Beware of Career Handcuffs

The other day I was having a conversation with a 20-something about career switching and the fears around doing it. I found myself quoting some of my 40-something interviewee’s advice on the matter. First, they offer reassurance that if you are resourceful and skilled, there is no reason to fear you won’t be successful in  a new field.  Secondly, don’t fall prey to lifestyle handcuffs (getting stuck in a career because you get accustomed to the salary).  The things you can afford because you are more years into a career and the salary it provides may not be worth a lifetime of feeling unfulfilled by your job. Here are a few of their comments:

Do your career shifting in your 20’s before you start making a lot of money. Otherwise you may end up sticking with something that you don’t necessarily love. If you’re good at it you start making a decent amount of money and it’s harder to leave. It’s really hard to leave….even if you don’t love it. SO I would say leave sooner if you don’t love it.  You can always come back to it if you are good at it. – 40-something, former 20-something career switcher, consultant, Stamford, CT


I see very frequently in people is that they are just held back by their fear of not being successful in the new area they are considering getting into. I would say that is something to completely discount if you can rationally understand that there is a path to success and you have been successful in the past. Then why would you assume you would not be successful in this new path?” — 40-something, entrepreneur, NY


“Go with something you think you might love even if you make no money. There are ways to make it work. Pack your lunch. Get roommates. Drink less beer.  I always chose money and never really found my true calling. I got a 13K offer in a field that I was really interested in and a 20K offer in a field I was neutral about. I took the money because I didn’t think I could live on the lower salary. That I still regret. — 40-something, Williamsport, PA


“Yes I’ve did it for 8 years but I one day I realized that every additional day I wasted from here on out would just make it worse. So stop the bleeding and start doing what you want to do with your time.” — 40-something, career switcher from medical to business



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