Create a Strategic Plan for a New Career

Ken ColemanBy Ken Coleman6 Minutes

I’ve heard every excuse in the book for people not leaving jobs they hate. No matter the excuse, it always comes down to fear and doubt—fear of failing, fear that time has passed them by, fear of what others will say, and doubting they have what it takes to succeed in something different.

But it’s time to address one fear that comes up again and again because of my connection with Dave Ramsey: I’m afraid to switch careers while I’m working on Baby Step 2. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll only be deeper in debt.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Dave Ramsey’s plan, Baby Step 2 is when you get out debt by using the debt snowball. You live on rice and beans, get a second job, and do whatever else you can to dump all your debt, except for your mortgage.

I get it. You don’t want to rock the boat by changing careers during something like this. It feels risky, and that’s the last thing you need when you’re on Baby Step 2. But what if I told you switching careers while you’re in debt doesn’t have to be risky at all?

The truth is, you don’t have to rock the boat by switching careers. You would only rock the boat if you jumped while the boat was still miles away from the dock. Instead, you need to move the boat (your dream job) as close to the dock as possible. When you take careful steps, not only does switching careers while in debt become possible, but it also starts to work out in your favor.

How, you ask? Create a strategic plan, and take baby steps. Yep, we take baby steps here, too. Follow these three steps, and you’ll be moving at the right pace and in the right direction:

Step 1: Clarify and Verify

First, I want you to make sure what you think you’d rather be doing really is your sweet spot. Remember, your sweet spot is the point where your greatest talent, greatest passion and mission intersect. That means, not only are you really good at it, but you love doing it, and the result of the work matters to you.

Start by making a list of your natural gifts, passions and values. How does that list line up with what you’re currently doing and what you could be doing in a different job? Don’t be afraid to bring in a few people who know you well and will speak truth to you. Ask them if they believe what you’re thinking about doing lines up with any talents and passions they’ve noticed in you.

Step 2: Research!

Research is a big part of moving the boat up to the dock before you step onto it. In this phase, I want you to ask questions like:

  • What positions can I find in my city that meet my sweet spot criteria?
  • What qualifications or certifications do I need to make the career move?
  • If the new job requires certifications I don’t have, how much is it going to cost me to get those?
  • How long will it take to do everything I need to do in order to get that dream position?

You probably noticed some of those questions involve dollar signs. Even if you need to spend some money for certifications or courses, it’s possible to do it without slowing down your debt snowball momentum. Adjust your budget and make sacrifices where you can. Pick up a side gig, or even have a big, old-fashioned yard sale.

Step 3: Practice the Proximity Principle

You’ve clarified and verified your sweet spot, and done all the research necessary to decide how you’ll make the move. Now it’s time to practice the tried and true Proximity Principle.

The Proximity Principle says this: In order to do what you want to do, you need to be around people who are doing it and in places where it’s happening. In this stage, I want you to spend time making connections and building relationships. Start looking for ways to volunteer in the industry you want to be in, shadow someone who’s doing what you want to do, check out local meetings, and be prepared to pick lots of people’s brains over coffee.

Let me be clear for a moment: Because you’re not taking any leaps, you’re still going to be working your old job while you’re practicing the Proximity Principle and finding money to fund your transition. That’s okay. You may hate your job today, but tomorrow, you’re going to turn hate into great.

When you’re on this plan, you’ll come to a point where you no longer think about your current job as something you hate, because now it’s a tool that’s funding your future. So, be grateful for your current position. After all, it’s a big part of the reason you can take baby steps and switch careers the right way!