Fear and self-doubt are common feelings for those going through or anticipating career changes.

We know from our own research that there are genuine reasons for this, including worries about the risk of failure, loss of status or income. However, unless you are prepared to take the first step, there is a danger that you can end up getting stuck.

One of our coaching team, Claire Harbour, was the co-author of an excellent article about seven steps to help you get over this paralysis and see through the “fog” that is so often experienced by people in transition. In summary these steps are:

1. Understand your fear and see it as an ally

Don’t try to ignore your fear. It serves a purpose and can be a great teacher or motivator. But it should not block your decisions. You need to face your fear, assess it and see it as an ally.

Ask yourself: “What am I afraid of?”, “What risk am I taking by changing careers?”, “If the worst happened, what would I do?” and “What could I do to minimise the risk of the worst-case scenario?”

2. Know yourself deeply

Take the time to know yourself well, and understand your values, motivations, strengths, interests and lifestyle expectations. Allowing yourself to dream and create a positive vision of your career aspiration helps you develop litmus tests to define what you want and whether it’s worth the trade-offs it will involve.

3. Take small steps

Setting small goals is a great approach to overcoming paralysing fear. Create small experiments to build your ‘risk muscle’ and keep track of them in a journal.

Aside from steering you into action, this step moves you into information acquisition mode, builds your confidence and confirms that your career scenario is what you want.

4. Remember that change is a constant – and failure can be positive

Put things into a broader context and don’t forget that nothing is forever.

Tell yourself that rather than having to make one big decision that will impact your entire career forever, it’s really numerous small decisions mostly through experimentation. Even if things go wrong, remember that failure doesn’t have to be negative.

Think of it as feedback about what you need to improve. One misstep can be an opportunity to find more information so you can make better career decisions in the future.

5. Shout it from the rooftops

It can help to tell everyone about your plans.

Identify people who have the job or the experience that you seek. Tell your network “I’d like to do this. Do you know anybody in that field?” and ask for an introduction. You never know where help may come from.

6. Enlist social support

It also helps to have social support and think about hiring a coach.

Surround yourself with people you trust. Ask them to be your sounding boards and cheerleaders, or to give you advice and emotional support.

Almost without exception, those that are successful have put energy into this activity.

7. Just do it

Often, at the end of the day, the best method is just do it.

Not making a decision is a decision in itself, and most of the time it’s not the right one.

When our choices are made due to fear (like fear of making a career change) the results are always negative. The best-case scenario could be regret; far worse than just trying & failing.

More likely, however, when you’re taking the decision into your own hands, chances are it will be a change for the better.


Fear of making a career change is one of the major blocks to a happy and fulfilled life. For the last five years, Rutbusters has been specialising in helping senior professionals make the life changes they dream of, but have never actualised. Why not get in touch for an initial consultation?

Article updated on 05/01/23 for accuracy.