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Why you should confront your fear of changing careers

Why you should confront your fears of career change

You might be thinking about a career change or facing an imminent one. It’s normal for people to feel a strong sense of unease during this transitional period. Our brains tend to respond to sudden or large-scale change with disgust—and changing careers is a big disruption to your daily rhythm. Transitioning to a new career often means stepping out of one’s comfort zone into unfamiliar territory.

So, when it comes to switching careers, it’s a decision that involves weighing the advantages and disadvantages carefully, considering the potential risks and rewards, and ultimately choosing what your heart desires. Let’s talk about it.

Where does this fear come from?

Humans striver for comfort throughout our lives—and breaking that safe bubble we’ve built can feel deeply unsettling. When you walk into a room and know where everything is, you automatically let your guard down. In your head, this room is familiar and comfortable, translating to safety. A new job is like entering a stranger’s room–unfamiliar, unknown and therefore, scary. 

A career means different things to different people. Many get a sense of drive and purpose from their work, while others build an identity around it, and some just need something to keep them busy. All of these are valid, an artist could be their own sculpture. The thought of leaving behind that identity and starting anew can trigger feelings of loss, emptiness and uncertainty, culminating in fear. 

Another big factor is financial stability, which plays a significant role. Changing careers may involve taking a pay cut or experiencing a period of instability. While it’s a known fact that taking the leap tends to pay off more times than not, it’s also still a risk—one that people without financial stability can’t afford. Being unable to support themselves and/or their loved ones prevents them from taking that risk.

Outside of finances, starting over in a new career also means facing the possibility of not succeeding or not being as proficient as you were in your previous field. Additionally, societal expectations and perceptions don’t make it any easier. 

There’s often a stigma attached to leaving a stable job or deviating from the path someone has been on for years. This is especially true if you decide to switch to something that’s “less glamorous” than your previous choice. For example, if you’ve been working to become a doctor for the past 5 years and suddenly switch to being a comedian, there would be much confusion. 

In particular, we tend to fear judgment or disapproval from our loved ones—or people we don’t want to disappoint. Our family, friends, peers and even bosses can weigh heavily on our minds when we think about leaving a job or switching to a new path.

While some of these fears are well-founded, they aren’t necessarily calling the shots—there are real risks 

Benefits you stand to gain

There’s a lot at play here, with complex, overlapping issues. Sometimes, a career switch is not a choice—it’s not even the individual’s decision to make. Economies go through sweeping changes, jobs disappear, and in the middle of it all, everyone has to keep finding their new nook to stay afloat. Amidst all the uncertainty, there is a chance for something new to grow and so, we’re focusing on the positives! Here are a few benefits of switching careers.

  • Changing jobs often leads to a notable salary increase. Financial considerations make up a chunk of the driving force behind many looking to switch careers. You have the upper hand when negotiating an increased salary when vying for a new role–especially if you research the market rates!
  • If you ever feel stuck in a rut, a career change could be what you need to advance your growth. When a process is familiar, it becomes easy. With the lack of challenge, our minds grow complacent as we now relegate ‘work’ to the level of mundane tasks we do on autopilot. For some, this is the sweet spot, while others need a challenge to grow in their role.
  • Burnout is dangerous and a toxic work culture can keep you trapped in burnout for months and years to come. Breaking the cycle and taking a breather will help you recalibrate before finding a role better suited for you.
  • Pursuing a career change can open doors to new opportunities for professional fulfillment and recognition. Whether it’s advancing in a new field, making a meaningful impact in society, or achieving long-held career goals, individuals have the chance to redefine success on their own terms.

Do you need a career change? 

This is the most important question: do you actually need the career change? There are two major steps to this: a. Defining your career goals, and b. Self-assessment. When considering whether a career change is necessary, it’s essential to engage in a thorough self-assessment and analysis so that you know exactly where you stand. We’ll start with the easy bit—defining your career goals. 

Know your career goals

Defining your career goals and aspirations is a critical step in the process of changing jobs. By aligning your job decisions with your long-term vision for your career, you can make sure that each step you take brings you closer to it. 

First, you’ll want to answer: 

  1. What are your most important career goals?
  2. Does your current job role meet any of your targets? 
  3. Which targets are unmet and could a career change help you achieve them? 

When you’re setting your goals, it’s important to divide them into short-term and long-term ambitions. Put them on a timeline to help you visualise them. Your goals can be anything relevant to your career—be it becoming the head of your own department or learning to use a difficult tool. You could even list something like “flexible hours” or “better work-life balance”.

Next, outline what specific attributes you’re seeking in the new job. It could be supportive work culture, opportunities for mentorship and learning, or a sense of purpose and fulfilment. Depending on the outcome, it might seem more sensible to stay in your current role and try to work things out from there. It could also lead to an opposite outcome, where a new job might tick far more boxes, making staying put meaningless. 

Assess the risks and rewards, weigh the pros and cons, and consider how the new opportunity fits into the bigger picture of your career journey.

Remember, your career goals are not set in stone—they evolve as you gain new experiences, insights, and priorities. So, be open to revisiting and refining your goals every now and then. 

Self-assessment

Now that you have a clearer understanding of your goals and where your two options lie, it’s time to do a quick self-assessment. Ask yourself these questions and keep note of your answer to reflect on later. 

  1. Does going to work every day make you feel excited, motivated, angry or uncomfortable? 
  2. Are you passionate about your work? 
  3. Do you find it easy to get inspired while working? 
  4. Have you observed any growth in your role throughout your time in your current role? 
  5. Have you gained any new skills in your current role? What are they?
  6. Do you maintain a healthy work-life balance or do you constantly feel overwhelmed?
  7. Do you think your work environment is a supportive one? 
  8. Are you in agreement with your company’s values? 
  9. Does spending time with your colleagues make you feel happy?
  10. Are the benefits (if any) and salary provided to you by your employer sufficient? 
  11. Have you been browsing for other opportunities frequently? 
  12. Does your company value learning and development?
  13. Do you see yourself working at this company three years in the future? 
  14. What are the 3 (relevant) things you need the most that your current employer isn’t providing?

Once you answer these questions, you’ll be able to assess whether or not you really need that career change. If the answer is “yes”, then let’s talk about how you can kick out the uncertainty before switching careers. 

How to make the switch confidently 

The most sound advice we can give you is to plan well in advance—if you can afford the time. The earlier, the better because there are a few things you’ll need to tick off the list to ensure a smooth transition.

Do your research

Research the new career path thoroughly. Deep dive into your choice of career. Look into some significant events that took place in the industry recently. Check up on how much professionals are getting paid in your region. Reach out to industry experts and professionals to grow your network and learn more about your potential future roles. 

Write out the pros and cons

List out any potential outcomes, opportunities for growth and fulfilment. Write out the positives and negatives of taking on this switch. Think about each negative point and what you can do to address them. Set up your contingency plan so you’ll know exactly what to do if issues arise.

Map your progress plan

Break down your progress plan into manageable steps. Write out the skills you’ll need, the experience, and other requirements. Map it out into bite-size pieces and see if it’s doable. This way, you can visualise your journey and set up milestones.

Create a financial plan 

Talk to people who’ve already been through the same process and ask them for advice. Start setting up a financial buffer in advance to a little more than minimum living expenses during the transition period. Consider freelance, consulting or part-time work opportunities to maintain income streams. There are also options for financial aid and scholarships that could help you but keep in mind, these are highly subjective.

Be your own cheerleader

Challenge any negative self-talk and focus on your strengths and past successes. Look for inspiration and motivation to keep you focused. You can seek feedback from mentors, colleagues, or career coaches to gain perspective and build confidence. 

Use any time you can invest to upskill

Identify the transferable skills from your current role and work them into your resume. There are tons of free classes online and certifications. Additionally, volunteer opportunities will help you develop relevant skills and gain practical experience while boosting your CV. These keep you up-to-date on necessary skills and showcase your willingness to learn and grow.

Talk it out

If you’re feeling pressured due to changing careers, have an open conversation about it with somebody you trust. Sometimes, all you need is for somebody to listen to you—and sounding your thoughts and feelings out will help you articulate them better and find some equilibrium. 

Keep networking

Keep an eye out for virtual or in-person networking opportunities. This could be industry events or online communities relevant to your new career. Join professional associations, attend workshops, and participate in online forums to connect with like-minded individuals. 

Final thoughts

Assessing your current satisfaction and well-being are essential steps in making sure you’re in the right role for you! Conducting a thorough cost-benefit analysis helps you weigh the pros and cons, providing clarity and confidence in your decision-making. Seek advice from mentors, colleagues, and people you trust. If they’ve been through this before, their insights will be incredibly valuable.

Despite the challenges, overcoming the obstacles associated with changing careers can be incredibly rewarding and transformative. It can lead to increased fulfilment and satisfaction while boosting your personal and professional growth and development. 

There’s a lot to be gained, including enhanced well-being and happiness, better work-life balance, financial stability and success, professional fulfilment and recognition, and the opportunity to inspire others through role modelling. You just need to make sure you’re making the right move at the right time. 

If you want to kick your career off in 2024, book a call with us, and let’s talk about it. You can also subscribe to our newsletter for the latest career information, tips, and updates. (They’re both completely free!)

Kahless

Kahless

Kahless is a writer with a special interest in sociology. He spends much of his free time travelling, reading, writing, and stopping his cats from ripping apart everything he owns. It’s advised to bring along a strong cup of coffee (3 espresso shots minimum) when approaching him.

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