Knock out your career change fears

by Shannon Houde

There are a million reasons NOT to look for a new job, even if you are unhappy in your current role or want a career change. It is a lot of work! You have to figure out how your skills will translate, what the market is like now and how you will find the time for a job search while already in a demanding role.

However with the right approach, making a career change can be as exhilarating as it is scary. Fear of change, failure and the unknown are usually what hold us back from diving into a change. Rather than resisting your fears, use them to their best advantage by recognizing them and putting them to work.


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I always ask my career-coaching clients to think three years down the line in their job or career and ask themselves, “Did I have an impact in those three years? Did I make a difference? Did I challenge myself to grow? Did I enable others to live into their values?”

Figure out what those three years need to look like for you to meet your personal and professional goals. It’s time to dream. Besides, you won’t know what’s out there unless you look.

How can fear help you?

For our ancestors on the African savannas, fear was something they experienced in short intense bursts to help them make an immediate decision to stop and fight, or run. Once the situation that gave rise to the fear was over, the body reverted to its non-stress state. Today, however, we are bombarded with choices and have to think on our feet and, what’s more, we apply fear to future situations that haven’t even arisen yet. Moving beyond fear requires an acknowledgement that fear is an irrational reaction in the majority of contexts, and that rather than being afraid, it’s far more productive to examine our fear reactions in order to move beyond them responsibly.

Why is making a career change so daunting?

This is always a very personal thing, but some of the most common restraints I hear from clients are that:

• The market is tight with hiring managers seeing 100 to 300 applications per role.

• The “easy” route of finding a role online is 60 percent less likely to convert to a job than networking, which for many is not a comfortable or favorite sport.

• You have to create and communicate your personal brand to stand out from the crowd and have the confidence in putting yourself out there.

• Sustainability is an evolving and diverse agenda within companies and sectors, so navigating the jobs market around it is not clear or straightforward.

What can you do to overcome your fears?

In my experience working with career changers and those seeking innovative impact roles, the most common personal fears are:

• Success or failure

• Loss of status or security

• Not being good enough or having the self-confidence to self-promote

• The “unknown,” and then regretting the decision later

• Starting over with new colleagues, new culture

Do any of these ring true for you? Make a commitment to unpacking, understanding and ultimately overcoming your own fears by first clarifying them, naming them, writing them down and sticking them on a dartboard or mirror. Then look hard at them in the cold light of day, and ask why are they holding you back.

Map your fears

At the same time though, remember that fear is often intuition in disguise. By extracting the useful warning your intuition has identified, you can make fear work for you. From the dartboard you’ve created, look at your fears and ask yourself the following questions:

• Is this fear valid?

• Is it something I can control? Is it about me and my abilities, or the external environment?

• What is the worst-case scenario that could arise from this fear?

• What factors would make this outcome more likely?

• How can I minimize each of those factors?

• What is the best-case scenario that could arise from this fear?

• What factors would make this outcome more likely?

• How can I maximize each of those factors?

By shining a spotlight on your fears, you make your fear manageable and less, well, scary.

Best of luck making the change you are craving by diving in headfirst to combat your fears. Need help navigating your career transition? Contact me to learn how you could benefit from my tried-and-tested tools and hands-on facilitation.

This article originally appeared on

Image credit 378322 via Pixabay


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