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Personal Development

How to Switch Careers When You’re in Debt

How to Switch Careers When You’re in Debt

9 Minute Read

I’ve heard every excuse in the book for why someone can’t leave a job 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, doubt that they don’t have what it takes, or doubt that there is even a path forward.

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.

Now, for those of you who may not be familiar with Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, Baby Step 2 is when you get out debt by using the debt snowball. You live on rice and beans, get a second and third job, and do whatever else you can to dump debt with gazelle intensity.

So, I get it—you don’t want to rock the boat by changing careers! It feels too 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 isn’t risky at all?

Ready to find your dream job? We'll show you how.

It’s time we quiet those voices in your head telling you to quit dreaming.

The truth is, you’re not going 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—and that’s one thing I would never recommend. Instead, you’re going to move the boat (which is your dream job) as close to the dock as possible before you even reach your foot out to step onto it.

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.

When You Should Change Careers

For three years I had the opportunity to host The Dave Ramsey Show video channel. That meant I was just steps away from the daily debt-free screams.

Every weekday on the show you’ll hear from an individual or a family who gave it all they had to pay off their debt. They’ll share their story, count down from three, and yell, “We’re debt-free!” live on the air. It’s hard not to get goose bumps when you hear those screams of freedom.

One thing Dave always asks these folks is what their range of income was during their debt-free journey. And you know what I’ve noticed in all these years of proximity to the show? Their income has almost always increased from the time they got serious about paying off their debt to the time they do their debt-free scream.  

It makes sense, doesn’t it? If you increase your take-home pay, you could shave months off your debt-free journey!

That’s why I wholeheartedly believe that being in debt is no reason to stop dreaming about stepping into your sweet spot. There are plenty of great reasons to leave your current job, and being underpaid is definitely one of them.

How to Switch Careers the Right Way (and Without Losing Your Baby Step 2 Momentum)

Being on Baby Step 2 means you’ve probably stopped planning vacations, eating out at restaurants, and buying new cashmere cardigans. But one thing Baby Step 2 shouldn’t hold you back from is living out what you are called to do.

As long as you do it the right way, there’s no reason you can’t start pursuing your dream job today.

How do you do that? You create a strategic plan and take baby steps. Yup, 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.

Before you do anything else, I want you to make sure what you think you’d rather be doing for a living is actually your sweet spot. Remember, your sweet spot is the point where your greatest talent and greatest passion intersect.

That means, not only are you really good at it, but you also love doing it.

The last thing you want is to put all the time and effort (and possibly money!) into switching careers, only to end up miserable again in a few months. That’s why it’s so important to take some time to clarify and verify not only your sweet spot, but also that it’s definitely time for you to move on from your current job.

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.

The best part about these exercises is that they lead to clarity. Clarity then leads to confidence, and confidence leads to courage.

Step 2: Research. Research. 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 into that dream position?

You probably noticed that some of those questions involve dollar signs. Stay with me!  Even if you need to spend money for certifications or courses you need in order to get your dream job, it’s possible to do it without slowing down your debt snowball momentum.

In fact, I spoke with a woman on my show who was in this exact situation. She needed $1,500 to launch a website and platform that would help her move into her dream job. On her family’s tight budget, she had no idea where she would find an extra $1,500. Then I asked her, “Can you sell something?”

And do you know what happened two weeks later? Her awesome husband sold some of his shotguns, and boom! She had her $1,500 without ever stopping their Baby Step 2 momentum.

If moving to your sweet spot involves money:

  • Have a yard sale and sell everything!
  • Ask your friends or loved ones if they’ve got anything you can help them sell, then split the profits.
  • Pick up a side gig (or three).
  • Adjust your budget and make sacrifices where you can.

Folks, where there’s a will, there’s a way—and I know you can find it.

Step 3: Practice the Proximity Principle.

So you’ve clarified and verified your sweet spot and done all the research necessary to make a plan for 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 all of your free 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 meetups, and be prepared to meet lots of people for coffee. When you’re faithful in this step, the right timing to move into your sweet spot will happen on its own.

Check out my book The Proximity Principle for a deeper dive into this strategy and practical ways you can put it into action.

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

Shift your mind-set here. When you’re on this plan, you’ll no longer think about your current job as something you hate, because now it’s a tool that is funding your future. So be grateful for the current position you have—it’s the reason you can take baby steps and switch careers the right way.

Don’t believe the lie that you have to wait until you’ve paid off all your debt to switch careers. If you’ve got the discipline to work hard, you’re willing to put in the hours when you’re off the clock, and you’ll commit to being patient and doing things the right way, you can celebrate living the dream even before your debt-free scream.

And if you need a little help taking control of your money, check out a Financial Peace University class in your area. This nine-lesson class can be taken online or in person, and it’s a proven plan that will help you budget, save money, and dump debt for good.

Press on—you’ve got this!

About Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman is the bestselling author of The Proximity Principle and national radio host of The Ken Coleman Show.

Pulling from his own personal struggles, missed opportunities and career successes, Coleman helps people discover what they were born to do and provides practical steps to make their dream job a reality.

Listen to The Ken Coleman Show on SiriusXM, your local radio station, or wherever you listen to podcasts—and connect with Ken at kencoleman.com.