Safeguarding Your Career Switch

The night before I moved to California, I got a flat tire. The day before I moved to California, someone backed into my car. The first night that I moved to California, I got a parking ticket and my car was towed.

So, you know. I was really beginning to question my move to California.

I switched careers in 2010. It'd always been a dream of mine to move to New York or Los Angeles to pursue a career in creative writing, and while you don't have to live in either of those places to be a writer, I felt there would be more opportunity. I went with it.

It's been a hurricane. A blur. I've gotten boring gigs, awesome gigs, and I've been stressed about all of those gigs. I've wondered whether I was making mistakes and then confirmed the fact that I was making mistakes.

But two years later, the storm has calmed. Both emotionally and financially, I'm in a better place now than I was before I made the switch.

So far, it's been a success. Who knows what could happen from here, and I've been wary of writing about this for some time. I'm not typically superstitious, but I have to admit, I don't want to jinx it.

But part of that silly fear of jinxing is that I'm careful. I was very careful about ensuring that my career switch would be as painless as possible. I did everything I could to take shelter from the crap storm that inevitably ensues when you leave a decent-paying, stable job to pursue a crazy dream.

Here's what I did.

I was financially prepared

Before I made the decision to move, I talked to people who had once tried it - leaving Texas to pursue a creative career in Los Angeles or New York. They all said the reason they moved back was that they couldn't find a job, and they ran out of money. So I vowed to live below my means, and I began to save. A year before I moved, I wasn't certain it would happen. It seemed so far off, so unattainable. I thought about forgetting my goals entirely to instead travel for the rest of my life, working at my not thrilling, but still decent, job. And really, that's not a bad Plan B.

But eventually, conviction set in. As I began to save more money, I started to realize that this could actually happen. By 2009, I was getting close to having saved $10,000, and the dream started to look like a possibility. I researched what my lifestyle would cost, and I took into consideration the likely chance that I wouldn't be able to find work.

I had a backup plan (and still do)

I tried to pick up as many side jobs as I could; most were writing gigs. While I couldn't find full-time creative writing jobs in my hometown, I did find a couple of creative gigs in other parts of the country (including LA), and there were a few copywriting gigs in my city as well. I was typically working upwards of 60 hours a week. None of those gigs paid particularly well, but it was more about having some sort of income when I finally left my job and moved. Even a few hundred dollars a month would help.