My Second Act: What I Learned About Planning for a Career Change

Four key steps helped this professional make the leap to a new career.

businesswoman overlooking the city

After graduating in the '90s with an accounting degree from Georgetown University, Mike Frost joined a prestigious accounting firm and spent the next 19 years helping make the "seemingly complex" simpler. After starting a family, he was ready for a change as his increasingly long hours meant he had less and less time to spend with clients—and his wife and daughter.

Fast-forward to today: Frost is a Senior Wealth Planning Strategist at Wells Fargo Private Bank in McLean, Virginia, and he relishes the face-to-face time with his clients. Although he was nervous about switching careers after nearly two decades, taking a strategic approach helped Frost make the right decision for himself, his family, and the clients he has today. Here, he shares his top lessons about making the leap.

1. Talk to your loved ones.

This conversation is likely the most critical one. "Knowing how the change will impact other people in the household is incredibly important," says Frost. He suggests asking them what their expectations would be if you were home more (or less), due to a career change.

The more you can discuss up front, the better. If you're leaving the corporate world to work for a nonprofit organization, find out if your spouse will be expected to attend fundraising events or travel with you—then make sure he or she is on board. Also consider if you'll need to move residences, which may affect caring for your family members. You may even find this an appropriate time to review your will and other documents, especially if you will be moving farther from the executor of your will or anyone with a power of attorney (legal or medical).

The important thing is to find a career path you want to follow.

2. Do a preliminary investigation.

Frost recommends reaching out to friends who are in a role similar to the one you're considering. Moving from the corporate world to a role in consulting or on a board of directors may mean being available at different hours, traveling more (or less), and adding different events to your annual calendar. There can also be other less apparent aspects to be aware of. For example, if you are used to how things operate in the corporate world, moving to a non-profit can be a major culture shift. Ask others about their overall experience, as well as what impact they have been able to make in their role.

3. Don't think the change has to be drastic.

Making a move can be life changing without being drastic. Frost admits that he was unsure that moving from accounting to banking was a big enough switch. However, he has found that even this seemingly small change has allowed him to better leverage his time and talents. What's more, taking a more lateral step may make it easier to make an impact quickly. For instance, if one decides to leave their surgical practice to go open a surf shop on a beach, it may take time to get that business up to speed. But a lateral move into hospital leadership would enable a physician to lend his or her expertise in the same field. The important thing is to find a career path you want to follow.

4. Talk to your wealth and legal advisors.

Frost recommends setting up a meeting with your advisors to identify and discuss all possible impacts of a new trajectory. For example, the timing of your resignation might affect your stock options and retirement benefits. Also, your contract may include a noncompete clause (NCC) that could bar you from engaging in a similar profession for several years; that can be a real problem if being a consultant is your end goal. In addition, for those considering opening a business, your advisors can help you create a business plan, help you get it reviewed by someone reputable, assemble a team of trusted advisors, and investigate the viability of your business.

No matter where your career path leads, having the support of your family and advisors can help create a smooth transition. For major changes, consider bringing everyone together in a family meeting to discuss your long-range vision.

Laura Quaglio is a writer and editor based in eastern Pennsylvania.

Image by iStock

What can Wells Fargo do for you?

As your life changes, your wealth plan may need to change, too. Start with insight from Wells Fargo Conversations.

Wells Fargo Wealth Planning Center, part of Wells Fargo Private Bank, provides wealth and financial planning services through Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., and its various affiliates and subsidiaries.

Wells Fargo & Company and its affiliates do not provide legal advice. Wells Fargo Advisors is not a tax or legal advisor. Please consult your legal and tax advisors to determine how this information may apply to your own situation. Whether any planned tax result is realized by you depends on the specific facts of your own situation at the time your taxes are prepared.

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