How to Minimize Fear When Making a Major Career Shift

career shift

The decision to make a major career change can trigger all kinds of nasty anxiety and ruthless paranoia. What if I fail? What if it’s nothing like what I’m expecting? What if I regret leaving my current gig? But, as we all know, you can’t live a fulfilling life if you waste your time and energy focusing on the “what ifs”. The more effective course of action is to focus on taking productive steps to minimize the fear that inevitably comes with any major career shift.

1. Self-Analyze

Take steps to understand your motivation for making this career shift. What about this new career appeals to you? What makes it feel like a smart move? How does this new career align with your values and long-term life goals? Spend some time thinking about the overall vision you have for your life and see where this new career falls into it. When you know that this career move is in line with your life as a whole, you’ll feel more secure in your decision.

2. Research

Reach out to people who are already in the career you’re looking to go into. Invite them to lunch and ask for an honest, “insider’s” perspective. Try to get the whole scoop: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Don’t sugar-coat the reality of the career. You need to go into it with eyes wide open. You’ll also want to ask about the skills and resources you’ll need to do the job. You may need to start preparing for the transition months or years ahead of time.

3. Be Realistic

When switching career paths, you may find yourself down at the bottom of the corporate ladder once again. The seniority and experience you’ve accumulated thus far may be completely ignored. You also will likely end up taking a pay cut along the way. You probably won’t just walk into the perfect position you’ve been dreaming of. Be realistic about the amount of time you’ll need to devote to this venture to see it through to your ultimate goal.

Transitioning into a new career will always be somewhat of a leap of faith. You’ll never know how it’s going to work out until you’re in it and, yes, it could be disastrous. However, by taking the steps outlined above, you can certainly reduce the risk of a negative outcome and you will definitely feel more confident about your decision. Ultimately, if you really want to make a big career change, choose a reasonable date and commit to doing it by then. Once the date is picked, your motivation will skyrocket and things will start to fall neatly into place.

Photo by gilesclement

13 thoughts on “How to Minimize Fear When Making a Major Career Shift”

  1. Christine, in the modern recession based world plenty seek a new career path so this post is topical to say the least. I like the realistic approach because it helps people realise their position and task ahead. You have to start again and not from the top either but forewarned is forearmed. Moving careers is cetainly a leap of faith but I think there are less careers now merely jobs even just skills and talents that are interchangeable. In truth we are the job that we change so the greatest fear is knowing that we can achieve what we want with who we are. Sensible advice, thank you.

  2. A profound comment, John! Thank you. You bring up many interesting ideas including that there are fewer “careers” and more “jobs” and that “we are the job that we change…”

    I think you are your career. Your job is a piece of that, but your career is a long-term body of work you’re creating. It’s something to build on and be proud of and, when a change is needed, it’s simply expanding your career in a new direction.

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Great post Chrissy! Also, we think that if we make a career change it absolutely has to be “right” – no mistakes allowed. But reality is that we can try something new and if it doesn’t work we can move on again. Once we step into change everything in our lives tend to shift – I quit the business world to be a life coach and, while I am still coaching, I’ve also fallen in love with writing. My world looks very different now than I thought it would!


  4. I like the acronym for f.e.a.r:

    F alse
    E vidence
    A ppearing
    R eal

    Career change is a big step. I like your points in step1. Self analyze. It’s good to go into it with the mindset of what do I want to learn? What do I want to experience? How will this help me with my long-term plans. And am I excited to have the chance to work there?

  5. that’s a very important topic Chrissy, lots of people remain stuck in jobs that they hate just because they are afraid to change anything, thank you for the post :)

  6. Great post Chrissy. :-) While it is good to be realistic, equally important is to find the courage to make the move. Some people have all the factors you pointed out here, but without an ounce of confidence, there is no way you can pull off a career change successfully…that and a plan, can benefit yourself immensely.

    Karen, The Resume Chick (on Google or Twitter for questions, comments of violent reactions)

  7. Having had a number of career moves in my life, from nursing to cafe owner to trainer and mentor, there is a leap of faith that you take before leaving one career for another.

    Each previous career has helped me with the new one. I wouldn’t swap what I have done for anything and am so glad I have continued learning and growing.

    Great post

  8. hi, I used to work in advertising. I actually worked in advertising for 7 years until I realized it’s not what I want anymore. I recently had a shift of carrer from being in advertising to now a freelance make-up artist. It’s so much fun for me. I guess I would say it’s really what I want because that’s my passion and that’s what I love to do. It is hard at first ofcourse but you won’t know it until you’ll try.

  9. This is wonderful! It helped me overcome my fear of trying new things not just a career but all new things. New things in life can be scary and this is a very good way to look at something new and accept it and if it’s not right you can move on. Thank you!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *