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Some time ago, I’ve written about my experiences that left my engineering career — special why I would do something seemingly stupid like that! At that time I have too interviewed for a podcastwhich inevitably came to the same topic. Given some of the conversations I had afterwards, I figured I would write a little more on that front, this time exactly how I went through the transition. Do you love your current career but are you interested in a new adventure? Continue reading!
Rule # 1: Take it slow
First and foremost, I did it not wake up one morning, decide to change jobs, then march in and give my boss my two-week notice. My transition was very, very gradual – almost painful. In 2008, shortly after the birth of my second child (no coincidence!), I began to be interested in financial planning. I started helping people in 2010 – giving church lectures, informal coaching, and the like – in 2010. I started this blog (in its first incarnation) in 2011 technically founded my company in 2012, although it didn’t look like Seaborn at the time. I fired my boss for 12 months (!) In 2016, and went full-time in 2017. And all along, I was still working full time in my engineering profession!
Why do you do it that way? Well, first and foremost, the difference between being interested in finance and starting a financial planning and asset management company is a huge difference! (I had learned a similar lesson many years ago when I started taking video game development courses and discovered that being a game developer was 100% not for me – luckily, before I took more serious steps in that direction! Ah, the folly of youth …).
By taking small, iterative steps, I was able to confirm that this was a path I wanted to go. before I was fully committed. At first I thought this was supposed to be a “retired gig”, but the more work I did, the more fulfilling I found it and the more I thought, “Why wait?” I remember vividly the first time I looked at someone else’s tax return; it was easy fascinating to analyze this window in your life! Fascinating for me anyway.
(Side note: those of you with a comparative mindset may find some similarities between this approach to career change and Seaborn’s Adaptive financial planning Frame. I had a deliberate goal that gave me direction; I built flexibility into the plan so that I could adjust when life was throwing curve balls at me; and I had a long time horizon that allowed me to make small course corrections over time, rather than large ones all at once. This resemblance is in fact no accident.)
Manage your cash flow
I’ve already written about how Cash flow management is the basis for economic success. While this is generally true, it’s an order of magnitude more if you’re looking to make a career change! (Now this assumes that your new job will not make you more immediate earnings than you did before; if you are one of the lucky ones you can probably ignore this section.)
Of course, if you’re an engineer like me, there’s a good chance you’re spending less than you make. Many engineers make good money, are not particularly keen to keep up with the Joneses, and feel almost physical pain when they pay; The natural result of all of this is that money will pile up nicely in your bank accounts! The downside, however, is that you probably didn’t have to focus much on managing your cash flow.
And for most of us, changing jobs means, at least for a while, a serious drop in income. So do you know where your money is going? What do you need to live on? (A common phrase in my household: “Need is such a strong word”.) Are your non-discretionary expenses as low as possible (e.g. your debt payments low to none)? Can you control your expenses if necessary? Do you know how and when you can live on your savings? If you have a partner to do you know how to manage your finances together?
I was particularly fortunate that learning about personal finance – starting with cash flow management – got me down this path in the first place! And I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I would absolutely not be where I am now if I hadn’t learned to manage my finances, consciously deal with daily expenses and monthly expenses – monthly expenses.
Assume a conservative ramp-up
Confession: This part will be “Do what I say, not how I do”. When I started my business, I figured that it would take me, oh, maybe 12 months to move from practically zero to sustainable practice. Since then, I’ve learned that there is a vast amount of oddly consistent empirical evidence (corroborated by my own experience!) That suggests that a company may not really take off until its third year. Years 1 and 2 earnings, to say the least, sucks.
If you are just changing jobs and not starting your own company, the three-year rule does not necessarily apply; In fact, you should be able to do your own research on websites such as Salary.com and Payscale.com to determine how you can expect an increase in your salary as you gain experience with your employer. Regardless of this, you should still assume a conservative ramp-up and incorporate a certain amount of cushion into your plan in case there are bumps along the way.
Another Confession: Because of the misconception mentioned above, there was a time in the year 2 (2019) when I started to sweat. Oh, I had backup plans on backup plans on backup plans – engineer, remember? – but until this year I didn’t really think I had to use them, and it stressed me excessively. And that stress affected almost every aspect of my life, from how I deal with potential clients to how I deal with my children. It wasn’t debilitating, but it was like a background noise that distracted me and didn’t make life fun in general.
So if I had to do it all over again, I would definitely have waited full-time until I had the savings to tackle a more realistic three-year run-up, and I would have taken the time to do more market research and set the requirements for my CFP® Fulfill the designation so that I could get started immediately after leaving Silicon Labs. Let my 20/20 review be your advantage!
The devil is in the details
Of course, that’s all rough lines; The devil is in the details, in the execution as well as in the strategy.
About the author
Britton is an engineer involved in financial
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