Many of the clients we work with have been thinking about a career change for some time before they come to see us. They have wanted to ‘make the jump’ for months, often years, but for some reason they just can’t seem to move forward. One client described how he was feeling as follows: “I just feel like I am frozen. I so desperately want to move but I just can’t seem to make it happen”. Others have described what they are feeling in different ways, such as; ‘feeling paralysed’ or ‘being in a fog where I can’t find my way out”.
Feelings of fear and self-doubt are common for career-changers and often that inner critic comes out on a regular basis. “I am too old to change careers’, “ I won’t earn enough money’, ‘I can’t afford to give up everything I have worked for’ – do any of these sound familiar?
Research on stressful life events has shown that changing jobs/careers ranks just below the death of a close relative. It is true that career change creates genuine fears that are real and justified. Fear of failure, fear of losing status, fear of financial pressure are all real fears that link back to ensuring we can meet our most basic needs – food and shelter. Who doesn’t want to be able to pay their mortgage/rent or be able to support their family?
The fight-or-flight response to stress has been studied since the 1920s, but a third possible reaction to threats – the “freeze response” – has recently received more attention. In our coaching, we often observe an underlying fear that leads to lacking motivation to do anything. As a result someone may feel paralysed or like they are unable to move forward. Neuroscience explains why this happens and reassures us that it does serve a purpose – most mammals naturally freeze for a few milliseconds to assess a situation before making their next move.
The paralysis or fog often appears at peak times of uncertainty and moments of self-doubt. You may suddenly feel unsure about your purpose, career goals, values and inner motivations. Or you may feel uneasy about making decisions, such as where to go next and what to do. Clearing the fog may also be associated with accepting the concept that a change in career tends to bring about a shift in identity.
Here are some of our top tips to help you work through ‘the fog’:
- Accept your fear and see it as a friend
It is impossible to ignore your fear. Instead, accept it as a friend that serves a purpose. Ask yourself: ‘What is the worst that could happen if things go wrong?’, ‘What am I actually afraid of?’ and ‘What can I do to reduce the risk of a worst-case scenario?”
In many cases, even the worst-case scenario is not all that bad. You may lose a bit of face but in many cases people can return to what they were doing previously if they really need to.
- Take the time to self-assess
The first step in both our Career Change Program and Relaunch Your Career Program is ‘self-assessment’. This means taking the time to really understand what you want out of your career and your life. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What energises you? What environment motivates you? What are your values?
By truly understanding yourself, you begin to develop a set of criteria that allows you to test and measure your career ideas in the real world to see if they truly are the right fit for you.
- Follow the ‘fairy lights’
As I have said in a previous post ‘No lightbulb moments’, career change is rarely a lightbulb moment. Instead you take small baby steps and follow the ‘fairy lights’ to lead you to your ideal career. By taking baby steps you are able to experiment and test your ideas whilst minimising the risk of making the wrong decision. This reduces the fear and allows you to build confidence with your choices.
- Shout it from the rooftops
The more people who know what you are trying to achieve the more support you can muster. Tell your network what you are hoping to accomplish and don’t be afraid to ask for their help. Most people love the chance to help people.
Send an email out to your network asking for advice and to request introductions to people working in a particular field in order to organise an ‘informational interview’. You will be amazed at how generous people can be with their time.
- Recruit some cheerleaders
Career change is much easier with a support team. Recruit a team of people around you who will support you when you face a setback and who will motivate you when you lose your mojo. Enlist the support of others who have made a career change before you for additional support.
- Have no regrets
Seth Godin said “ The only thing worse than starting something and failing….is not starting something”. Sometimes that inner voice telling you that something is not quite right should win out over the large voice of reason. If you will always regret not making a change then what have you got to lose.
Follow the fairy lights and slowly you might just find your way out of the fog.
If you require further support with your career change, then contact Leah, Clare or Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can provide you with further support to find
the work that you were meant to do.