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Starting Over

Man looks for a new job in the newspaper because he wants to make a change in his career.

Some beginnings and endings are predictable, and some are thrust upon us by fate. You can plan for a new baby or what you’ll do after graduation, but it’s harder to prepare for job loss or identity theft. Whether you need to repair your credit or jumpstart a career transition, the journey starts with a single step.

Rebuild Financially

Rebuilding after a financial loss can be slow. Even if you’re saving pennies instead of dollars, each positive action is valuable.

Credit repair. You can recover from major damage to your credit. Request your credit report and correct errors. The most important times to look at your credit score are when you’re about to apply for a car loan or mortgage, or when you want to get a new credit card. Regardless of the past, the best thing you can do now is to pay as much as you can on time.

Pay down debt. Contact your creditors and ask to lower interest rates or develop a repayment plan. Your credit will improve as soon as you start making on-time minimum payments. Don’t close old credit accounts. Get your credit usage down and free up credit. Time heals many wounds — if you make an effort.

Consider credit counseling or a debt consolidation loan with a reputable financial institution if you’re really struggling. Defer your student loan payments or reduce your monthly payments by changing your student loan repayment plan.

Return to Work

The reasons you’re re-entering the workforce aren’t that important. What matters now is finding your next job.

Consider all the things you liked and didn’t like about your prior work situations. If you didn’t get along with your boss or co-workers, or you felt bored and underutilized, what kind of environment suits you best? Do you prefer working independently or collaboratively?

When it comes down to it, jobs are about relationships. When you’re ready to find your next position:

  • Make a new routine. Even if it’s just going to the corner coffee shop each morning, keep a regular schedule while job hunting.
  • Volunteer. It might seem counterintuitive, but staying active and working for a cause you care about can open professional opportunities.
  • Join a support group. Especially if you’re feeling isolated, talk to others in similar situations to find solidarity.
  • Attend events. Network in your industry and put yourself out there. Personal connections are still a great way to find a job.

Hire a Coach

Before shelling out hundreds or thousands of dollars, clarify what you hope to get from a coach. What’s the minimum outcome you’re willing to accept? Do you expect the coach to get you a job or would it be enough to walk away with a refreshed resume? Could you accomplish the same thing with an informal buddy?

Before hiring a coach, select two or three candidates. Read their website, but also do an internet search for any red flags. Once you’ve narrowed your options, ask:

  • How much is it per session? (Between $50-$300 per hour is standard.)
  • How frequent are sessions and how are they conducted, e.g., over the phone or computer, or in person?
  • Is there a required minimum number of sessions?
  • Do they have references and testimonials from satisfied clients?

You can search for certified coaches at the International Coaches Federation (ICF) and the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PARCC), but certifications aren’t required. The best coach for you is the one who gets results.

Coach Yourself

There are many low-cost options and free resources available to help you do it on your own.

  • Take a skills test. This brief quiz can help you identify your strengths and potential careers, including projected annual salaries, required education and job outlooks.
  • Update your resume. The Career OneStop Resume Guide offers free help.
  • Set reasonable benchmarks. Do research on sites like PayScale, Glassdoor and Indeed to set your salary expectations based on your role, level of experience and geographic area.
  • Identify your niche. Employers want to know what differentiates you. What unique experiences have you had? How have you shown flexibility and initiative?
  • Show your track record. Demonstrate stable work history and promotions.
  • Brand yourself. Keep your social media profiles updated and beware of privacy settings when posting.
  • Get money coming in. Pick up short-term gigs or odd jobs on sites like Upwork or NextDoor. Or consider a temp agency. Keep momentum going and money flowing in to boost confidence.

Nontraditional career paths are more the norm than the exception these days. Perhaps you’re ready to try a career change boot camp or spend a year abroad, working remotely along with other freelancers in work/travel experiences like NomadX and Remote Year.

Update Your Skills

If you’re considering going back to school, use the FAFSA4caster tool to estimate how much student financial aid you can expect and find out which grants you could qualify for. And, even if you’re getting a graduate degree, don’t forget about scholarships.

To get more training and update certifications, there is always trade school. And you can learn everything from software development to videography using sites like Udemy, Skillshare and

No matter where your fresh start takes you, keep learning and exploring new interests. The better you can adapt and adjust to changing circumstances, the easier your next transition is likely to be.

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]

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