Voluntarily changing careers can be a frightful thing for many people. It can be so frightening that it will delay or completely stop us in our tracks before we even get started. Yet, our heart yearns for something else, something more than what we have right now. Our heart knows that there is a better career and therefore, better life waiting out there for us to pursue. At the same time we are struck with fear.
Hmm, this isn’t like jumping out of an airplane or bungee jumping, but for some people it has the same effect. Let’s look at some of the reasons for this fear and what you can do to both address the fear and give yourself what you want – a new career.
Fear of: I don’t know what I’d do.
This fear stems from lack of a true, ubiquitous process for making this big decision. It’s not just hard to figure out when you’re 18 and facing life, it’s also difficult at any age. We have a general tendency to determine our careers by simply doing a job search and hoping what you find will work out well. This is like exploratory surgery – it’s good if you find something , but bad if you don’t. I don’t recommend that process.
Solution: To address this fear you need to know that there are people who have figured this out. You can look for a variety of books on this topic, as well as career coaches who specialize (!) in career change.
Fear of: I’ll hate the work or it might be worse that what I’m doing now.
You probably don’t know what the work is, but you’re afraid anyway. This is understandable, because our usual ways of finding a new career are so haphazard that there is no telling what you will end up with, much less if you will like it.
Solution: Part of your decision process should include a period of time to test drive the new career. You may or may not be able to create a situation where you can literally test it out, but you can do many things that will get you into the detail. You can ask to observe the work. You can interview several people who do the work to find out how the work is performed and all kinds of work details. Internships are a great way to test drive. If you offer some free labor, the people doing that work are apt to take you up on the offer even faster than just being kind.
Fear of: I’ll have to take a pay cut.
We get very attached to our standard of living. A pay cut is an understandable concern. This, however, is like an urban legend. It may be true or it may not. If you’ve done the work to figure out a new career and this is an informed fear, then that’s good information. Many times I’ve heard this concern and it’s kind of a random anxiety or belief, but it’s not attached to any specific knowledge.
Solution: First, you need to figure out your next “field of opportunities”; and then research the pay level. You may have to take a dip, but usually it’s fairly short term, as excellent employees have a way of proving their worth fairly quickly. You may not have to take a pay cut. I’ve known people who have improved their salaries, so it’s best to suspend your income concerns until you know what you’re really facing. Second, if you have done the work and know the career and potential salary you may be able to put together a plan to diffuse the impact. I made a career change, planned and worked for a year to position myself to have a completely debt free life so I could choose a career based on its appeal rather than the pay. It worked great.
Fear of: What if I’m not really ready to change?
When we start making motions to make a change in our life, any kind of change, we have this mechanism inside us that starts minimizing our original motivations. Suddenly, in the face of the anxiety that often comes with change, we start rationalizing our reasons for staying. Even if we simply want a promotion, we can find all kinds of reasons for staying put. This is a fairly common reaction to change. We really hate change, yet change happens all the time. It makes us uncomfortable and we read that discomfort as a sign that leaving this career is really a bad idea.
Solution: Don’t let the anxiety that comes with your change sway you from your course. If you stop before you get started, just know that the sleeping giant within you will wake up. You can rationalize your desires into slumber only for so long. You will eventually need to act on the call of your heart. On the other side of the change, you’ll wonder why you waited. You may need to have an accountability partner as you embark on this course to keep you focused and moving forward. Your partner should help you remember why this is important to you, hold your hand when you need comfort, and occasionally give a swift kick in the pants.
Fear of: Failure or repeating past failures.
We all hate to fail. This fear is understandable to some degree up to the point where it interferes with your needs and goal. Sometimes when we strive for something and we don’t get the desired results we’re left feeling defeated.
Solution: If you have allowed some time to heal from a failure, then you need to restart your efforts. Most perceived failures are nothing more than a set-back. You need to take on a new attitude about the past “failures” as simply learning opportunities. The most successful people are the ones who look at a situation that might be considered failures as simply one outcome on a journey. They keep working toward their goal. In other words: get over it.
Fear of: Fear itself.
Sometimes we can’t put a finger on our real reasons for shying away from a career change. All we know is we are frightened. It’s like looking into a black hole. You don’t know what’s there, but you’re sure you won’t like it.
Solution: Fear is an interesting beast within us. When we shine the light of knowledge on it, it tends to go away. If you can pin point some of the voices your fear has, you can address them head on. Try to record on paper what you think is at the core of your concerns. Once you can do that, put together an action plan to seek out information that will help address or dispel those issues.
You have heard the phrase “feel the fear”. For me, it’s not about being an extreme sports fanatic. It’s about recognizing what the fear is, so you can use it for your goals. Making the decision to change careers is an emotional decision, they all are, which means that your fear is simply a signal that you have work to do. If it’s time for you to change careers, good for you! It can transform your life in almost magical ways. You deserve to be ridiculously happy. If you’re afraid, use it to form the best possible set of actions, because once you do, you’ll love the results.
And now I would like to invite you to claim your Free Instant Access to the Career Makeover Newsletter AND eWorkbook “Should I Stay or Should I Go” – both dedicated to Your career success, when you visit
http://CareerMakeoverToolKitShouldIstayorShouldIGo.com/ From Dorothy Tannahill-Moran – Your Career Change Agent from www.nextchapternewlife.com