How to Help Your Spouse Find A Better Job If your spouse is looking for a change, follow these 4 steps to recalibrate their career trajectory. BY ALLISON TASK
Before you make a rash decision on a career change do a little homework.
“ Sometimes the non-financially minded spouse doesn’t even know what their family income looks like…”
There are few things more heartbreaking than someone hating their job. Work is where most people spend the majority of their waking hours. And if your spouse is the breadwinner, they feel this responsibility—they have to work, they have to make money, or the whole system breaks.
I live in the suburbs, where I see lots of dads and moms dragging themselves to the bus or train stop at 6 a.m., commuting with miserable looks on their faces. The twinkle long ago left their eyes, and they are hating every minute of it.
It doesn’t have to be that way. If you are watching the spring go out of your partner’s step, and you’ve heard enough complaints about how much they hate their job, it’s time to help them flip that frown around.
Here are four tips for helping your bread-winning partner find a better-fitting job, one that relieves the pressure and helps them feel like themselves again:
1. Determine what your family’s financial needs are. In our culture, we rarely talk money with our friends are family; it’s a socially taboo topic. Sometimes the non-financially minded spouse doesn’t even know what their family income looks like, or even what their savings account has in it.
Let’s change that, pronto.
Figure out your monthly (and yearly) budget. How much income do you have, and how much do you spend on the regulars (food, clothing, mortgage, activities) on a monthly basis, and what are those big ticket items (vacations, new car, etc). This doesn’t have to be a fancy, lengthy exercise, it can be as simple as looking at your bank balances, bills, and credit card statements. Sites like Mint.com can be useful, as can a simple Excel spreadsheet or an old fashioned pencil and paper.
Is the breadwinner earning $6,500 per month (after taxes) and you are spending $4,000? Or is it the other way around?
Take a good hard look at your finances and be honest with yourself about what you need, what you want, and what you can live without.
By the end of this exercise, determine the minimum that you need as monthly family income.
2. Rebalance work/life. This is a great time to question your assumptions. If your partner hates their commute, is there a way to avoid a commute in the next position? If your spouse has always wanted to pursue an advanced degree, but couldn’t get time off from work, is now the time? Will this put you in a better financial situation long-term?
And here’s a really crazy question: Is it time to switch roles? Could it be time for you to be the breadwinner while your spouse pursues something else for a couple years? Consider lots of options—starting with what isn’t working for the breadwinner now and what you could change to make things work better for them.
When you start questioning your assumptions about little things, like a commute or hours, pretty soon you’ll find that nothing is set in stone. Are you in a city or town that makes sense for your family? Are the taxes ridiculously high? Would you prefer to move to a different place for a better quality of life?
Once you look at what’s working and what’s not working, it may become clear that a significant geographic shift will help you live the lives you both want.
3. Assess the industry and their skills. How healthy is their industry? Some industries are on the decline, while others are strong. Help your spouse take a good honest look at their industry; if they’ve moved through a couple jobs recently, and companies are constantly downsizing, perhaps it’s not them, it’s the industry.
This can be an opportunity to review the skills that your partner has and determine which skills would be transferrable to another industry. I work with a lot of journalists, individuals that are highly skilled and poorly remunerated. Plus, their industry is in decline. However, the skills my clients have—writing, research and analysis, are in demand on the corporate side, whether it’s in R&D or corporate communications. Though their industry is in decline, their skills are sought-after.
4. Get support. You’re both in a stressful situation now. Working a job that doesn’t fit is stressful but there’s often even more stress in changing that job.
Your spouse needs support to make this change. Whether it’s having extra time to network with colleagues, or getting together with friends to keep morale high, it’s important.
There are lots of people who can support your spouse through a career change, whether it’s a resume writer or a career coach or a therapist. This is the right time to invest in outside support who can help your partner move from insight to action.
While your spouse looks for a new job, you are the caretaker, supporting them. Who is supporting you? Do you have a best friend, parent, or even therapist you can go to? You may feel anxious, but need to keep those feelings at bay so your partner can stay focused. Who can you go to for support?
Make sure you both shore up your teams—this is a group effort. With the right questions asked, and the right team of support, a healthy, positive job change is within your grasp.
Allison Task is a career and life coach who helps clients move from insight to action. She has been coaching for more than 10 years, and sees local clients in her Montclair, NJ office and global clients virtually. She is a speaker, best-selling author and on-camera host. Contact Allison for a conversation to establish your goals, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.