(Laura’s note: Today’s guest post is from Caroline Ceniza-Levine, the career coach who introduced me to the List of 100 Dreams exercise that appears in Chapter 2 of 168 Hours. She agreed to share some thoughts today on the issues of money and jobs, and how they relate — and how they don’t).
By Caroline Ceniza-Levine
Career choices are also financial choices. Can I do something I love and still pay the bills? Can I make a career change without taking a salary cut? Can I afford to wait for that perfect job when I’m unemployed and need to make money quickly? Some jobs pay more than others. Some offer faster salary growth and bigger bonuses. It is not practical to make career choices without considering the financial repercussions.
That said, deciding your next job and career path requires additional considerations apart from financial planning. Ideally, finances are one criterion of many by which you plan your career.
Here’s how to think about your money and your next move:
If you are unemployed, your cash situation should dictate the timing of your job search. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look for a job with a good long-term fit. However, you need to meet your immediate financial obligations, as well as your long-term career aspirations. If your short-term cash situation is dire (e.g., little severance, little savings), this could mean launching two job searches – one to meet your immediate cash needs that focuses on temp or project work; and one to meet your long-term career needs that focuses on finances PLUS other important considerations (e.g. your values and interests). A big mistake unemployed jobseekers make is to be too choosy and decline these “money jobs” that will keep cash coming in and enable you to continue a proactive long-term search for a better fit.
If you are employed but dislike your job, don’t assume your next move means a radical change in your finances. Yes, certain industries pay more than others so if you are leaving banking for poetry, you need to prepare for a lower salary. But most career shifts are not that radical. Confirm, too, if you really need to change what you do – perhaps you just need to change companies. You may be able to stay at the same salary level or even move up, even if you make a shift.
If you decide to try your own business, this often means a big change in your finances. If your target business requires upfront investment (e.g., in supplies, equipment, or retraining) then you have new expenses. If you leave your job to start a business, your regular paycheck stops. However, you may be able to start a business while you maintain your current job. You may be able to find a business with little upfront costs. Do not assume radical career moves require equally radical financial shifts.
Regardless of your next career move, you should be practicing good financial habits: setting aside an emergency fund; contributing to a retirement plan; paying off high-interest rate debt; and saving towards long-term financial goals (e.g., buying a house, your children’s education). These habits can be implemented in whatever job situation you have now.
We all know people with average or even low salaries who manage to save and be generous with their money. We also know people with high salaries who can’t make ends meet. Career path impacts your financial path, but does not determine it. You can have a strong financial picture with a lot of different careers. Use each to support the other but recognize that they are separate and need individual attention. Take care of your career. Take care of your finances.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine helps people find fulfilling jobs and careers, as the co-founder of SixFigureStart®, career coaching by former Fortune 500 recruiters. Caroline is a former recruiter for financial services, consulting, media, pharmaceutical/ healthcare, and technology. Her 100 Dreams exercise appears in Laura’s book. Visit her website to get free coaching advice and free coaching workshops for your job search and career success.
3 thoughts on “Guest Post: Your finances and your job (there’s more to work than money)”
Great post that is very timely for me as I am doing freelance project work while looking for a long term fit. Thanks for making this decision a little easier to digest.
Maggie, thanks for acknowledging the post. I’m glad it was helpful. Freelancing while continuing your search is always a great option — it keeps your skills and network current and gives you a foundation to be choosy about your next move. Happy 2011! Regards, Caroline
@Caroline and @Maggie – sometimes the freelance/project work becomes your long-term work! When my temp job at USA Today ended a few years ago, I moved to New York thinking I’d find another full-time job. In the meantime, I freelanced and took a part-time assistant job to meet immediate cash needs. Then the freelance work took off, and 3 months later I quit the assistant job and decided that writing was going to be my career.