The 5 biggest obstacles to making a successful career change

By leahlambart
31 March 2019

Making a successful career change is not easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it. It is a journey that requires a great deal of research, many conversations, and in my experience, the confidence to get out into the real world to test your ideas. After five years of coaching a range of individuals, from people in their mid-20sto those closer to retirement, I see the same obstacles coming up time and again that prevent people from obtaining more fulfilling work.

Based on what I have seen with my clients, here is a list of the five main obstacles to a successful career change. I am sharing them with you, because if you can identify them, then you may well find it easier to overcome them.

The first obstacle – Fear

The majority of people who book a career consultation with Relaunch Me are fiercely determined to make a career change. They are usually dissatisfied and disengaged with their current work, and are looking for career options that are more compatible with their personality and/or more aligned with their interests or values. They are often stressed, anxious, despondent, but at the same time, truly motivated. Often, they have been thinking about a career change for months, even years, but something has prevented them from actually making it happen.

In my experience, the biggest blocker is fear. Fear of making the wrong decision, fear of what others will think, and fear of giving up everything you have ever worked for. When I left my career as a chartered accountant,I felt these same fears. After studying a Bachelor of Commerce followed by two years working to achieve my Professional Year (Chartered Accounting exams), as well as years of experience at a Big 4 firm, I felt I was disappointing my parents who had supported me during my education. I also felt I was letting down the managers who had put time and effort into developing me, plus being worried about what my colleagues would say. I was stepping into the unknown, accepting a position with a relatively new recruitment agency, and moving into an industry that, at the time, didn’t really require any tertiary qualifications.

This applies to many of our clients. A career change potentially means walking away from years of knowledge and skills gained in one line of work to start all over again. What if you make the wrong decision? What if it doesn’t work out? By making such a big change we are putting at risk things that are very important to us—income, food, freedom, mortgage repayments, private education fees or paying our rent. No wonder there is fear.

The second obstacle – Lack of knowledge

The second obstacle we see is a lack of knowledge about alternate careers. Often clients have spent their entire career in one area of work and are feeling very confused about choosing a new path. The main reason is a lack of knowledge. How on earth can you decide about choosing a new career path if you haven’t done the research to make an informed decision?  Knowledge greatly reduces the risk of making the wrong decision. Your research should include an understanding of the requirements of the role, the daily tasks and responsibilities, but more importantly, insights into the industry, career outcomes, job security and the common challenges and obstacles in such a role.

The third obstacle – Lack of support

Career change can be a long and frustrating journey. It requires both motivation and confidence to step outside your comfort zone to make new connections to help obtain the knowledge required to make informed decisions. Therefore, a support team can help keep your motivation up when it all seems too hard.  If you are serious about making a career change, then find a team of cheerleaders who can support you and keep you focused on your end goal.

The fourth obstacle – False assumptions

Many people I coach have already made assumptions about what is or isn’t possible with their intended career change. Every day I hear ‘it’s too competitive’, ‘I will have to drop salary’, or ‘I won’t be able to work part-time’. I know that false assumptions were certainly preventing me from looking into become a Career Coach for way too long.

I had been interested in career coaching for several years, but assumed I would have to work in a 9-5 job which, with three very young children, didn’t seem possible. I also assumed I would have to work in the city in a corporate environment which didn’t appeal to me. Neither of these assumptions turned out to be true, but they stopped me from moving earlier.

If you hear yourself repeating the same assumptions: too old to make a change, skills aren’t transferable, the industry is too competitive, then make sure you test these assumptions in the real world. All of them may be false assumptions that are holding you back.

The fifth obstacle – Relying on Google, job search sites and recruiters

A successful career change rarely happens if you rely on Google for information. There is only so much information we can gather about a new job or a new industry. We can get a good understanding of the responsibilities of the role, but Google cannot tell us whether the work will actually energise us or whether we will be good at it.

Likewise, relying on job search sites rarely works for a career changer. If you are applying for roles against other candidates already in that line of work, then it is unlikely recruiters will be putting your application in the ‘yes’ pile, unless you have already built a connection with them. You still need a compelling resume, but ideally, you want recruiters and/or potential employers to meet you, or at least speak with you, BEFORE they see your resume. This is why networking and connecting with people in your areas of interest is so important, rather than just applying for advertised roles.

So, what if these obstacles are holding you back?

Ask yourself if these obstacles are holding you back from finding more rewarding work. If this is you, then you are probably feeling tired and exhausted from hours of searching on job search sites, discussing your ideas with your partner/friends and writing countless lists of pros and cons. You are probably feeling despondent when you don’t get responses from recruiters, or if they just want to place you back in your current industry. This was certainly the case for me.

If this sounds familiar, contact Leah Lambart or Clare Pickard at: to learn how we can help you find a different approach to making a successful career change.

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