Changing career might feel like you’re trading security for freedom.

Changing career might feel like you're trading security for freedom. Photo of a view over a red terracotta roof of a large mediterranean house looking out to sea.

Do you ever have that feeling of being trapped and desperate to fly off into a magical sunset so you can do your thing

Never mind if you know what your thing is, at this point it doesn’t matter, it will reveal itself out there where you can taste freedom in all its glory.

And then that well-meaning colleague or friend pipes up with the question that has ended many a beautiful dream: how would you survive financially?

You watch your bubble bursting.

How will you?

Will you always have to sacrifice one for the other, your dream for the mundane?

Choosing the security of income over freedom?

What if you want both?

Is that even possible?

Recently, I came across this blog post by Esther Perel which served as inspiration for this week’s topic. 

She writes:

‘From the moment we are born, we straddle two sets of contradicting needs: the need for security and the need for freedom. They spring from different sources and pull us in different directions. And the issue today is that we want to reconcile this tension in our romantic relationships and in many other facets of our lives. Maybe your lifestyle requires a 9-5 paycheck but corporate life feels restrictive to your creativity. Sometimes, you like to be nomadic; other times you just want to be home. Big groups of different types of people buzzing about can make us feel alive; other times it can make us feel out of control.’

The ‘9-5 paycheck but corporate life feels restrictive to your creativity’ highlights a common contradiction for the hesitant career changer.

By the time readiness and courage to enact exploring the possibility of something new appears, it is usually quite clear that existing life responsibilities require a stable income.

It can be tough to see how a path can be navigated balancing financial security and the desire to pursue a more fulfilling career.

There are also other aspects that may be holding you back from pursuing a career change, most notably the safety you feel in the known landscape of your current job.

You may well be in your comfort zone, but could this actually be your discomfort zone? 

The place that, if you dig deep enough, leaves you feeling uncomfortable but day-to-day you’re so used to it or afraid to leave it, it gives the comforting illusion of safety.

As I re-read what I have written, and recall what clients have described to me about feeling stuck in a career, it seems security does a very good job of holding freedom in check in our careers and for quite some time.

Should we resign ourselves to this as we wait for freedom to return in retirement?

I don’t think so and nor does Perel.

She argues that we actually need both security and freedom and this need will fluctuate throughout our lives.

With this in mind, take a moment to ponder these questions:

What gives you security in your career at the moment and is this real security or the illusion of safety?

Where do you lack security?

What gives you freedom in your career currently?

Where do you long for more freedom?

Which do you need more of in your career at the moment, security or freedom?

Embarking on a career journey could feel like bringing in security for you or it could feel like opening up to freedom.

If you have always been searching for an elusive career that finally feels like the right fit, investing in digging deeper to discover what will really bring fulfillment might feel like security.

If you have been in your line of work for years, breaking out of it to explore new possibilities might feel like freedom.

Either way, a career change should balance security with freedom, neither hemming you in nor requiring you to risk everything for a dream.

You need the freedom to be curious, explore and experiment and the security of building into your new career everything that you value and that which is important to you, including your financial responsibilities – your new career needs to be rooted in reality.

It’s not security vs freedom, it’s security and freedom for the serious career changer.