I want to make a career change, but I'm not sure where to start!
For some people, the very word “change” is terrifying. As I write, my 24-year-old daughter is packing up to move out of the family home into a rented flat with a friend. All our lives are about to change. And that is scary but also exciting.
Some say that they relish change and would be bored if they didn’t experience change in their lives regularly. True. Boredom does come from stagnation, but actually getting on and making a change that will make a difference in your life is not a simple strategy.
Why is that?
Our rational mind, and possibly everyone around us, tells us that in order to improve something in our lives, we need to change one element of it. It might be our job, our relationship, our home or even our appearance but, here is the big “but” (no pun intended!), it is much easier to stay where we are; in our job, with our partner, in our home and with the same haircut, than being bold and just saying, “I’m going to do it. I’m going to make the change!”
The issue is that for change to occur, we have to resist behavioural patterns that are so ingrained in us as humans. We view change as a threat and so this triggers our fight or flight response. For many, we just freeze and choose to do nothing. It is easier to stay as we are than to move forward.
There are of course many different types of change. Some are within our control, and many are not.
Natural change with time
Time doesn’t stand still as, clearly, we are always changing, and our lives have to change with us. We grow up, we become adults and deal with whatever this brings. We may have children and they will eventually leave home, as mine are. So, this change occurs with the passing of time, and we have some degree of preparation for it. We know it’s going to happen.
We are hardwired to resist change but something in us also tells us that we need to develop, and this is what moves us forward.
Change within our control
Changing careers is this type of change. Unless we have been faced with an unforeseen job loss, then changing careers is within our control and we should not see it as a threat. We are making the change to improve ourselves and hopefully our lives as a result.
So, why is change, or more specifically, career change so hard?
We might be venturing into the unknown and not know exactly what is going to happen next. This is especially important as we need money to make a living and survive. This is even harder to do when we have people depending on us for our income.
Time taken for change to occur
It takes time to make a change. You need patience!
If we look at career change in particular, you have to go through several phases before making the leap.
1. First you need to explore your values and what it is that you need in the next career stage.
2. You have to generate ideas about what you might do next.
3. You have to make an action plan and then, and only then...
4. You start making steps to make the change.
This doesn’t happen overnight, and we often give up before we have reached step four. Fear takes hold and we decide it is easier not to do anything instead of risking losing what we have.
Fear of failure
As Canadian ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky famously said, “You miss 100% of shots you don’t take.”
You can’t succeed unless you try. You have to take a risk in order to try something new. If you fail, then you learn from it and take another shot. You just need to take action and see what it brings.
The word just in this context is frustrating as it’s easy to say just do something but so much harder to just do it! If you have the steps in mind, then it may help you plan what you do next instead of just having a stab in the dark and giving up when it doesn’t work.
Fear of judgement
What will everybody say?
I have suffered from this as I have changed career and direction a few times over the course of my adult life. Consequently, I have suffered a bit from embarrassment that I would be judged. Some say I have been brave; others wonder why I haven’t stuck at one career path. I realise now that, as I have grown and changed, what I have needed from my career has changed and I have developed.
Everyone has an opinion on what others do and this does constrain many people and stops them trying things out.
You need to remember that no-one is as interested in your life as they are in their own – you may think people are judging you, but their questions could just be just that – curiosity in your life and what you are doing.
So, what can you do to overcome this fear of change?
Consider “What’s the worst that can happen?”
If you stop and think about what is the worst that can happen if you take that step, you will most probably realise that it is worth taking the risk. Think about how much of the change you can actually control. How can you make it easier for yourself?
If you are completely changing your career or setting up your own business, can you try out the new career or business without completely giving up the one you already have, the one that pays the bills? Can you volunteer at the job and try it out? Can you do some work for your new business in tandem with your job? Can you do some training in the area you want to move into?
I always find it helps to make a to-do list. Start with small, easy steps that you can take and start ticking them off the list.
This will give you a sense of achievement and hopefully will motivate you to tackle the next items on the list.
Accept and reframe
This can also be easier said than done. Acceptance is hard when we are already worried or hard on ourselves. But thinking through what is stopping us or what is driving us can be helpful. Remind yourself that some things are beyond your control and there is nothing you can do about it.
Letting go is hard but the first step is to view change as an opportunity to learn and grow. Remember the old adage “fake it till you make it.” No-one needs to know how you feel unless you want them to.
Embrace the positives
This is another tough task, and it might be hard to find the positive in new situations but look for them if you can. If you are changing careers, this might be an opportunity to meet a new set of people, train in a new area or spark a new interest. If you are moving out of home, away from your family and friends, this is an opportunity to explore a new area, try out a new hobby and potentially make new friends.
Manage the stress
Once you have realised where the stress is coming from in your life, ask yourself what you do in your life to relax you. Can you do more exercise, fit in a walk every morning, go to the cinema or read a book for escapism? Try and manage the stress so that you know how to deal with it when it hits you.
Talk to others
And as always, ask for help from your friends and family. Keep connected to people who can support you and discuss your worries, fears or dreams. If this isn’t possible, then seek professional help – a life coach can do just that – listen to you and help you sort out those thoughts going round in your head and create a plan of action.
And finally, take action
This is the most important step - make a plan, set a goal and take some action towards the goal.
And if you need some help and guidance along the way, contact a life and career change coach to help you set your goal, make an action plan and support you along the way.