How To Overcome the 5 Fears All Career-Changers Experience

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Taylor Tobin1.84k
April 20, 2024 at 6:22AM UTC

In the 21st century, we no longer need to feel beholden to old concepts of a “successful career." 

Past generations often thought of a career path as a one-and-done notion: you choose a job track as a young person, you work for 30-40 years to gain experience and build your profile and earnings, and then you accept a retirement package and bow out of the workforce altogether. However, today’s professional population sees nothing wrong with switching gears and trying different career possibilities. It’s completely acceptable to change jobs once or twice or a dozen times over the course of a decades-long career, and if you’re feeling stuck at work and want to try something totally new, you’re definitely not alone. 

The Muse recently ran a story about folks who choose to switch careers later in life, but their tips and advice remain relevant for anyone ready to make a change. We’ve compiled five of the most common hesitations faced by prospective job-switchers, along with advice on how to overcome them.

1. It seems counterintuitive to leave a career after you’ve invested significant time and energy in building your skills and reputation.

If you’ve been at your current job for a few years, you’ve probably gained plenty of useful skills and experiences. Perhaps you’ve been promoted a time or two, and maybe you’ve risen to a level of seniority that will be difficult to reattain if you move to a different company. However, it’s important to reframe your thinking on this matter. Does your current job make you feel fulfilled and excited to start work every day? Will the new opportunity motivate you toward greater growth? If the answers are “yes”, then it’s worth your while to critically examine your priorities and to make a decision about what’s truly important to you from a work perspective.

2. You don’t want to “start at the bottom” when you’re coming into a new job with years of experience (albeit in a different field).

It stands to reason that a professional with years of on-the-job experience wouldn’t want to start at an entry-level role (or, worse, as an intern or apprentice) when switching industries. While it may be necessary to accept a position that’s junior to what you’re currently doing, you can also help your own job-application process by considering your transferrable skills and highlighting them on your resume. Are you moving from sales to teaching? Think about the communication abilities you’ve developed as a salesperson and reframe them to apply to leading lessons and encouraging students. 

3. Dealing with a potential decrease in pay feels daunting.

The financial strain of a career shift proves the biggest discouragement for many who’d like to take this leap. However, a bit of advance planning can make a major difference in setting yourself up for financial security even while adjusting to a new work life. Rather than quitting your current job in a haphazard manner, take a long and honest look at your economic situation and, if necessary, consult with your spouse and family members to find out what you need to do to establish a safety net. When you do ultimately put in your notice, make sure that you’re very clear on your company’s pay-out policy for unused PTO and their continued health-insurance options. 

4. You’re worried about second-guessing your choice and regretting the decision to move into a different career path.

Sure, there’s always a chance that you’ll start this new career and quickly discover that it doesn’t meet your expectations. In this case, it can be beneficial to focus on the benefits you’ve gained from the switch (what you’ve learned, connections you’ve made, etc.). Also, make sure that you’re giving yourself enough time to truly acclimate; big changes can be jarring regardless of their particulars, and you don’t want to cast judgment on an entire career path just because the first few months proved difficult. Also, remember that you’re not “stuck”. If you decide that this new career isn’t for you, you can still return to your old industry (if not your old company and old job) or can attempt something else entirely.

5. In spite of your enthusiasm and abilities, you’re concerned that you won’t measure up to other candidates in this new industry.

“Imposter syndrome” runs rampant among career changers; as a newbie to the field, you may feel overwhelmed, which may lead you to question your own qualifications and fitness for your position. In this situation, try leaning into your uncertainties. Open yourself up to learning and observing your more seasoned colleagues, and pay attention to ways in which you can apply skills gained during your past career to your current work. ““It’s scary to be new at something. I really like to know my craft and be good at it and not make any mistakes. [But after observing others for a few months], it came full circle after a year, where now I’m very confident in meetings. I was a very reserved, shy person. And now I’m a totally different person, and I love that,” RN-turned-recruiter Michele Westfahl told The Muse. 

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