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 risk of failure, loss of status or income. The danger is that unless you are prepared to take the first step 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, 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 overcome 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
At the end of the day, just do it, because although not making a decision may be a decision, it is not generally the best one and regretting not doing something is worse than just trying & failing. Chances are it will be a change for the better.