Ten common fears of career changes

Embarking on a new career path can be both exciting and extremely scary. While the idea of pursuing a different professional direction often brings hope for growth and fulfillment, it is frequently overshadowed by a multitude of misconceptions. Many individuals hesitate to make the leap due to these myths, and uncertainties that cloud their judgment.

Also, changing career can be your decision, but it can also come unexpectedly, triggered by external factors. A layoff. Health issues. Move. One life change often leads to others, like dominoes. Being prepared and knowing what to expect always helps dealing with these challenges.

In this post, I’ve collected some of the most common misconceptions about changing careers, from my own life as well as others’ who I’ve been coaching and supporting on this journey. Whether you’re contemplating about it out of necessity or out of a desire, understanding these myths can help you approach your career change with confidence and realistic expectations.

For each myth, I’ve also listed a few questions that could potentially help you with making the decision.

It’s Too Late

Many people believe that it’s too late to switch careers after a certain age. “I am too old for career changes”, and “I am over 50/40/30…” 

However, career changes can happen at any stage of life and can lead to great success and satisfaction. Don’t forget, it’s better to start today than waiting for another five, ten, or even more years…

Questions to consider:

  • What experiences do you bring to the table?
  • What knowledge and experiences these past years in your current job(and previous ones) have given you? What are the biggest lessons and values you’ve learned?
  • What do these past years in your current job (and previous ones) enable you today?
  • Who can you trust with your plans? Who can you discuss with? Who can give you objective and realistic feedback, ideas, and support?

Career changes are risky and unstable

Many think that financial instability is inevitable when changing careers. While sometimes it’s true indeed, not all career changes involve a pay cut or financial hardship. With proper planning and transitioning, a career change can be financially rewarding.

Questions to consider:

  • What is your current financial situation, including savings, expenses, and debts? Are you aware of your financial needs during a transition period?
  • How does this career change align with your long-term financial goals, such as retirement plans, investments, or major life purchases?
  • Do you have a safety net in place to handle unexpected expenses or periods of low income?
  • Who can you discuss your plans with? Who can give you advice?

You Need to Start from Scratch

People often think they have to begin all over again when they change careers. In reality, many skills and experiences are transferable and can be beneficial in a new field. Every career path teaches us and gives valuable experiences. Being a parent does the same… So does traveling the world, volunteering in your local community, organizing a meetup or even birthday parties…

Questions to consider:

  • What skills have you developed in your current or past roles that could be applicable to your desired new career?
  • What are the soft skills (e.g., communication, problem-solving, leadership) you have gained through personal experiences, such as parenting or volunteering, that are valuable in the workplace?
  • How can your past experiences, both professional and personal, provide unique insights or advantages in your new career field?
  • How can you frame your past experiences to align with the requirements of your new career path?
  • Who in your network can provide insights to help you leverage your transferable skills in the new field?

It’s a Sign of Failure

Changing careers is often viewed as giving up or failing. Many fear that they would be looked down or even blaming because of the change. Sometimes it takes years until someone stands up for him/herself. Or even if they struggle in their current job a lot, some people will never take those first steps…

Of course, your situation is unique and you’re the only one who knows all the details of your decision (or not making a decision). However, a career change can be a sign of personal growth, adaptability, and the courage to pursue a more fulfilling path. Despite the biggest fears, in most cases is much more rewarding, and looking back, most people don’t even understand why they hadn’t changed earlier. “What if…” can be a scary thought, but believe me “Why did not I…” can be even more painful looking back.

Questions to consider:

  • What are your main reasons for wanting to change careers? How do these reasons reflect your personal values and goals?
  • What specific fears or concerns do you have about making a career change?
  • How might you feel five or ten years from now if you decide to change careers and pursue your passion? Conversely, how might you feel if you choose to stay in your current job despite your struggles?
  • Who are the people in your life who support your decision to change careers? How can you lean on them for encouragement and advice?

It’s Impossible Without Connections

While networking can help, it’s not the only way to break into a new field. Self-initiative, research, and using social media, creating content, showing the world what you do can open unexpected doors.

Questions to consider:

  • How can you create content (e.g., blogs, videos, articles, presentations) that demonstrates your knowledge, passion, and skills in your new field?
  • What platforms (e.g., LinkedIn, personal website, social media) can you use to share your content and reach a broader audience?
  • Can you participate in online forums, groups, or discussions related to your desired field to increase your visibility and credibility?
  • How can you enhance your online presence to reflect your expertise and interests in your new career path? What changes might you need to make to your profiles on LinkedIn, or other professional networks?
  • Can you identify volunteer opportunities, freelance projects, or part-time roles that allow you to gain experience and build your reputation in your new field?

You Can’t Change to Something Completely Different

Many believe they can’t switch to a vastly different industry or role. I have a masters in computer science, used to work as a developer, software architect, and consultant – and now here I am, running a life coaching practice. One of my coaching clients is just about open their first restaurant – after having a successful career in IT. I work with someone who is a knowledge management advisor with a surgeon background. An IT manager with masters in psychology…

The list goes on. With dedication and the right approach, even broad changes are possible.

Questions to consider:

  • Which skills from your current or previous roles can be transferred to the new field? How can these skills be presented as valuable assets?
  • What steps can you take to gain knowledge or experience in the new field? Think about any courses, certifications, or mentorship opportunities.
  • How can you test your interest and fit in the new field without making an immediate full-time commitment (e.g. volunteer opportunities, freelance or part-time jobs, etc.)?
  • What beliefs or assumptions are holding you back from making a drastic career change?
  • Who in your network can offer support, advice, or connections related to your new career path? How can you reach out to them for guidance?

You Must Have a Clear Plan From the Start

While having a plan is beneficial, you can (and should) always have room for uncertainty and surprising turns. Sometimes the best is to consider a career change as a new experiment and exploration to find the right fit.

Questions to consider:

  • What are some past experiences where unexpected turns led to positive outcomes? How can you draw upon those experiences now?
  • Can you create a flexible plan that allows for adjustments along the way? What elements of your plan are non-negotiable, and which ones can be adapted?
  • Can you approach this career change with a mindset of curiosity and experimentation? What small steps can you take to explore new possibilities without committing fully right away?
  • How can you stay open to unexpected opportunities or surprising turns? What elements of structure and routine can you maintain to provide stability, while still allowing for flexibility and spontaneity?
  • Who can help you balance your long-term career goals with short-term experiments and explorations?

It’s too much work to switch

It’s true that changing careers can be challenging, it might be hard work. However, the rewards can often outweigh the effort required, and all the effort is worthwhile when you find greater purpose and satisfaction.

Questions to consider:

  • What does “too much work” mean for you in the context of making a career change? Are there aspects of the transition that you find particularly daunting? How can you seek help or support to mitigate these challenges?
  • What aspects of your desired new career inspire and excite you? How can focusing on these elements motivate you to overcome the challenges?
  • How can you balance the effort required for a career change with self-care to avoid burnout? What strategies can help you maintain your well-being during this transition?
  • Who in your personal or professional network can provide support, encouragement, or assistance during your career change?

You’ll disappoint your family/friends

I can hear you with this one as well, you have no idea how much! “What will they think?” and “They’ll turn away from me” are real and common fears. And it’s not a secret: there is a good chance you will really lose some people on this journey. Old colleagues, friends, sometimes even family members who don’t understand or cannot accept your decision. It can be super painful, yes.

However, there will always be supportive ones who will understand if the change aligns with your values and goals. They will be there with you, even more: they will celebrate your success! Focus on them, and keep living by your own purpose and values.

Questions to consider:

  • What specific concerns do you have about disappointing your family and friends with your career change? How do these concerns impact your decision-making process?
  • Have you discussed your career change with your family and friends? What feedback or reactions have you received, and how have they affected you?
  • How important is it for you to pursue a career that brings you fulfillment and satisfaction, regardless of others’ opinions?
  • How do you envision your life and sense of fulfillment changing if you stay in a career that does not align with your values to avoid disappointing others?
  • Who in your life understands and supports your decision to change careers? How can you lean on these relationships for encouragement and strength?

You’ll regret it

I would lie there is any transformational change with at least some degree of fear. Being excited and scared at the same time is part of the process. One of the biggest fear and worry is “What if I’ll regret it?”

Of course, I cannot guarantee that you will be successful on your new career path. Nobody can. But if you are considering to change, your job and work happiness is already questionable. Something makes you think about change.

Let me tell you something: in my experience, most people report feeling liberated and reinvigorated after making a thoughtful career transition. Even if things don’t go according to the “plans”, you always gain new knowledge and new experiences. Even if these experiences are not the ones you had imagined for yourself, these can enable things in your life that you could have never hoped for. With some flexibility, open-mindedness, and open-heartedness, you’ll be able to navigate to more happiness and satisfaction, to a life that aligns better with your values and purpose. And this is already a huge step forward, isn’t it?

Questions to consider:

  • How do you define success for yourself in this new career path beyond traditional metrics like salary or job title?
  • What specific fears do you have about regretting your career change?
  • Are there past experiences where you successfully navigated uncertainty or change? How can these experiences inform your current situation? What indicators can you use to measure your satisfaction and fulfillment?
  • Who among your family, friends, or peers can offer emotional support and encouragement as you navigate this change? Would working with a professional coach be beneficial in mapping out this transition and addressing any fears or uncertainties?

+1 Your current job is safe

Despite the turbulent world we live in, you may still consider your job safe. Whether you are employed or running your own business, it’s comfortable to think you will never consider a career change. Good for you, congratulations! In this case, my only ask to you is that please turn with understanding and compassion to others who decide to (or must) change their job or career. Support them, and cheer on their success.

One day, expected or not, you might find you in a similar situation…

The world is constantly evolving, and being open to change can open doors to exciting opportunities for personal and professional growth. Ultimately, by extending compassion and encouragement, we not only uplift others but also cultivate a more inclusive and supportive professional landscape. Together, we can create an environment where everyone feels empowered to live by their purpose and embrace new challenges with confidence.

I am a transformational life coach, supporting high achieving professionals on the journey to find their true calling, and pursue their dreams. Ever wonder who you would be if you got past the fear? Curious what you could be capable of if you shed the blocks holding you back? I am here to help you to discover.

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