The holidays have arrived, and with them, time spent catching up with family and old friends. It’s only a matter of time before someone asks, “So, what’s new with you?”
For the recently anointed career changer, this could mean breaking the news for the first time about a big life decision.
This can be daunting, but bringing in your support system during this time of transformation is a good thing. You want your inner circle rallying to support you and lift you up, because inevitably, there will be bumps along the way.
Take comfort in knowing you aren’t alone on this mission. The percentage of employed people who left their jobs voluntarily in September rose 15.9%—the highest level seen in 30 years. Despite a slowing economy, dissatisfied workers still aren’t afraid to walk away. You (and your family) should be proud to join these ranks.
If you’re nervous about having tough conversations about your career change around the holidays, we put together a guide to help you navigate.
Get your story ready: how to articulate your “why” behind your career change
Before you start telling people about your career change, you need to get crisp on why you are changing careers. A great story is instrumental in getting people on board with your new plans.
While boredom, money or a toxic work environment might be obvious answers, it’s important to show that you’re not just walking away from something. You’re walking toward something bigger and better for you.
Some things to touch on:
- Talk about what motivates and excites you, and how your new career will bring more of that to your life. Your family wants you to be happy, so if your excitement is tangible, they’ll want to celebrate with you.
- Be blunt. This isn’t a job interview where you have to worry about speaking poorly of your past employer or role. When it comes to your family, you can be honest about the challenges you’re walking away from and how this shift will benefit your physical and/or mental health. Your family cares about your wellbeing and will understand why you can’t stay at a job that demands 60-hour weeks or doesn’t offer the pay or benefits you need.
- Emphasize that you’re ready for this. You’ve thought it through. Fully explain your thinking to reassure your family this isn’t a random, sudden decision.
- Have a clear plan for next steps. Whether you plan to quit your job to pursue a full-time bootcamp or enroll in a part-time course on the side, make sure you know what next steps you intend to take and how you plan to finance them. Your family may rightfully be concerned about your financial security.
Breaking the news: when and how to bring up your career change during the holidays
There’s no one-size-fits all strategy for announcing big news. It really depends on family dynamics.
If you have trusted relatives or friends that you know will be supportive about your career change, you should tell them first, privately, to ensure you have someone cheering for you as the news spreads. These folks are likely to be your support system when things don’t go as planned, like if you get turned down for a dream job when you start interviewing. You want them on your side early. These trusted confidants are also most likely to share valid concerns and valuable advice that prompt you to think critically as you embark on your career change.
The next people who you should tell are close family members who might feel betrayed or left out if they weren’t brought in on your big life change from the start. Since parents can be risk averse—especially when it comes to protecting their kids—you’ll want to take special care in breaking the news.
This is especially true if your parents supported your path to your first career with a substantial time or money investment (e.g., college tuition for that social studies degree), or if they have a personal connection to your career choice (e.g., you followed in your dad’s footsteps to become an accountant).
Here are some steps to take when breaking the news to a close family member like a parent:
- Step 1: Don’t wait too long. If traveling home for the holidays, consider breaking the news shortly upon arrival. This will give your family plenty of time to discuss your decision and come around.
- Step 2: Break the news in a quiet, somewhat private space, like at your family’s house. The middle of the grocery store is not the time.
- Step 3: Stay calm throughout the conversation, even if your family gets upset. You’re confident in this decision, and staying calm reinforces that.
- Step 4: Ask for their support as you go through this challenging but exciting time. Starting over in a new role mid-career takes willpower and dedication, and your family can keep you accountable and committed.
- Step 5: Actually listen. If you’re close with your family, they know you, your strengths and your weaknesses. If you’re in the early stages of a career change, they might be able to help you decide which path to take, or introduce you to people they know who can help.
How to address tough questions about your career change from family members
Even if your story is solid, you follow all the steps above and you feel good about breaking the news, you still may encounter some skepticism. After all, recent headlines around tech layoffs and hiring freezes are enough to make anyone nervous (even though overall, the labor market remains strong).
When you encounter tough questions, you can use conversational bridging techniques to come back to your core story – your “why” – and shut down inappropriate tangents. Use phrases like these to steer the conversation:
- “You make a really great point, but what really was the clincher for me…”
- “That is something important to consider, but what’s more important for my future is…”
Remain firm that this is a long-term decision that will have major implications for the rest of your life. It’s not something you’ve taken lightly. You’ve done your research, you’ve made preparations and plans, and you feel confident in your choice. There may be setbacks along the way (that you’ll lean on your family for support during), but ultimately, this is a positive shift that will help you realize the life of your dreams.
If you don’t quite have your plan and story in place yet but know you need to make a change, it’s not too late.
Do something different, and download General Assembly’s Career Changer Guide for hot tips and resources to take you through every step.