Should you Retrain for a new Career?

If you are someone who is having some doubts in your current profession, you may be wondering, should you retrain for a new career?  Maybe you are miserable working in your field you studied and went to school for.  Maybe it just isn’t paying the bills.  There are a variety of reasons people decide they want to change careers. However, the question remains – is it a financially wise decision to make a career change?

retrain for a new career

I always found it interesting that at 18 years old we are expected to know what we want to do for the rest of our life.  For sure there are people who know without a doubt what they want to do at a young age, but for many of us, we just don’t know at that point.

In a sense, even though we are full grown adults at 18, in many ways we are still just kids, trying to learn how to transition from our parents’ homes to learning the ropes of how to make it on our own.  Some of us take longer than others to figure it all out.  Not long ago I wrote an article for Scary Mommy about how some of us learn how to properly “adult” a little later than others. Forget figuring out what you want to do for employment for the rest of your life – some of us were just trying to figure out how to cook dinner, do our taxes, or drive a car.

So, it is no surprise that some of us discover years down the road that the career we trained for or picked at 18 isn’t what is best for us or our family in the long term.  However, switching careers isn’t always cut and dry.

There are so many variables you need to think about when it comes to switching careers.  A few years ago we had to decide if changing careers was a good family move or not ourselves.

IS CHANGING CAREERS WORTH IT?

5 years ago my husband came home from his job at the time to find me crying on the kitchen floor.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make our budget work.  There just wasn’t enough money to cover even our very basic expenses.  We had struggled for so long and now the trainwreck we had seen coming was here.

I remember feeling like I was looking through a tunnel and only seeing darkness.  There was no light at the end of it.  At the time I thought to myself, “this is how the rest of our life will be.  We will always struggle like this.  It will never get better.”

Because we had struggled for SO many years prior, during that conversation in the kitchen we decided we could either keep going the way we were going without any hope in sight that we would ever get ahead, or we needed to make a big change.  Since both of us were educated in fields that were very limited,  it would mean taking a huge leap of faith.

My husband decided it was time to go back to school and build a career in the trades.

CHANGING CAREERS IN YOUR 30S

Even in that moment, knowing we HAD to change something, it was terrifying.  How in the world would we support three kids while making this change?  What if it didn’t work out?  What if by making this decision, we ended up digging ourselves even deeper into a hole?

But when we weighed the pros and cons, we knew it had to be better than what we had been trying to do for years and years.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” —Maya Angelou

That day in the kitchen was a turning point in our lives.  That day was when we suddenly knew better.  For us, doing better meant my husband changing careers and we have never ONCE regretted that decision.  My husband is happy in his chosen career, and I am happy to work on our budget without it giving me sleepless nights.  While we still need to be wise and still have a tight budget raising a family on one income in a two income world, we don’t have to worry about how we will pay our bills the way we used to. Each year gets a little easier.  We were even able to see our dream of living in the country come to reality.  There are so many days I look out my big picture window at the fields and trees and thank God that He gave us a good kick in the pants to get us to make some big changes.

So, back to the original question.

IS CHANGING CAREERS A FINANCIALLY WISE DECISION?  SHOULD YOU RETRAIN FOR A NEW CAREER?

Well, it depends.

I know you would probably expect me to automatically say yes after our story of success at doing that, but every situation is different.

First and foremost, you need to look at your current financial situation.  Are you making enough to pay the bills?

Next, I would recommend looking at what stage you are in life.  Do you have young kids you are supporting?  It’s one thing to quit your current job that is paying your bills to chase a dream when you aren’t raising children, it’s another to take that leap when a family depends on you.

I’m not against chasing your passion and taking risks when it comes to deciding to retrain for a new career.  However, you need to pick the right time for it.  And even if there are no kids at home, you need to figure out how you will pay your bills regardless.  If changing careers is about finding something you are more passionate about, maybe you can stay at your current job, and work part-time at another job (or education and classes) that fuel your passion.  Later down the road if your side gig is doing well, then leaving your current job won’t feel so risky and won’t put you into financial trouble hopefully.

On the other side of the coin what you have to consider is if your situation was similar to ours.  Are you stuck in a dead end job and not making much money, and there really isn’t room for advancement?  Did you go to school for a career in something that is hard to find a job in?

Then taking that step to go back to school or change careers might be for the best.  Yes, there will be initial costs and when you are already struggling or in debt that can feel impossible, but sometimes you have to look past the here and now and look into the future.  Will going to school today hurt or help you in 10 years?  Will NOT going to school today leave you in the exact same place you are today?

Also, don’t let fear of the unknown stop you.  Sometimes, even if our current situation isn’t working, we are too comfortable in what we know and are unwilling to change things up.  Don’t let that stop you from moving forward.  Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone if it means a better life for you and your family.

Changing careers in your 30s (or 40s, 50s, or even 60s!) is not easy. My husband was 32 when he went back to school to retrain for a new career.  While I don’t consider that too old, he did sit in class with mostly younger students in their late teens or early 20s.  But, in the grand scheme of things that just doesn’t matter.  He is getting closer and closer to finishing his apprenticeship, all because he didn’t let his age, or jumping into something new and unknown stop him.

He also chose the trades because not only had he always wanted to do it, but he knew without a doubt there was a demand in that field.  He could also rotate between going to school and working, allowing him to make money at the same time as learning and getting the certification he needs.  This made a career change worth it for our family.

If you are changing careers to further your and your family’s future, be sure there are jobs in that field.  I’ve heard of many stories of people going back to school, only to finish and are unable to find a job in the area they trained for.

I truly believe you are never too old to change careers or go back to school.  I do, however, believe you have to decide how it will affect you financially.  It’s okay if changing careers means a pay cut – it’s not okay to change careers for that pay cut if it means you won’t be able to afford to live or provide for your family.  So, should you retrain for a new career?  You need to look at where you are at, what you want to switch to career-wise, and how it will affect your future in the longterm.

Related:  How to keep going when you want to give up

6 thoughts on “Should you Retrain for a new Career?”

  1. My husband changed majors in his senior year of college and sort of started over. It was the first year we were married and we were so poor but I am so glad he did it because he loved working in his field for 38 years and he loved learning it after he changed majors. He sustained a brain injury and is disabled now so his work years are over but I am so glad he did not work at something he did not enjoy for all those years.

    1. Yes, it can be so satisfying to work at something you love. Those early years can be hard for sure though. So sorry to hear about his injury.:(.

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