How to Know When It’s Time to Pivot in Your Career (And Financially Pull it Off)


It’s not a secret that I’ve recently had a pretty major career pivot as the founder of Workable Wealth. After spending years growing this platform as a financial planning firm and educational resource about all things personal finance, I decided to merge with another fantastic financial planning practice – Abacus Wealth. Going through this transition, I’ve heard a lot of questions about how you can make a pivot in your career successfully.

Whether you’re a business owner or a career professional who feels like it’s time for a change, making a pivot can be overwhelming and stressful. There’s a lot of fear before pursuing something new. Change itself is scary enough, but when you add in other question marks about your future salary, growth opportunities, and fulfillment, it’s even more difficult. 

So, let’s talk about how to know when it’s time to pivot in your career – and how to financially pull it off. 

What’s Your Why?

Everyone feels down about their job or career every once in a while. It’s called work for a reason, and even if you’re a business owner, or crushing it in a field you love, you’re still going to have days when work feels less than inspiring. Going through a tough season isn’t necessarily a reason to drop everything and pivot in your career or business. Before you make any decisions, it’s important to hit “pause” and evaluate the reason that’s driving your desire to make a change.

There are several reasons a career pivot might be appealing to you. However, they can be boiled down to three key categories:

1. There’s a fulfillment problem with your work.
2. There’s a fulfillment problem with your personal life.
3. You’ve reached a financial or career-growth ceiling in your current industry.

If you’re having a fulfillment problem with your work, it’s time to reality check yourself. Ask yourself a few key questions before making this major career (and financial) decision. Have you been feeling a lack of fulfillment, or generally uninspired for a while now? What about your current role isn’t meeting your needs? Do you need more of a challenge, or is it the work and/or industry itself that you’re not clicking with anymore?

A short-term season where you experience a disconnect is completely normal, and may not warrant a full pivot. However, if you’ve been feeling this way for a while, or have a strong drive to try something new, it’s worth listening to your intuition.

Fulfillment problems with your personal life may feel like a lack of work/life balance, wanting to relocate to another part of the country, or needing more cash flow to meet your financial goals. Sometimes personal life problems can be corrected within your current role. A frank conversation with your boss about virtual work, or a well-deserved raise, for example, can work wonders. However, sometimes a lack of fulfillment in your personal life is directly correlated to a career that isn’t meeting your needs anymore. 

Finally, if you’ve reached a ceiling of growth (financial or otherwise) in your current industry, a pivot might be appealing. Consulting, for example, can often yield higher pay from people who respect your experience. 

The “why” behind your career pivot will help you to determine which move is best for you both now and in the future.

What Career Pivot Makes Sense For You?

There are so many different ways to pivot in your career, and the change you make will likely impact multiple areas of your life. In general, you can pivot in one of three ways – you can get a new job, pursue work in a new industry, or start on a new career path in your current industry. 

Pivot to a New Job

A new job might mean applying for a different position within your organization, or job hunting at other companies. Your new job can solve many different problems that inspired your career pivot. You could find a position in an area you love, that has a higher salary or better benefits, or that is more flexible with a work schedule that fits your lifestyle needs. 

A new job might not necessarily mean a promotion – but it could! Explore positions that have a need for your unique skillset, and decide whether you want to find a job that’s similar to what you’re currently doing, or one that has different job responsibilities.

Start a Career in a New Industry

If you’re feeling uninspired by your job and your industry as a whole, you might want to start looking to pivot your career to a new industry. There are many industries out there with different specializations within each field. Do some research to find the types of roles that inspire you. 

Reach out to people in those current industries or specializations to learn more about what they do. The last thing you want is to pivot to a new industry only to realize that the problem you were experiencing followed you to your new role.

New Career Path

A new career path within your current organization or industry can solve many problems, as well. For example, you may love the company you work for, but feel completely burnt out managing people in operations. If you work for a big enough organization that has flexibility with internal hiring, you could go to your HR department to discuss other opportunities within your company. This can be a fantastic pivot for someone who may not want to relocate, or even leave your current company or field, but is looking for a change. 

You might also decide to pursue a new career path within your industry that allows for more flexibility – like business ownership. Whether you want to do freelance work, act as a consultant, or even launch your own small business in your specialization, entrepreneurship may be the “pivot” you’re looking for.

Do Your Research and Build a Strategy

Regardless of what kind of pivot you want to make in your professional life, you have to have a plan in place to financially pull it off. Making a big change without thinking through its impact on your finances can cause a lot of problems in the short and long term. A new job, for example, could impact your budget – but it could also impact your ability to save for retirement if your new company doesn’t offer the same retirement saving benefits (like an employer match) as your old employer.

Before making any moves, take time to put a plan together. Break your plan into three steps:

Step #1: Decide On Your Pivot

What’s your move? Whether you’re looking for a new job in your field, or you want to change career paths completely, know what you’re looking to accomplish with this change. This will help you to narrow your search options, and weigh the pros and cons more clearly.

Step #2: Do Your Research

Don’t fly blindly into a career change! If you’re asking your boss about a new position with an increased salary, know what skills you have that match that job’s responsibilities, and the industry average salary for the role. If you’re thinking of launching your own business, understand what’s required by your industry to launch successfully. 

Some fields require regulation and registration (like financial planning!), while others may just require that you set up an LLC with your state to start working ASAP. Know what you’re getting into, financially and otherwise, before making a change.

Step #3: Know Your Limits

A career pivot sometimes means that you’re setting yourself up for a new season both in your career and in your personal life. A new role in a new industry might require you to take a job that is more entry-level, and doesn’t pay as much. Pursuing a different role in your current industry or organization may mean new demands on your time with changing job responsibilities. Understand what impact this new shift will have on your personal life – and look at both the best and worst case scenarios. 

Once you know what you’re walking into, set personal limits for yourself. For example, if you’re interviewing for roles in a new industry, you may have a minimum salary or benefits package in mind to make the pivot feasible. 

This might mean you’ve trimmed your budget to account for a pay cut, or it might mean you’re unwilling to sacrifice specific benefits that provide affordable health care to you and your family. You may find that the career pivot you have in mind isn’t flexible with income or benefits, and decide to postpone the change until you have a big enough nest egg built to sustain you while you grow in your new role. 

Whatever your limits are, they’re valid. Setting limits ahead of time, especially when it comes to your finances, protects you and your family against potential pitfalls of pivoting in your career. 

Brainstorm With a Financial Planner

You deserve a career that inspires you, but you also deserve to respect your own financial goals and needs. Making a fast decision to pivot in your career without setting some financial guidelines for yourself could hurt you in the long run, and leave you feeling even more stressed out and unhappy than you were before making the change. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a drive to pivot in your career, but aren’t sure how to put a financial plan in place that supports your move, contact our team. As financial planners, we love helping clients brainstorm different ways that their financial life can support their short and long term career goals – and vice versa!

Mary Beth Storjohann, CFP® is an author, speaker, and financial coach who takes a fun, no-nonsense approach in working with individuals and couples across the country, helping them make smart choices with their money.

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