Episode #40: How to Ask Your Spouse for Career Support

Career Support

Welcome to The Confident Careerist Podcast for professionals just like you who place a high value on their career development and strive for success while also seeking work-life balance.

My name is Teena Evert and I am delighted to be your host. I’m a careerist myself and career development, leadership, and life coach. I love what I do and I hope that you enjoy the creation of this podcast and allow it to be an important tool in your toolbox that will help you to accelerate your success, gain greater confidence and happiness in your work-life.

In this episode, I talk about how to ask your spouse or significant other for support when you’re navigating a career change.

Experiencing a career change certainly has many challenges, as does asking for support when you feel stressed and you’re not quite sure what it is you need. This has been a common struggle for many of my career-changing clients.

Is this you?

  • Are you someone who’s contemplating a career change by starting to look at the pros and cons of your work life?
  • Are you someone who is preparing to take action in the immediate future?
  • Are you someone who has already taken specific action steps towards change?

Regardless of the stage of change, you’re in, you’ll benefit from receiving support throughout your transition. One of the most obvious support people in your life is your spouse, partner, or significant other. 

When you’re navigating this time of great change and uncertainty, how do you engage their support? 

Before I dive deeper into that question, let’s take a closer look at the reasons why you might be experiencing a career change at this time.

Why are you experiencing change?

  • You might be making a conscious choice because you want something different, something more meaningful, satisfying, and sustainable.
  • You might feel like you’re being forced to make a change due to unfortunate circumstances like a job loss, a move, or other life matters that are pushing you in this direction.

Whether it’s by choice or forced, navigating a career change requires careful planning and lots of support. Receiving support from loved ones can be extremely helpful if this is available to you.

One of the first questions I ask my clients is, “What kind of support do you need?” and “What would the right support from a loved one look like for you?”

How would you answer that question, right now?

Here are some of the answers that I’ve received from clients:

“I need to know what next steps to take so that I can move forward. I need my spouse to understand what I am going through, because when I feel judged or misunderstood it adds to my stress.”

“I need my partner to show interest in what I am experiencing by asking me questions, rather than complicating things through pressure to figure it all out sooner than later.”

“I feel like I have to find a quick solution so that my spouse doesn’t feel so concerned about the changes taking place.” The disruption in cash flow is scary, but I know I need to take the time that’s necessary to be sure I am making the best decisions for our future.”

Sound at all familiar?

What does it look like in your current situation to not feel supported? What needs to change so that you feel 100% supported?

To help you answer this last question, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what stage you’re currently at in the change process. This will help you to effectively communicate what’s going on for you with the people you’re choosing to seek support from.

5 Key Strategies to Receive the Career Support You Need

1 –  Know where you are

Throughout life, we are always in an evolving cycle of change and ultimately expanding. Sometimes we welcome this change with open arms and other times we resist with all of our might.

It can be helpful to know which stage you’re in, so you can better understand what is going on for you and be able to communicate it clearly to your partner, spouse, or significant other. As a result, they can offer you the support you need. Another benefit is that when you have a better understanding, you can have more compassion for yourself and be better equipped to work through this process of change, rather than against it.

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. — John F. Kennedy

2 –  Understand the 4 stages of change

The first stage of change is dissatisfaction or what I call “feeling the gap”. This is when there is a large gap between where you currently are and where you would like to truly be. You might not be completely clear where you want to be along your career path. You might just have the clarity that what you are experiencing now is not working for you.

This can be an uncomfortable and overwhelming place to be and oftentimes I have clients come to me and label this stage as “depression” or “anxiety”. I’d like to encourage you to frame the dissatisfaction as information that’s signaling you to GROW, rather than label it as a permanent position that you’re stuck in.

Some of the negative self-talk could be, “I will always feel this way–my life never goes the way I want it to.

How you frame it can change your experience of it. If you frame it as a signal for growth you will feel empowered and if you focus on it from a state of helplessness you will feel despair. It’s a choice.

The second stage of change is exploration. In this stage, you feel dissatisfaction, but you don’t quite know what would feel better to you. Or you have a sense of what would feel better, but you don’t know how to get there.

This is the stage where you explore all of your options and perhaps “try them on” to see how it would feel or you explore different ways you can get to where you want to go. It’s important to take your time in this phase and truly explore.

People often get impatient and feel uncomfortable with the lack of certainty. They may even try to bypass this stage by just choosing something to get out of this stage. Unfortunately, if you let your impatience and discomfort get the best of you, you’ll run the risk of heading down a dead-end road.

As a career development coach, I strongly encourage my clients to know WHO they are before they decide WHAT it is they want to do. This requires self-assessment, self-discovery, and self-confidence in your unique gifts and talents. Reassure yourself that you will come to an option that feels right to you, just give it time.

The other thing to watch in this stage is the opposite, which is exploring so much that you get confused and stuck in considering options. Sometimes people fear making a change and hang out in the exploration stage as a safety zone to not take any risks. Make sure you aren’t doing this either.

Stage three is what I call to action or visualization. In this stage, you have clarity about where you want to go and you start to develop a strategic plan to get there. You might know where you want to go, but you’re unclear of a plan to get there and this is something that can be established during this stage.

You may have developed somewhat of a plan in the exploration stage and in this stage, you will clarify this plan and begin to implement it. In this stage, it can be very helpful to work with a career coach to help you stay on track with your implementation. Without supporting the fears that surface may sidetrack you and stop you from moving forward.

You can also share with a close friend, partner, significant other, or spouse and ask them to be an accountability buddy to you.

The other part of this stage is to spend time visualizing the positive outcome of your desired change. See it working out in the most optimal way. This vision can help keep you focused when your desired change is in process and not quite complete. The phrase “keep your eye on the prize” is fitting here.

When in doubt, choose change. — Lily Leung

The fourth stage is stepping into the new. Moving into your change can be a gradual process or it could come more quickly (like your dream job lands in your lap overnight). Either way, there is an adjustment phase to the new change.

There can be feelings of loss from letting go of the old, even if you were dissatisfied because it represented the familiar to you. With the new changes may come feelings of having a new identity or parts of you being expressed that have never been expressed before.

Typically people feel more alive and vital in this stage. You can also feel a deep sense of satisfaction that you made a change that was in alignment with your true self and you feel on a path with your life and career and that you are doing what you came here to do.

What stage are you in?

How are you framing this stage?

Are you viewing it positively or are you stuck in resisting it?

3 – Don’t Block Uncomfortable Feelings 

We have all developed ways to deal with, manage and process the discomfort that can accompany significant life changes. One way is to create blocks to protect ourselves against emotional pain and discomfort. We all have different methods of protecting against this. Such as overthinking, overeating, overworking, being obsessed with being perfect, over-focusing on others, daydreaming, watching TV, or reading, etc.

The last two I mentioned, watching TV and reading can either be coming from an intention to block what’s uncomfortable and avoid or they can be a healthy form of enjoyment. For example, you can watch a movie to avoid some painful or uncomfortable feelings you are having and you want to escape or you want to have some enjoyment and fun by watching the movie, same activity but different intentions.

The methods we use to block feeling discomfort can get in the way of us feeling deeply connected to ourselves and our capacity to connect with others. Our feelings are part of us and if we are blocking them, we’re missing a deep connection with ourselves and our purpose.

We all have the capacity to process our feelings, comfort ourselves, or get support and comfort from those around us. You don’t have to go it all alone. The truth is, the part of you that’s trying to protect yourself actually needs to be reassured of this. Therefore, it’s essential to be clear with your loved one about how you’d like to be supported.

4 – Initiate Asking

Here’s where your spouse, partner, or significant other can come in and provide support for whatever it is that you’re experiencing. The key here is that you do have to initiate asking for it by being very clear about how you would like to be supported. Don’t expect others to have the ability to read your mind.

It can take time for our defenses and discomforts to relax and acclimate to what is truly happening during a career change. It’s normal to try to protect yourself from feeling overwhelmed. Reassure yourself that you can handle this transition. I encourage you to find ways to process how you’re feeling by journaling or utilizing other creative outlets to express yourself.

5 – Partner with a Career Coach

Partnering with a certified career development coach to help you through the career change process is also a wise option. I caution you to place the expectation on your family or loved ones to guide you through the career planning strategies and tactics when this is not their area of expertise. Allow them to be your primary emotional support and hold witness to your ups and downs without judgment. Allow them to believe in you and your fullest potential when you’re in self-doubt.

To recap, here are the key takeaways to ensure that you’re getting the right support from your spouse, partner, or significant other when you ask for it while navigating a career change.

Key Takeaways

  • Ask yourself what support looks and feels like to you
  • Be aware of the reasons why you’re experiencing a career change
  • Understand the 4 stages of change and identify the stage you’re in, as you navigate the transition
  • Don’t block uncomfortable feelings, but rather share with your spouse, partner, or significant other what you’re  experiencing and how you’re feeling
  • Initiate the ask and be clear about how you’d like to be supported – don’t assume others can read your mind!
  • Partner with a Career Development Specialist who can help you move through the career change process that involves, self-assessment, self-discovery, career exploration and decision making, planning, and implementation.


Helpful Resources:

Until next time, Be Confident!