5 fears people have around changing career

People have lots of fears around changing career. “I want to change careers but I just don’t know what to do” is a common phrase I hear in my coaching conversations. When people say this to me they could mean a variety of things including: 

  • Not knowing how to research their options
  • Being unsure of how to transfer their skills
  • Feeling afraid of making the move
  • Not knowing what the could do or what they might be ‘good’ at
  • Not knowing where to start
  • Being scared they can’t change
  • Worrying what others might think

Holding ourselves back in fear

Clients I talk to who are ready to make a career change are also scared of making a mistake, scared of what their friends and family might think, scared of taking a salary cut or losing their status. They are unsure about what jobs ‘are out there’ and whether or not they could do them. They could be overwhelmed by the number of different job titles and the reality that they can’t try them all. We hold ourselves back through the fear of the unknown. Fearing change is a normal part of psychological behaviour. It is completely normal to have reservations and feel anxious about the uncertainty of leaving what you know. Although all of your fears are valid, it is unlikely that they cannot be overcome, and a plan made around them. The first step is to acknowledge each of your fears. Here are the five most common fears I come across during coaching conversations: 

Exploring the fears of changing career

Fear of success

This might sound a little odd but often one of our biggest fears is being successful. Why? Because being successful means that we have to change ourselves, to become different from who we are now. It means we will be more confident, capable, knowledgeable and more resilient. But they are all good things, right? So why would we be scared of those things? 

We might fear success is from an internal perspective – when we move on from one role, particularly if we are moving into a whole new career we might feel like we are losing our identity. So often we equate ourselves with the job we do – particularly when the first question people often ask is ‘what do you do?’. Remember that you are more than your job: you are a complex, amazing human who has broad interests, skills and strengths. 

When we redefine ourselves (and what we do) it can feel like an identity crisis. It can feel confronting and uncomfortable to notice how much control we actually have over our career when we start taking action. 

Fear of what others might think

We often ‘play small’ around people we love so we don’t offend them or make them feel bad in some way. We don’t want to seem arrogant or too happy. I agree, it sounds like madness when you put it like that but it’s true. How many times do we keep something we’re really proud of a secret so we don’t make anyone else feel bad? (Incidentally, a friendly reminder that we are not responsible for other people’s feelings.)

Any time you do something different in your life, other people are going to have something to say about it. It’s your life and you are allowed to choose your own path. You choose how much influence anyone else has over your decisions. A colleague might not have any, while someone who loves and supports you might have more. In the end, though, only you can decide what makes you happy.

Fear of wasting education and experience

I mentioned in my previous post that this was a fear that others had for me. I believe that all of the education and experience you have now, regardless of whether it’s relevant to what you want to do, is useful. If your career change doesn’t require you to use those skills or that knowledge, that’s ok, you can still move forward. Because if we hang on to education or experience that doesn’t serve our goals any more, then we stay stuck, only doing what we’re doing because we’re invested there. And in my opinion, that’s a waste of your potential. 

Fear of having left it too late

Others may feel they have already left it too late. Maybe thinking they don’t have it all worked out yet. If this is you then I have good news. It’s never too late to change your career. Many people didn’t figure it out until later in life. Now is the right time for you to continue your career in an area that you are passionate about. 

Fear of making a mistake

Like any decision, there are consequences if you make a mistake. However, if you’re stuck making a career choice because you’re worried about getting it wrong then rest assured, there are things you can do. I would recommend in these circumstances that you do as much research as possible to inform your choices. Talk to people, hire a coach, do a career quiz or answer the questions below. 

Before deciding on a career, consider the careers you aren’t choosing, and make peace with leaving them behind. If you are really worried, consider having a plan b. You can always apply for jobs in your current field in parallel with the career change. Think about what you need to feel comfortable and how you might achieve that feeling. 

Chances are, you will make a good decision. If you find that you hate your new career immediately, you have around 18 months to move back into your previous field. Honestly though, most people I coach never look back. The small chance that you’ll end up in a bad career situation isn’t a reason that you should stay in a situation that you already know is bad.

5 questions to help you manage your fears

  • What is the worst that could happen?
  • If your fears really came to pass, what would you do?
  • Would you survive?
  • What information would make this less risky?
  • If you broke the risk into small steps, what would be the first step? When could you take it? Do this for each step.

Taking responsibility for your career

When we take responsibility for our careers (or anything else for that matter) then if it doesn’t go to plan then it’s on us. When we take ownership for our actions then we become wholly accountable for our successes and our lessons and that feels scary too. I’d like to share something with you – you are more resilient than you think. In fact, I bet that you have already experienced success and failure in your life thus far and you have survived. We constantly underestimate ourselves, from our strengths to our resilience.

Fear is the biggest barrier between you and changing your career to something you love. Whilst our ability to feel fear can be a good thing and keep us safe, sometimes, it’s a false alarm. You are capable of growing into a more confident and empowered you by taking action.  You can figure out all the “what’s” and the “how’s” that may come up, but until you’re willing to take action on your plan and push through your fear, nothing can happen. Your happiness and fulfilment are worth fighting for and you are worthy of more. Now is the time! Book in to talk with me and let’s get you where you want to be


Leave a comment