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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

How I Convinced My Loved Ones That My Wild Career Change Wasn't All That Wild


I’ve already written at length about the fact that I made the somewhat wild decision to quit my full-time job without much of a backup plan in place. I mean, I knew that my intention was to be a freelance writer full-time. But, as anyone who’s ever freelanced will tell you, that definitely wasn’t the most reliable fallback option.

After sharing that article about my own experience, I received tons of emails and Twitter messages from people telling me how much my story inspired them. (Thanks for that, by the way—I love reading those sorts of notes.) However, I was also on the receiving end of quite a few different questions.

One of the inquiries I saw pop up the most (aside from how exactly I managed to gather up my courage and pack my bags) was actually about my loved ones—how did I get them on board with my seemingly wild decision?

Typically, when it comes to seeking approval of your career decisions, I’d advise you to forget what the haters say and move on with your life. But, I think we all start humming a different tune when talking about the people who are close to us and are an important part of our daily lives. It’s only natural to want (maybe even need) their support, encouragement, and understanding when making a big, terrifying choice.

Honestly, this aspect isn’t something I’ve talked about too much when it comes to sharing my story about leaving my job—I’ve always focused selfishly on how I felt about it. But, once I paused to think about the entire picture, I realized I was missing a pretty big piece of the puzzle. Having the backing of my family—and my husband in particular—was crucial for not only taking that leap, but also for pursuing success after making the jump.

So, for all of you out there who are contemplating making a scary career decision and are wondering how you can get your loved ones behind you, I’ve pulled this article together for you. Of course, everybody’s individual situation will vary—people are different. But, I hope that sharing a few of the steps I took is helpful to you!

I Avoided Getting Defensive (Well, I Tried)

When I made the decision that I wanted to leave my full-time job in favor of the freelance life, the first person I talked it over with was my husband. He was still only my boyfriend at the time, but we were living together and sharing expenses (sorry, Grandma). So, he was the natural first choice when it came to talking over a big shift in not only our lives—but also our incomes.

I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed in his reaction when I finally worked up the nerve to spill the beans. I had expected to be scooped up in a hug and presented with a lengthy speech about how intelligent, brave, and admirable I was. I wouldn’t have complained about some fireworks or chocolate-covered strawberries either. But, unfortunately, reality doesn’t always align with my dreams.

Instead, my husband—who has his degree in mathematics and happens to stare at Excel spreadsheets all day long—immediately started crunching numbers. He wanted to know what living on one income (even if it was just temporarily) would mean for us financially.

This reality check was disheartening, and it even felt a little bit like a personal attack. Why wasn’t he jumping up and down at the idea of me pursuing my passions? Why was he trying to rain on my parade? Didn’t being in a relationship mean that he was supposed to encourage me—not tear me down?

To a certain extent, that’s true. But, it’s important to recognize that support isn’t synonymous with your partner blindly nodding yes to every new idea you come up with.

Remember that the fact that your significant other or family member is voicing a few concerns doesn’t mean that they think you’re a talentless hack who should never chase your dreams. In fact, if you take a moment to step off your high horse and listen, you’ll likely discover that the issues they’re raising are pretty legitimate and that their intentions are completely pure.

My husband was concerned with how we’d pay our mortgage. He wanted to know what I’d do in regards to my health insurance. He was worried about what would happen to me mentally and emotionally if this didn’t end up working out.

Of course, my immediate reaction was to call him an unsupportive and insensitive jerk. But, once I realized that behavior wasn’t going to get me anywhere, I stopped being so defensive. It was then that I noticed he was actually raising some pretty good questions—questions I should probably have an answer to before making a rash decision.

I Talked Out the Details

Nobody operates in a vacuum. The choices you make have a direct impact on your partner and the other people you care about. So, as much as you may want to charge ahead with your plan without even stopping to consider others’ feelings, it’s important that you sit down and have an open and honest conversation.

Once I had shared my aspirations with my husband and got over the whole name-calling episode mentioned above, we sat down to talk logistics.

Now, this doesn’t mean I asked for his advice and input on how I’d start my business or begin finding clients. Instead, we hashed out the pieces that affected both of us. Most of our focus was placed on this one question: How long would we try this before we decided we needed to change gears? How long did I have to make this work?

Putting that down on paper sounds super discouraging—like you’re setting a timer and then need to give up on your dreams as soon as you hear the “ding.” But, I promise, it wasn’t like that. It actually ended up being an important part of the process.

Establishing that timeline wasn’t meant to make me feel like my goals had an expiration date. Instead, it ensured that my husband and I were on the same page right from the get-go. We both had an understanding of what we should expect before I ever even quit my job. Luckily, we didn’t reach the point of needing to make a switch. But, if we had, I couldn’t have resented my husband for requesting it—that expectation was clear from the very beginning.

I Involved My Loved Ones

You know what one of my biggest fears was when getting started with this big, scary career shift? It wasn’t failing. Instead, I was concerned that I would cause my loved ones to feel taken advantage of—like it was their duty to pick up the slack and take care of things while I gallivanted around and pursued my wildest fantasies.

I was consciously aware of the fact that it was my decision and my dream, but I didn’t want it to feel so selfish. If my husband and I were truly partners, I wanted my success to be his success too. I wanted to be in this together.

So, I made an effort to involve him in the entire process—not just the initial decision. How? Well, he helped me set up an accounting system and track my expenses. He’d send me articles that he thought were interesting. Hey, he even assembled my desk.

Involving your loved ones—whether it’s your partner, your parents, your siblings, or your friends—is important. I know it seems counterintuitive at first. After all, how could asking for even more support help your case? But, it’s effective.

Including my husband meant he felt more attached to and invested in the entire process as well. I didn’t just ask for his go-ahead, expect him to pay the mortgage, and then sail off into the sunset on my own. This was a choice we had made together—so, I thought we should see it through together as well.

I won’t sugarcoat it—going after your dreams and making a big career shift is terrifying. And, needing to eloquently relay your aspirations to your partner or loved ones only makes things tougher. You want them to back you up, no questions asked. But, that’s not how things work.

If you have a big, lofty goal that you want to chase down, getting the people you care about on board isn’t always as easy as you’d think. But, there are a few things you can do to help get them on your team. So, get ready to have that conversation, and give these steps a try when you do.

Have more questions about my decision to leave my full-time job without a backup plan? Let me know on Twitter!

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