Hi, my name is Kate and I have a question. I work at a startup customer service call center that pays around $50,000 per year for a 9-to-5. My student loan debt is on the high side, so I don’t want to leave the company just yet. The question is, I am considering taking a position in another job that I actually enjoy, for example a bartending job. Should I take this bartending job, would it enable me to financially pay off my student loans, what would be more appropriate?
Kate, there are several ways you can achieve your goals, but you need to make a critical decision regarding whether or not you can afford to stay put at the customer service call center.
Let’s examine the three most important questions for you to ask: What are you worth? What are your other career options?
First, “What is valued” for you? Kate, your answer needs to be an absolute set of numbers. This means a “number” that you can feel comfortable with, that you have a realistic goal with some teeth, that you can communicate to others in your team and be able to articulate objectively. Set a deadline and commit to your decision for eight weeks. You want to be committed to a decision for a month, if possible, so that you have an opportunity to collect or start to gather independent information.
Some key questions you should ask yourself:
How do I feel about the opportunity?
Does this match the values and personal goals that you have?
What does my management team think?
How do my family and friends feel?
Which is the best way to provide support for me (a lot of you are company dependents)?
Next, question number two is: What other career options are available to me? This is important because there are plenty of nontraditional companies out there that pay well, might offer different opportunities and allow me to continue developing in other areas of my interest. Kate, do not think about these possibilities as your demise. Instead, consider how you might double down on one, triple down on the other.
If you are open to starting over in another career field, see if there are other places or startups that would be willing to pay as well as the customer service call center. Or even better, open your mind to starting a side business of your own. You want to create avenues for outside income and provide for yourself in case you can’t land that next job with customer service. This can be as simple as a social media or blogging website you develop. Or, you can reach for more ambitious opportunities, such as forming an entire business, like selling handmade jewelry. Making your own part-time or full-time work may allow you to let go of the obligations and financial impact of working in a full-time job at customer service, which may allow you to start a low-cost (or no-cost) second career.
But, Kate, this is not enough. If you want to reduce your debt, start, and you can’t afford to pay for a new career in the brick-and-mortar world, a second job in the world of online business, and building your own business, it’s time to seriously consider selling your credit cards or tapping into a personal loan, in the event that you can’t pay off your student loan debt.
It’s easy to get in debt when you do not focus on your personal financial goals. However, it’s not as easy to ignore your personal goals, or getting into debt, when you have other avenues for generating income. This is especially important for young professionals like you, Kate, who lack experience with the safety nets or financial tools found in, or are used to, the commercial world.
Once you have acquired additional assets, such as your own company or a down payment on a home, it’s time to set your sights on using your financial power for personal growth and fulfillment.
This story originally appeared on Fortune.com. Copyright 2018