More than a quarter of Americans might make a career change in 2023, according to Globalization Partners’ 2022 Global Employee Survey. The survey revealed that while 33% of workers are likely to switch jobs within the same sector, 26% want to change careers entirely. In terms of why they want to make a switch, workers ranked better pay (34%), the opportunity to change their work schedule (34%) and professional opportunities that weren’t available when they were younger (34%) as the most common reasons.
But it can be scary to make a career change. In fact, according to the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory, changing to a different line of work ranks just below the death of a close friend. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the anxiety so it doesn’t prevent you from moving forward. Here are some of the most common career change fears and how to handle them.
Fear of failure
One of the most widespread career change fears is the fear of failure. The fear of failure often originates from a fear of experiencing shame or embarrassment. We worry so much about feeling humiliated and disappointing others that we give up on attempting to achieve our dream. The problem with fear of failure is that it can be paralyzing, causing us to do nothing.
Here is an exercise to deal with the fear of failure:
Consider all the worst-case scenarios and write them down on paper. Be specific. Then in a second column, write down what you can do to minimize the likelihood of the worst-case item happening. In a third column, decide what action you would take to get back on track if the worst case did happen. Then in a fourth column, rate how likely the worst-case scenario is on a scale of one (not likely) to 10 (highly likely). This simple exercise will help you put fear into perspective and realize that the worst-case outcome is unlikely or manageable.
Fear of what others may think
If you’re afraid of making a career change, fear of people’s opinions may hold you back. Perhaps your father encouraged you to pursue a “secure” job in finance, and now you feel you’d let him down by becoming a professional chef. In the end, you’re the one that’s going to live with the choices you make, not others. To deal with this concern, start by cultivating authenticity and developing a strong sense of self.
Ask yourself some important questions:
- What do I care about?
- What do I really want?
- What activities do I enjoy?
- What legacy do I want to leave behind?
- What would I pursue if I wasn’t so worried about being judged?
Then focus on your purpose and intentions. Why are you thinking about changing careers in the first place? Is it because you want to make a difference in the world? Do you want a better quality of life? If you can remember your “why,” you’ll be able to stay focused and less concerned about the opinions of others.
Fear of being too old
Changing your career path may seem scary, especially if you are over 40. But it is not uncommon or impossible. The good news is that the majority of older career changers are successful, based on a study from the American Institute for Economic Research. One way to face the fear is to think about all the advantages that come with someone who has a significant amount of work experience. For example, as you progress in your career, you acquire valuable contacts and diverse hard and soft skills. You also may be more financially stable, which provides additional flexibility when planning a career change.
Fear of wasting experience
A typical career change fear is having to start from the bottom. To deal with this, recognize that you have more transferrable skills than you realize. Also, if you have a strong network, it will be easier to make the right introductions to make a smooth transition. Finally, don’t overlook your soft skills like leadership, communication and problem-solving, which are more in demand than ever. Everything you’ve done up until now has prepared you for what’s coming next.
Fear of uncertainty
There are no guarantees in life. When you make a career change, there is always some risk involved. But you can mitigate that risk in several ways if you:
- Embrace uncertainty and look at it as a learning experience
- Take small steps instead of giant leaps
- Develop new skills outside your comfort zone
- Avoid dwelling on things you can’t control
- Seek support from a small group of people you trust
Uncertainty is all around us. But by focusing on developing a resilient mindset, you’ll be more likely to face the unknown with confidence.
The most important thing to remember is that it’s okay to be afraid. Just don’t let it interfere with your vision. Mastering fear involves learning how to recognize and change the conversation in your mind. Once you do that, there are no limits to what you can achieve.