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4 ways to support your partner through a career transition

By Alison Rodericks | 21 October 2019

Unlike our parents’ generation, who spent their entire lives working for one employer, today the average Australian stays in a job for 3 years 4 months, with those under 25 years showing far more job mobility. 

Add upskilling and career changes to the equation and it results in approximately five careers in your lifetime. So, how do you handle the situation when your partner wants to switch careers or is in-between jobs? 

Supporting your spouse through a career transition can be tricky. You want to be a shoulder to lean on and support their decision, but you’re fraught with anxiety. How long will the process take? How will you cope financially? How do you stop the stress from causing a rift in your relationship? 

Here are some dos and don’ts to help make the career transition period as smooth as possible.

Do’s and don’ts to help partner’s career transition

  1. Stay positive and be patient.
  2. Offer tangible support.
  3. Don’t play the blame game.
  4. Keep tabs on your finances.

1. Stay positive and be patient.

couple supporting each other

A career change is a big step for your partner. It is a difficult, time-consuming process, which can be frustrating at times. It means breaking away for the comfort (and paycheck) of a familiar job role and dipping your toe into unchartered waters. There’s bound to be stress, doubt and fear. 

Your job is to stay positive and lift your partner’s spirits. They need to stay resilient and stop the negative emotions from spiralling out of control. You can help by acknowledging the bad but focusing on the good. Reaffirm the belief that, in the long run, this will lead to something bigger and better and that it’s worth the hard yards right now. 

2. Offer tangible support.

You know what they say, “Actions speak louder than words”. If you’re spouting all the right words of encouragement, but don’t really believe in your partner and his/her new career direction, the situation can get stressful. Help them with their resume, encourage them to exercise and keep to a healthy diet and look after their mental health while they’re at home. Help identify their strengths and boost their confidence

Rather than ask vague, generic questions about their day (“How was your job search?”), be specific (Did you get a chance to speak with ABC from company XYZ?”). Don’t micromanage their daily life. Don’t heap excessive household chores on their to-do list – they’re at home to reskill and look for job opportunities. Let this be their primary focus. If you’re not sure how to help without coming across as overbearing, ask them directly: “What can I do for you today? How can I help with Tasks 1, 2, 3?” 

3. Don’t play the blame game.

stop sign

Things will get tough. It might take months – nay, years – before you see the light at the end of the career tunnel. Now is not the time for recriminations. If a new job doesn’t work out as planned, use this situation as an opportunity to examine what went wrong and learn from it – without judgement. 

Be open with each other; communicate your feelings and let your partner express their own fears. Showing your partner that you are on his/her side is the key to successfully navigating through a job change or job loss. Open communication is critical – you can be honest about your fears but stay united to push through the tough times.

4. Keep tabs on your finances.

Changing careers isn’t an easy decision but, with a bit of financial planning, it can be a smoother process. Unless you’ve been keeping money aside to tide you over this transition period, you will find your monthly income has suddenly been halved. Yet the bills, the rent/mortgage and the day-to-day expenses remain the same. It is time to manage your monthly finances

You both need to sit down and set up a strict interim budget and reassess your priorities. Go through your expenses and pull the plug on anything unnecessary (yes, even that Netflix subscription and smashed avo for breakfast). Working together on a financial plan can keep your partner’s financial fears at bay. Chalk out ways to save such as eating home-cooked meals instead of takeaway and catching public transport. 

Make sure you take into account extra expenses that could crop up like clothes for a job interview, career coaching and study/course fees. If you’ve been aware of your partner’s career transition plans beforehand, you should put aside extra savings months/years before this actually happens. This will take the pressure off to accept the first job that comes your way and you will have built up a nice nest egg.  

Are you thinking of making a career change?

Now that your partner is going through a career transition, you’ve probably entertained ideas of doing the same. The best way to move forward is to ramp up your qualifications. Studying a course with Upskilled could help you get there. 

Most of the qualifications offered are nationally recognised, and can help you expand your current skill set. From short courses to advanced diplomas, you’ll learn from a range of fields such as finance or workplace health and safety. Contact an education consultant and kickstart your new career today.
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