Do you have a career change percolating? Want to make it as fluid and successful (and minimally painful and challenging) as possible? Then today’s post is for you!
For thirteen plus years in my Passion Catalyst work, I have had front row seat on people’s career change efforts. Along the way,I have had a bazillion conversations with aspiring career changers, both my clients and others.
In the process, I have gotten a good picture of how people get in the way of a successful career change. I would like to share a few of the big ones here.
Taking a blind leap
This is probably the biggest mistake I see people in danger of making. They feel frustrated and stuck, and they want to hightail it out of Dodge into something better ASAP. And so they jump ship to something that seems attractive, only to discover too late that they have jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.
Before you commit to any career change, take the time to get a deep understanding of what makes you tick. Figure out what energizes you, and where you shine. A good place to start is identifying your energizers.
Immediate gratification mindset
Here’s the cold hard truth. A successful career change almost never happens with the flip of a switch. There’s no giving your notice on Friday and starting a grand and glorious new career on Monday.
Wanting the immediate gratification of a change to something new is understandable, but it gets in the way when it becomes a guiding desire.
It can lead to mistakenly assessing an opportunity as not possible (what might be impossible immediately is often possible over the course of a couple years). And it can contribute to a feeling that you’re failing when you’re actually making progress (if your definition of success is a dramatic change in the short-term, even good but slow progress towards change in the long-term can feel like failure).
Believing your no
When my clients are at the stage of assessing the feasibility of the potential careers they have identified, I always advise them to question it any time the answer is no.
Sometimes no really is a valid answer, but other times it’s more of a knee-jerk no than a well-supported assessment. An example of this is the scenario I mentioned earlier of someone mistakenly seeing something as impossible when taking a longer-term view would open the door to possibility.
When you look at a potential career and ask, “Is this feasible,” follow any no up by asking, “Is that really true? What assumptions am I making? Are they valid? How could I make it feasible?”
Believing your yes
The flipside of believing your no is flying down the path with an unquestioned belief in your yes. When you decide that an a new career option, spend some time building a case for why it’s a good idea. Will it really work for you? Is there really the potential there you think you see?
Don’t take a pessimistic approach to this. It’s more one of positive curiosity. Think of it as testing the solidness of a rope bridge across a river before you choose to go runnning across it.
Not expecting obstacles
Another really common mistake I see people making is somehow not expecting obstacles to pop up. This can lead them to mistaking a roadblock for the end of the road. “Crap! I guess thisn’t isn’t really doable after all.”
Reframe what obstacles mean. Rather than something that proves that what you’re trying to do isn’t possible, or that you don’t have what it takes, just look at them as a normal part of the landscape you’ll inevitably need to navigate.
It’s also an all-too-common mistake for people to fill their path with phantom obstacles. Awareness of the possibility of obstacles can be valuable, but continually assigning a solid sense of reality to obstacles you haven’t even encountered yet is a recipe for trouble.
As you move towards a new career, make it a habit to check in with yourself to see if any limiting imagined reality is slowing you down.
Not creating an inner foundation
OK, you know by now I’m going to weave this one in any chance I get. When people don’t have a solid inner foundation – when they don’t have a grounding practice to slow down the hamster wheel in their minds – it’s easier for doubt, worry, and fear to take over.
Developing some kind of grounding practice, whether it is meditation, Qi Gong, breathing practices, mindfulness, or something else, gives that poor overworked hamster a break and helps you come from a greater sense of peace.
No objective forum for assessment
Somewhere along the line in their career change, people often feel like they’re not making any progress (some of this is that immediate gratification beastie rearing its head again). And when they do, it’s too easy for them to throw up their hands and say, “This isn’t working.”
Having a way to objectively check in can help immensely. It might be as simple as taking a journal and asking questions like, “What steps have I taken? What progress have I made? How am I closer to a successful change than I was? What difficulties am I running into? What can I do about them?”
Not having a plan
Diving in and winging it is a great way to fall flat on your face. When you decide to make a career change, spend some time creating a plan for how you’re going to make that happen. What are the steps? What do you need to learn? What relationships do you need to develop? What’s standing in your way? How will you navigate past that?”
The more you think it through in advance, the fewer surprise you’ll encounter and the better prepared you will be.
Over-attachment to a plan
Some people run into the opposite problem from the free-wheeling no-plan-for-me types. They get so rigidly attached to their plan (and their goals) that it gets in the way of being able to nimbly recognize and capitalize on opportunities and explore alternative routes past obstacles.
Make it a habit to check in with your goals and plans and ask, “What needs to change here?”
Mistaking molehills for mountains
I mentioned this one under “not expecting obstacles,” but it merits its own focus. When you run into the inevitable pothole in the road, resist the urge to create a story that the road is washed out. Let the molehills stay molehills.
When you find yourself responding negatively to a difficulty, ask yourself, “Is this difficulty really as big as I think it is? Is my response proportionate to the actual size of the problem?”
So there you have it. Ten mistakes you can avoid in your career change. Which ones are you in danger of making?
Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM
Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide