Any time your partner goes through a life change, whether that means moving or chopping off their locks and dying them lavender, it's crucial that they feel like you're behind them. But what if they're making moves in their professional life? If you're wondering how to support your partner through a career change, know this: Being their biggest cheerleader is obviously a great place to start, but there's a lot more to it.
Changing careers may come with a slew of new challenges and considerations. Depending on whether your SO if shifting into an entirely new field that requires different skills, they may need to seek out additional training or education, which is obviously an investment. If they lost their last job, they may be recovering from the shock and disappointment of that — or experiencing some self-doubt as a result. They also may be facing a different base salary. If they’re still employed while they’re making moves, then finances probably won’t be an issue. However, if they quit their last job (depending on their reason for quitting), they may not be eligible for unemployment. That means they will need to rely on savings or other sources of financial support.
Clearly, making a career change can be equally as exhilarating as it is daunting — and it's important that you can show your support through all of the highs (when they land that second interview) and lows (when they’re doubting themselves after a recruiter ghosts them). The thing is, everyone experiences support in different ways. That’s why licensed clinical psychologist and author Dr. Scott Symington recommends outright asking your partner, “How can I be most helpful during this time?”
Some may appreciate it if you help them to research opportunities, while others might prefer that you distract them from their responsibilities with a fun night out. The point is, it’s difficult to know exactly what your SO needs from you without asking.
“Be careful in assuming you already know what support looks like,” he adds. “You might be surprised by what’s most important to your partner. Regardless, it’s good to get clarity. Changing careers is a sensitive time in your relationship, so don’t take any chances.”
Something that might guide you during this time is keeping your partner’s love language in mind. After studying couples for more than 30 years, marriage counselor and author Dr. Gary Chapman concluded that there are five love languages, or ways in which we receive love: words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, acts of service, and physical touch. Knowing your boo’s love language is useful because it allows you to tailor your actions to make them feel appreciated and supported.
If you know that bae’s love language is words of affirmation, then giving them continual verbal encouragement about their career change might be your best bet. Or, if their love language is physical touch, a back rub or a hug could work wonders when they’re feeling stressed about this transition. And if bae is all about acts of service, then doing a mock job interview with them or reading over their cover letter could be an ideal way to show practical support.
Regardless of what you do to help during this challenging time, Dr. Symington recommends maintaining an open line of communication every step of the way. Some of your SO’s decisions throughout this career change may affect you, too, so it’s crucial that you are open with them about your thoughts and feelings.
“Ideally, you want to be a source of encouragement and support to your partner, while being able to express your own hopes, fears, and struggles,” he explains. “This type of mutuality will protect your relationship from resentment, emotional distance, and relational tension.”
In order to create this space in your relationship, he advises following the 4 C’s of healthy communication: Candor, Care, Consistency, and Collaboration.
“When you speak your truth (Candor), make sure it’s delivered with a caring tone (Care),” he tells Elite Daily. “Strive to be someone who is safe to talk to (Consistency) — who stays in control around emotionally charged subjects — and is open to experiences and perspectives that differ from your own (Collaboration).”
In other words, it’s equally important to listen to your partner’s concerns and ideas as well as honestly share your own.
“Changing careers is a major life decision filled with both hopes and fears,” adds Dr. Symington. “Along with the excitement of new possibilities, there can be self-doubt (Am I making the right decision?), fears of failure (What if this doesn’t work out?), and increased stress with the logistical challenges: impact on finances, changes/strains on your relationship, and finding time to meet the new demands."
Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to supporting your boo during a career change. That means that rather than making assumptions or guesses, it’s best to simply ask them outright what they need from you. Once you have a better idea of what will be most helpful, you can provide your partner with the encouragement, reassurance, and love required during this trying time. Not only will this strengthen your bond, but it will also likely give bae the confidence boost they need to reach their new goals and aspirations.