Finding the Courage to Change Career
By Emily Taylor, December 2014
When the fear of staying in my job finally outweighed the fear of leaving, I knew I had the courage to leap……
Dreaming about leaving your job and doing something different is a thing many people do. But actually making the decision to leave a secure(ish), good(ish) and well paid(ish) job in order to jump into the unknown is a tricky one.
Feeling brave enough to take a risk often decreases as our life responsibilities increase, especially if it may jeopardise the things we hold dear like supporting a family, paying for our home or maintaining the lifestyle we enjoy. These are valid and genuine reasons to sit still and accept the career we are in.
But what if you were to carry on describing your career as “actually, it’s not that great”, or worse, “it’s totally soul destroying” for the next 10, 20 or 30 years?
What would your future-self advise you to do?
Finding the trigger point to help you make the decision…..
For me, wanting to change career felt self-indulgent; so many people were worse off in life than me, I was just unhappy because I didn’t enjoy my job.
I longed to be doing something different, in a way that felt ‘more me’, but I felt trapped by the benefits of my job. Trying to ignore the sense that I was stuck and powerless to do anything different ultimately led to my engagement slipping, my energy plummeting and a diminishing self-confidence.
My decision trigger point was to sob through my entire mid-year review with my boss – never a great situation, but strangely it helped me resolve to find a new way. My courage to leap was starting to brew.
What was I really scared of? That leaving would give me less security and make me unhappy? Well guess what, staying was making me unhappy, so what did I have to lose?
7 Valuable lessons I learnt that helped me find the courage to change career:
1. Value your happiness. It is massively ok to want to be happy and it is hugely ok to try to achieve it. Recognise that your happiness level can have an impact on your relationship with others (and vice versa), from your nearest and dearest to your colleagues or strangers you happen to interact with. Give yourself permission to respect, seek and help create happiness.
2. Understand what you really need in your life and career to feel happy and fulfilled. Having an insight into your values and what gives your life meaning can often help unlock the right career choices for you.
3. Have something to aim for. Decide on your new direction or goal; you may not know all the detail yet but a) have the outcome or vision in mind, and b) know your first few steps to achieving it
4. Don’t ignore the practical/financial realities, but neither be constrained by them. Years ago I cut a quote out of a magazine saying “Live your dreams, don’t dream your life”. I’ve still got it framed, but my fear of potentially not having financial security was blocking me from being true to my dream. Once you have defined your ‘dream’ (see point 3), next sit down and work out the minimum you need to earn to cover your essential outgoings. Doing this can help generate possible options (e.g. working part-time while you retrain) and realistic timeframes.
5. Be in charge of your change. Deciding to change is empowering, exciting even, and whilst it can still feel scary, it is very different to having a change imposed on you by someone or something else. As a former IBM executive (L.W. Lynett) once said, “The most effective way to cope with change is to help create it”. Discuss your change ideas with supportive family and friends. Enlisting their backing can help you to take those first proactive steps…..and help you to keep walking.
6. Listen to your brave inner voice not the nagging self-doubting one telling you can’t do it. As the saying goes, if you believe you can then you will. Develop a personal self-belief mantra and repeat it to yourself, especially when your self-doubting voice tells you to sit still. Mine was “Trust yourself, it doesn’t have to be perfect, get going and you’ll work it out”. Say it out loud (no, this doesn’t mean you’re losing the plot!) and weave it into conversations you have with others about your plans.
7. Embrace the freedom and exhilaration you get from deciding to take a new career direction. Once I had decided to leave my job and start my own business, I got a real kick out of feeling brave. My self- belief was back and I loved the reaction I got when I told friends and colleagues; suddenly my choice of career change seemed so obviously right to both them and me.
If you are unhappy in your working life or if any of the above strikes a chord with you, please get in touch. I’d love to help you work out the changes you looking for and support you to find your courage.