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How to Talk to Your Family About a Career Change

Jun 05, 2018 5 min read Wanda Thibodeaux

Key Takeaways

  • Recognize that talking about a career change can be emotional for your loved one.
  • Prepare data and identify any concerns you have — before you sit down to chat.
  • Be clear about what your goals are and how your loved one can help you achieve them.


Maybe you've already switched jobs a few times. Making a change within your field may have helped for a little while, but the result eventually is always the same: Financially, emotionally, intellectually — you never feel fulfilled. You finally have to admit that the idea of a complete career change looks wonderfully rosy. But how do you start the conversation with your loved ones about actually doing it?

1. Broach the subject in a casual way

Scientifically, your spouse isn't going to react to the idea of you switching careers with logic first — they're going to have to get through a flood of emotions Opens in new window before they can really talk to you in a reasonable way. Bring up the concept at a relaxed, laid-back time with a phrase like, "I've been thinking a change of pace in my career might be good for us — can we talk about it tonight?"

2. Get your financial information together

One of the biggest worries a spouse or family member has when someone mentions changing careers is whether or not the transition can happen without sacrificing the family's financial security. This is totally normal, as they want to ensure basic needs like shelter and food are met both immediately and in the future. Work out a realistic budget that demonstrates what everyone would need to do to make the transition work.



Good questions to discuss include:

  • Can we expect for me to make more or less in my new career as I do now?
  • Will we need to depend on one income as I acquire new skills or education?
  • How will this career change affect our pensions, retirement or other savings accounts?
  • Are we willing and able to take on extra financial responsibilities or live on a tighter budget?

Ideally, go back at least a year Opens in new window with your credit card and bank statements to get a solid grasp on your income and regular expenditures. Avoid judging your spouse or family members for your current situation. Simply identify the mechanics of what's required for a successful outcome.

3. Clarify what you're after with a message of inclusivity

In many ways, your spouse and family members have to break out of their comfort zone and abandon what they know as much as you do. Psychologically, this is scary, as people like what's familiar to them Opens in new window and resist change. You thus have to reassure them that the prize is worth the risk of doing things differently. You might use lines like:

  • A career change would make me [happier, more confident, etc.].
  • I want you and the kids to have [x].
  • My goal is to [retire early, be home more, have better physical health, etc.].
  • With your help doing [x], I could [y].

4. Outline your concerns and invite them to express theirs

Career changes can include a series of hurdles, even when they're financially feasible. For example, you might need time away from your family as you take classes to prepare for a new job. Being up front about these worries shows your partner that you're not taking the idea of the career shift lightly, and that you have a balanced view of what it will entail. And, by inviting friends and family to voice their worries Opens in new window, you help them feel valued and heard. You also learn other points you hadn't considered that you need to investigate together.


What you can do next

Volunteer, job shadow, take on stretch projects or simply take some vacation time to make sure you need a true career change rather than a simple change of pace.

If you decide it's time to make a change, set up meetings with your financial professional and/or your tax advisor to discuss your personal circumstances. Career or general counselors can help you do some role playing so you're more comfortable talking about the shift when the time comes.



Wanda Marie Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and sole proprietor of Takingdictation.com. Her work has appeared in online and print publications such as The Finance Base, Legal Beagle, Bankaroo and Inc.com.


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