What the experts say about making a career change

Perhaps you’ve seen the headlines and noticed it among your friends and colleagues – people are quitting their jobs.

While the early pandemic saw devastating losses and contracts cut short, now we’re witnessing what’s been dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’. It’s a trend with many layers, of course, from workers being fed up with unfair conditions and low pay, to folks seeking a healthier work-life balance, or simply realising life really is short and it’s time for something new.

And there’s a lot to celebrate, grabbing the reins and shifting route can be exciting, inspiring, empowering… But it can also be stressful and overwhelming.

Read: Over-55s are languishing without work, sparking calls for change

If you’ve been thinking about switching things up – whether retraining, setting up as freelance, launching a business or side-stepping into a new field – but the whole thing leaves you lost in a fog of uncertainty and indecision, you are not alone. And good news, those feelings are very normal.

This is big stuff
If it feels big and scary, that’s because it is big and scary. “When thinking about a career change, there are very real practical considerations to take into account, alongside navigating the emotions involved in change,” says coach Laura Bentley. “This can lead to feelings of fear, doubt and uncertainty, all of which can make a career change a stressful prospect – and if you are feeling this way, it helps to first acknowledge those feelings.”

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A post shared by Laura | Career Confidence (@thatbalancedlifecoach)

It’s easy to view feelings such as fear and uncertainty as ‘negatives’ – signs of weakness that we must try and fight or deny. Truth is, they’re just part of being human.

Writer, podcast host and coach Jenny Stallard agrees, acknowledging these “unavoidable things” can be helpful.

“If you spend your energy trying to fight those things, it can be a waste of time. It’s almost better to say, ‘Well, these things are going to happen’. You are going to worry about money, it is going to feel scary, you are going to worry that it’s all going to fail,” says Ms Stallard. “We can’t just banish these thoughts. It’s so easy to think you need to spend all your time trying to get over imposter syndrome – but no, it’s always going to exist!”

Read: New research highlights age discrimination in the workforce

Honour every step of the process
When it comes to the self-help and motivation spheres, we’re thankfully moving into a more evolved space, which allows room for the full range and nuance of being human. It’s not always about ‘just doing it’, being an endless beacon of ‘positivity’ and taking brave, bold leaps.

Of course, there is always an element of risk and perhaps no-one ever feels ‘totally ready’ – this isn’t about amplifying the hurdles and roadblocks. Sometimes, we do need to nudge ourselves over the line and embrace the possibility. But whilst it might seem as though other people are making it ‘look easy’ and it’s all about the ‘leap’, there’s often a lot we don’t share and see about the process involved. “Making the leap is one of the steps, and possibly the biggest and most exciting one. But you’re then starting to walk a different path – you’re not just leaping and landing and that’s that. You’re leaping to another step,” says Ms Stallard.

The steps that come before the ‘leap’ are important too, and doing things quickly may not be wise for everyone, especially if you have big financial considerations and aren’t in a position – or don’t want to – compromise your stability. Instead of beating yourself up for these things, consider how they may actually be useful to you.

“[These feelings] are there to protect you from the unknown waters ahead,” says Ms Bentley. “This big decision doesn’t have to be a giant, scary leap and you absolutely can go at your own pace.” She suggests taking “one small step away from the fear and towards the change”. And if you need to, it’s okay to take “some time to switch off from the topic completely for a while”.

Timing is everything
In other words, it’s easy to think overcoming doubts is all a question of mindset (and yep, there are plenty of quotes and ‘gurus’ determined to convince us this is the case). But that often undermines the validity of acknowledging we’re really not all in the same boat when it comes to the starting points we’re working with, and doing the groundwork and taking your own sweet time if you need to.

Read: Attitudes towards older Australians at work a ‘national crisis’

“You don’t have to resign just because everyone else seems to be, and it might be that it’s just not time yet,” says Ms Stallard. And if you aren’t quite ‘there’ or you’re unsure, “you don’t have to announce it to the world and tell every friend and family member”, adds Ms Stallard. “You can keep it quiet for a bit if you’re in two minds.” A bit of accountability and talking to other people who’ve done similar things can be very helpful – but sometimes, being asked for endless updates just brings added pressure (and unsolicited advice you don’t actually need).

And remember, as with all things in life, chances are you won’t be riding a single track towards one clear end goal. One day you might be buzzing with productivity and excitement. The next you might be doubting everything and wondering where your confidence disappeared to. One doesn’t cancel the other out, they’re all just part of the frame – and will be once you’ve taken the leap, too.

“You can stand still for a bit,” says Ms Stallard. “It doesn’t have to be constantly moving forwards. You can sit for a bit, coast a little bit, like you would in any job, potentially. You might think, ‘Oh, I need to learn more about this’ or try some training here. There are lots of different ways to make steps that aren’t just moving forwards.”

Do you want to change your career? What’s stopping you? Why not share your ideal career in the comments section below?

– With PA

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