Your partner is supposed to be your biggest supporter. But what if they’re not being supportive of your career change? Learn how to prepare your partner for your career change so you both can feel secure in this transition.
Big Feelings in Career Change
First I want to say that I’ve been on both sides of this equation. I have changed careers and I’ve also supported my husband when he was making a career change.
I’ve also seen dozens of couples navigate this kind of change.
The outcome we’re after is that you move into a fulfilling, rewarding career that honors you and takes care of your needs AND your new career creates a lot of positive benefits for your partner. That is the outcome and there are multiple paths to get there.
But you are not going to go through a transition like this without you and/or your partner having some messy feelings.
So the first thing I want to do is just set the expectation that Big Feelings are normal and are not a sign that anyone is doing anything wrong.
Scenario A: How to Prepare Your Career Change When Your Partner is Not Supportive
But before I give you some ways to help you get your partner get onboard for your career change, I want you to be really honest about something:
Is your partner capable of supporting you the way you need to be supported through this?
- Do they have the capacity to support you?
- Do they have the bandwidth to support you?
- Do they have a worldview that aligns with what you want for yourself?
- Are they harboring their own fears and skepticism that won’t serve you?
- Are your needs and dreams going to be safe with and protected by them?
If they are not capable of being supportive, then you have to work with the truth of that situation.
What It May Mean If Your Partner is Not Supportive of Your Career Change
This does not mean that you have to label them as the bad guy, it does not mean that the relationship is not good, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you, it doesn’t mean you should break up. (Although, you can assess all those things separately.) It usually means that you have the capacity, hope, vision, and motivation that they do not.
Rather than interpreting your differences as a Big Problem, you can accept it as it is: due to their own experience and perspectives, they can’t show up how you need them to. Don’t take it personally, AND don’t wait for their blessing or understanding to take care of yourself.
You are the only one living your work experience. And as much as you may have shared with your partner, complained to your partner, as much as they’ve seen you struggle…they don’t live it day after day. YOU do. So you naturally have more motivation to change things.
What To Do If Your Partner is Not Supportive of Your Career Change
It’s ok (and sometimes necessary) to start making plans for your career change WITHOUT your partner’s support.
I am not saying to quit your job without telling your partner because they don’t believe in your vision to open a food truck.
I am saying that you can make plans and get ready for a career change BEFORE they are fully bought in.
In fact, the more ACTUAL PLANS you have, the more likely they are to support you. If you’ve been coming to them with round after round of half-baked ideas that you change all the time, OF COURSE, they’re doubtful. OF COURSE, they’re hesitant. You’ve contributed to their fears of “Here we go again!” or “You never follow through.”
And although this is YOUR career, it will affect them. They may be wondering what will happen to the health insurance or if they will have to pick up the slack in some way, and that can be scary, especially when it’s all floaty hypotheticals and they can’t actually PLAN for anything yet so all they’re left with is to WORRY about things.
The best thing you can do for BOTH of you is to get clear on what you want and create a practical plan to get there.
Scenario B: How to Prepare Your Supportive Partner for Your Career Change
Ok, let’s say your partner is super supportive, maybe they’ve been begging you to go ahead and change careers already, they believe in you and maybe even have a more expanded vision of what’s possible for you than you do.
There are still some things you can do to make this experience easier on them:
1. Spare them some of the “figuring it out” rollercoaster.
They don’t need to know every career option you consider. They don’t need to hear every inner freakout out and identity shift you experience. Give them the gift of not knowing your entire inner landscape. I know they are your partner so we think they should hear EVERYTHING, but his kind of space is a GIFT. Which means: you will need other people to share with. That’s one reason there’s a community aspect to how I work with clients. You need support and camaraderie, but you shouldn’t expect your partner to do ALL of that for you.
2. Make a practical plan.
This really applies whether your partner is not so supportive or super supportive. But…
- ESPECIALLY if they resist change
- ESPECIALLY If your partner goes into catastrophic thinking
- ESPECIALLY if they are more attached to stability and security
- ESPECIALLY if they are risk adverse
- ESPECIALLY if the two of you want different things from your work and they don’t understand why you just can’t be happy with how things are
What you can do to help calm them that is to show them a sound plan. Give them evidence that you’re taking care of this and that the situation is handled.
3. Once you do have your plan in place, include them in your vision.
How is YOUR life going to change as a result of your career change? And more importantly, how will it make things different for THEIR life and your life together?
Help them see how changes in your work could positively affect their life.
4. Listen to their fears and mirror them back.
Invite them to talk about what’s bothering them and just listen. When they’re done, summarize what you heard them say. “It sounds like you’re scared that…” “I can tell you’re anxious about…” Sometimes just being heard and understood is all it takes to feel better.
5. Ask them how you can support then, and tell them how they can support you.
Don’t assume you know what they need, or they will be able to predict what you need. Make clear statements about what you need:
- “What I really need right now is a hug.”
- “What I need is for you to just listen, no advice.”
- “I need you to dance in your boxers while I tell you this.” (Just my house?)
6. Thank them.
A little show of appreciation can go a long way.
“Thank you for believing in me, thank you for encouraging me, thank you for being patient with me.”
When you’re ready to prepare your partner for your career change, you may need to keep them out of the loop until you have a plan OR they may be your biggest supporter from Day 1. Either path ok, I’ve had client take both paths and they and partner come out great on the other side.
Sometimes, the partner who starts out reluctant with a lot of doubt and fear will end up THANKING the one who went for it and made the plan.
No matter where your partner is, go ahead and start crafting your plan!