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Yes, I know – you want to follow your passion, find a better work/life balance, do something meaningful at work, and bring in well over six figures for doing it. But for many people, it’s just a dream. A someday. A wish for what they want but not “realistic” to go after.

Let’s not kid ourselves – work is also an important income source. You need enough money to pay the bills, cover living expenses, live a certain lifestyle.

How Money Impacts Your Career

The most unhappy employees I come across all say that they feel stuck in a job because the pay is so good. They have RESPONSIBILITIES to uphold. Their family needs a certain level of income to be content. Making a certain amount of money becomes the noose around their neck. They forsake all else to bring in $XX income. Their career decisions are made by money – not by their own motivating factors.

When you go through the recruiting process, money is one of the first questions that is asked, and the last item that is negotiated. I need to make $XX in order to accept that job (or perhaps the words in your head are more like – “to accept the misery that I will put up with for the next five years of my life”). But this is the obvious way money impacts your career.

What about when you’re in debt? From personal experience (which I hope to never revisit), when you are in debt it seems as if all of your decisions are based out of fear. Trying to stay on top of all of the payments you owe, having “emergency” money just in case, and being paranoid that everyone knows how quickly you are going under, greatly impacts your career. Being nervous about losing your current position if someone should find out that you are in the hunt for something better; being embarrassed about a new employer doing a background check and seeing your mounting debt; the time and energy it takes to just stay afloat is all-encompassing.

So you don’t make any career decisions. You stay where you are and continue to spiral downward, or relax into your work misery. And all of this is OK – but it’s still a career decision.

Not everyone can take big risks, in fact I’d probably frown upon crazy career risk taking. But understanding that there is a spectrum of acceptable risks is usually overlooked. You have options, but remember that they are options. No one is going to come in and bless you with permission to make more money, ask for a raise/promotion, get a side hustle, or find a better career match.

Know that there are other paths out there for you. And that by restricting your career decisions solely around money, will keep you trapped in the cycle of work = paying bills.

And to ease your paranoias:

  • If you are smart about how you do your job search, then you will not be fired for seeking out a new position. In fact, getting fired for this reason is very… rare. Particularly at larger companies. I would only be super-cautious about this if you work at a small company (300 employees or less). In these instances, the owner tends to take employees action’s personally, and can be more emotional. There’s an entire chapter in How to Land a Job about this – but essentially, clean out your social media accounts and do not let the cat out of the bag to anyone at your current company. Anyone, capice?
  • Recruiters will do a background check, but a separate credit check is required to get your credit history. They have to let you know about this before they run it. It is very common these days, but it is not usually used to dig deep into how much money you owe, but instead, to show patterns and see any potential red flags. Honestly, I’ve been wracking my brain to think of a time when a credit history prevented an offer, and I cannot think of one. Especially in today’s economy where everyone is hurting, I wouldn’t let the fear of someone else knowing your financial situation prevent you from seeking out something new.
  • As for the time and energy – there are so many small things that you can do to increase your earning potential and income. Knowing that you have options and making strides to work towards seeking them out, will help bring your focus from money, back to your career.

And one last word: There will always be a sense of needing to work to pay the bills. In fact, it’s something that even all of the entrepreneurs I know think about constantly. But it’s important to remember that you career and how much you make, do not always need to be tied. YOU decide your career path and choices – not how much you make. Oh, and please start tracking your Net Worth – you’ll be amazed and surprised to see your progress over time.