step back and accept a pay cut because your previous experience may not translate into the context of your new chosen area.  This is something I have encountered myself, and as I built up my experience and persevered, I was able to surpass my previous earning potential.  It takes time. 
  • Prepare financially.
    • As it is possible that in the early days of your new career your income may drop slightly or even significantly, you need to have your financial house in order.    
    • Examine your expenses closely and reduce or eliminate any unnecessary spending. Separate your needs from your wants, and prioritize your long-term goals over short-term desires.
    • Build up your savings prior to making a move, so you have a cushion to get you through the transition. 

Change of any kind requires planning, perseverance, patience, and resilience.  But if you are strategic and intentional, it can be accomplished.  Keep the faith and never give up until you reach your desired goal because professional fulfillment will be your ultimate reward! 

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