Transactional v. Opportunity Cost

Meghan sighed. “I totally get it.  Every day that I’m not doing what I want is one day less that I could be doing something I do want.” Meghan’s job as a administrative assistant in a New Haven law firm was the primary cause of an anxiety diagnosis.  Her parents urged her to change her career, knew of Career Counseling Connecticut, and scheduled an appointment for her.  Meghan was 28 years old, as in a bit too old to have her parents make appointments.

Meghan had graduated from Southern Connecticut six years earlier with a degree in history.  While she never knew exactly what she wanted to do, she thought law was an option so upon graduation she took a job as an assistant at a law firm of one of her parent’s friends.  Her initial job was mostly running errands, making copies, filing, and filling in for absentee administrative assistants (“legal secretaries”).  When one quit within a year, Meghan started as a temporary replacement and soon temporary became permanent.

Soon enough, Meghan did not like the job.  She grew stressed.  But she froze.  She didn’t do anything to change her situation. Every few months, she would think about creating a resume or looking for a new job or considering graduate school.  But whatever challenge was placed in front of her  – whether it be something large like a couple years of graduate school or even something small like redoing her resume – was too much “transactional cost” to overcome.

Transactional cost is whatever needs to be done in terms of time, money, and energy to get from here to there.  In the context of career change, this may entail all the mundane aspects of a job search as well as the major investment of graduate school or more training.  Transactional costs stop people from moving forward.  “That’s a great idea, it would fit me perfectly but I have to….” is a version of at least one weekly conversation I have with a career counseling client.

The only way to get my career counseling clients to overcome transactional cost is to describe opportunity cost.  Every day you are doing something you don’t want is one more day you are not doing something you would want to do.