How to Get Your Partner on Board for Your Career Change

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Laura Simms

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You’re the one changing careers, but is your partner with you on this one?

I’ve been on both sides of this equation. I have changed careers and I’ve also helped support my husband when he was making a career change. You hope that this can be a good experience for both people and that it can actually draw you closer and make your relationship stronger. But it can also test you in some new ways.

Keep in mind that on the days they fail to be a paragon of partnership, they may feel anxious or helpless. This is your thing, but it may have huge implications for their life.

If your love gets antsy, here are some ways you can help them.

How to Get Your Partner On Board For Your Career Change:

1. 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.

2. Show your partner that you’re serious about this.

This might be the most important one. Show them that you mean business.

If your partner tends to go into problem-solving mode, they may interpret any negative emotions of yours as, “My partner is unhappy; this is a problem!” Then they’re immediately going to start trying to figure out what the solution is. That little part of their brain is going haywire. What you can do to help calm that is to give them evidence that you’re taking care of this and that the problem is being handled.

If your partner tends to slip into catastrophic thinking by mentally mapping out all the ways things could go wrong or have gone wrong in the past, what you can do to help calm that is show them what your plan is and make them feel safe.

3. Ask them how you can support them, and tell them how they can support you.

“What I really need right now is a hug.” “I need to feel in the loop, so let me know what you’re considering.” “I need you to dance in your boxers while you explain this to me.” (Ok, maybe that’s just my house.)

4. Share 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 your life together?

“I want to come home from work full of energy instead of being wiped out. I could cook more often, we could have friends over some weeknights, and I could stay awake long enough for us to binge watch Netflix together.”

“I could have more time off so it wouldn’t be a big deal for us to finally take that trip to Costa Rica.”

Help them see how changes in your work could positively affect their life.

5. Take some space.

If things get stressful, it could be best for both of you to take a week off from talking about career change stuff. Set a date when you’ll revisit the conversation. A lot can change in a week. In the meantime, get the emotional support you need from someone else you trust.

6. Thank them.

Frequently. Genuinely. Being the partner of a career changer can take a lot of love and patience. I’ve been on both sides of it in my marriage, and we found that a little show of appreciation for being supportive goes a long way. Take care of each other. You got this. Both of you do.

Laura Simms is an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose.

If you have too many passions, zero passions, or can't seem to combine your passions, try her purpose-first approach to find a career you love.  


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