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Is Fear Preventing You from Making a Career Change?

If you’ve been considering a career change, you know how daunting a process this can be. Making a career change has important implications for your professional and personal life. It’s no surprise that you’re feeling overwhelmed by confusion, uncertainty, and self-doubt.

Many executives begin by making assumptions about the career transition process. Beliefs such as, “I’m not qualified to make an industry change,” “I’ll never find a position that pays as well as my current role,” or, “I can’t have job satisfaction and a high-level, challenging position at the same time,” keep you securely in your comfort zone. Unfortunately, they also prevent you from taking steps toward a more rewarding career.

So how do you overcome the fear and limiting beliefs that stand in the way of greater career satisfaction? All transitions involve some degree of risk but you can take proactive steps to minimize the risk and maximize the reward.

Ask yourself key questions

Begin by making an effort to understand your real motivation for making a change. What do you truly want from your next role? Answering this question might require some soul searching. Many executives seek career opportunities because of external expectations rather than internal motivations. For example, they can’t imagine how others, including their loved ones, would respond if they gave up a stable corporate position to pursue a riskier start-up venture. Or they worry about what others would think if they gave up a large compensation package to work for a non-profit.

Take some time to think about what is most important to you. What do you specifically want to do? What do you not want to do? What type of environment will best allow you to thrive? The more thought you give to these types of questions, the clearer your vision will be.

Establish clear goals

Having a clear vision is the first step to a successful career transition but without clear goals, you’re unlikely to take action and make your vision a reality. Begin with a timeline. Would you like to make a change in 6 months? 2 years? 5 years? Knowing your timeline will allow you to translate your vision to a strategic plan.

Your strategic plan should include clear goals and associated action steps. Goals might include clarifying your specific career target, developing a marketing strategy that positions you for your ideal role, engaging your executive network, etc. Making the effort to create specific and measurable goals will greatly increase your chances of success.

Confront your fears

Even with a clear vision and an actionable plan, you still might find it difficult to take the next step. You know what you need to do but fear and uncertainty stand in your way. Take some time to reflect on these fears. Common fears include leaving the safety and security of your current company, regretting the change after you’ve made it, qualifying for the position you really want, earning enough money in your new role, maintaining your work/life balance, etc.

All of these fears are normal but they don’t have to hold you back. By exploring these fears and understanding what lies at the root of them, you’ll dilute their power and approach your career transition with more clarity and confidence. Suppressing your fears or allowing them to control you only keeps you in a state of stagnation and frustration.

Following these steps will help you to maximize the often stressful and overwhelming process of making a career transition. Sometimes, however, fear can continue to keep you frozen in your tracks. If you still find yourself stuck or unclear about how to move forward, consider asking for help. Getting support from a resource who is not as close to the situation as you are can often help you gain new perspective, slowly step outside your comfort zone, and eventually reach your goal.

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