Is it possible to explore a career change responsibly?! 5 tips on how you can do it!

Supporting your family, paying your mortgage, funding your retirement—we all have serious obligations that can make contemplating career change feel incredibly risky. What if I make less money? What if I try something new and fail? Even if I’m longing for  a change, or feeling downright miserable, should I really risk leaving my secure job to try something new??

So many people give up before they even start. The risk of trying something new wins out over the incredible benefits a career change could give you.

Here are five tips on how to explore new career options and leap responsibly:

1. Give yourself time to explore! To avoid yet another unfulfilling job, get clear on what you really love doing. Take classes, go to conferences, research online. (For a fun survey of what you love doing, from every angle, download the free Passion Discovery Worksheet.) Pursue anything that interests you. You never know where it will lead or how it will fit into your next career move. An engineer I coached took a financial planning course, which led to interest in pursuing an MBA, which led to her opening a consulting business focused on “second act” entrepreneurs—a fresh, positive new direction she could never have predicted.

2. Apprentice or volunteer in areas that interest you. One of my clients in his late 40’s volunteered to help a small business do their marketing, which helped him gain experience in a new field. I volunteered for almost two years with local metal artists to learn how to weld and run an art-based business. One day a week of free labor taught me everything I needed to know about how to set up my business and take on clients. I even had a huge commission lined up before my shop opened!

3. Talk it Up. Take friends and trusted colleagues out for coffee or lunch. Give them a few headlines about what you’re interested in doing next—you’d be surprised by all the good ideas and fresh connections they have for you!

4. Create bridge income. As you might imagine, leaving one job without another lined up can feel like falling off a cliff—anxiety provoking!! What can you do to create stable income while you transition from one job to the next?

  • Don’t quit your job…yet! It’s hard to stay in a job that makes you miserable, but keeping that steady income gives you a stable foundation while you figure out what comes next.
  • Do what it takes. You could hold out for that ideal full-time job…or you could get busy bringing in some kind of income while you figure it out! There is no shame in doing a part-time or temporary job while you figure out what comes next.
  • Build it on the side. Thinking about going into business for yourself? Create the business plan and do as much groundwork as possible while you have income from other sources. Start lining up clients before you even open the doors. Who’s interested in your services? Can you begin doing work for them on the side? (Of course, being careful not to violate any non-compete agreements you’ve with your current employer!)

5. Double check your finances. When was the last time you thought about how much money you really need to earn? One of the keys to Tim Ferriss’ popular Four Hour Workweek philosophy is downsizing your life so you don’t have to earn as much. I have multiple clients in their 50’s who discovered they’d been very successful savers…and it was ok to taper off a little! After talking with their financial planner, they realized they could explore new career directions even if it meant a salary cut. This knowledge opened up many more possibilities for finding a new career much more fulfilling and rewarding in other ways.

About Jane: Jane Cavanaugh is an internationally acclaimed business leadership and career coach who has helped more than 6,000 professionals develop their career and leadership skills. Jane is creator of The Passionate Professional: How to Make Your Ordinary Career Extraordinary, a guided career transition program, and a co-author of Breakthrough! Inspirational Strategies for an Audaciously Authentic Life. Contact or visit Jane at

What do you think?

Related Articles

Renewing Your Career: Fine-Tuning vs. The Big Leap

In the past year I’ve trained and coached over 500 people on how to manage their career. I find most people who want to re-invigorate their career assume the choice is either to put up with what they h … [More]

Using Play to Help Your Team Work Brilliantly

Do you love learning through games and play? A colleague of mine Bette Gardner developed a to­tally fun game that helps teams learn to work creatively and cohesively, instead of getting lost in … [More]

Coming Alive: The Journey To Reengage Your Life And Career

Reengaging Your Career!

Have you ever had someone introduce you to just the right person? A long-time client just recently introduced me to Ruth Ross, who is fast becoming one of the leading champions for the “reengagement r … [More]

Related Podcasts

Stress Weighing You Down? Find Energy and Motivation in Work When You’re No Longer Inspired or Fulfilled

How do you keep going when life is stressful and challenging? Where do you find the will and energy to continue? When your work no longer inspires and fulfills you, but it just isn’t possible to find a … [More]

Balancing Career Change and Family – Interview with Donna Marsh

Learn how a successful professional uses three key tools from the Passionate Professional process to balance a career change with being a mother of a special needs child and a military spouse. … [More]

Supercharged Path to Finding Work You Love – Interview with Greg Peters

From layoff and unemployment to exciting new career direction—learn how this professional speeds through all three phases of the Passionate Professional process into work he truly loves. … [More]

Success Stories

T Klein, Florida

Success Story: “I met Jane at a training session sponsored by my past employer. I subsequently decided to hire her as my professional coach and I have greatly benefited from our work together. I was going through a transition in my career and looked to Jane for guidance and support.

In our weekly sessions, Jane utilizes our time together very effectively and has always been able to focus on the current issues in my life. Jane gave me the courage to make the decision to leave my employer after 20 plus years. She was able to help me prioritize my next steps in my transition. Jane was helpful in my preparation for my interview with my now, current employer. Jane was instrumental in my negotiation process. She gave me the confidence to communicate my value and worth to the n…