Dealing with the most important new career risk

Dr. Purushothaman
December 3, 2013


Making the decision to pursue a new career can be one of the most challenging and exciting times in a person's life. You look forward to the possibility of doing something you have always wanted to do, fulfilling your personal vision, benefiting others, increasing your income, or any combination of these or other benefits. You may be looking to start your own business, move into a new field that has always interested you, or go back to school to get the training needed to allow you to leverage your expertise to teach.

Is making the new career decision enough?

By the time you have made the decision to pursue a new career you likely have done the hard work to carefully think through your decision (If not or to confirm your choice, see the link below). You have spent weeks, months, or maybe years, dealing with the up and down emotions associated with making this type of life change. You have sought career guidance from friends and family, and possibly paid for professional advice. The plan is ready. Time to execute. You are ready to go.

Have you addressed the most important new career risk?

The most likely source of failure in realizing your new career is having insufficient resources to survive until your new career can pay the bills. Let's face it, as a minimum we all need food, shelter, and clothing to sustain our physical needs. How long do you expect your transition take? Even if you planned to go a year without income, what happens if you get sick and cannot work for 3 weeks, or worse? Will you have the resources to bridge the additional gap? Do you need health insurance to cover unplanned medical expenses?

Are you starting a new business? When does your business plan show you breaking even? If it takes two years to be profitable instead of one, do you have access to funding to stay in business while addressing the shortfall in revenue? Like a business that runs out of cash, failing to mitigate this risk opens you up to personal bankruptcy, or worse.

Are there better times to take on the new career risk?

During college, I learned to stretch the income I made over the summer to address my needs for the entire year. I look back and am amazed at how little I managed to live on. This certainly suggests that it should be easier to change your career when you have few obligations and have not gotten used to a more expensive lifestyle.

If you want to mitigate the risk of insufficient resources in transitioning to your new career, make changes in your lifestyle before you execute on your decision. Determine your minimum needs and try living on your minimum budget before starting your transition. This will enable you to establish how long you can likely stretch your available resources.

Have you just lost your job or experienced a major reorganization at work? Believe it or not, this may also be an ideal time to start working a new career transition. Severance benefits from a job loss can provide the additional financial resources necessary to provide the time needed to move into a new career or launch that new business. In addition, it is not uncommon for training and education resources to be provided that could reduce what you need to spend on required education for your new occupation.

Are you able to retire?

If you have established that you can afford to retire, you have already determined that you have the resources to survive, and hopefully more. This puts you in the position to have already mitigated this risk, as long as any new career investment does not substantially change your resource situation. It comes as no surprise that this is a great time to transition to a new career as your resources will allow you work on your new career until you succeed or ascertain that the new career was not what you hoped it would be.

Mitigate this risk to free yourself to focus on your new career

If you are midway through your working career and have responsibilities for other family members, this risk certainly will be a major factor that you should address prior to executing your career transition. With a well thought mitigation plan, you can be confident that you will have the resources needed to address the needs of you and those that depend on you, allowing you to focus on building your new career. Do not let this risk be the item that causes you to prematurely quit on the career of your dreams.

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