If thinking about changing careers makes you feel paralyzed and overwhelmed with self-doubt, you’re not alone. Making a transition is undeniably scary, disruptive, and difficult.
Research on stress shows that the brain biologically perceives changing jobs as one of a category of life changes that pose a threat to its survival. In fact, the Holmes Rahe Stress Scale found that making a career change is one of the 20 most stressful things that happens in your life, just behind the death of a close friend.
Why is making a career change so fear-inducing, so intimidating?
Well, for starters it often requires a ton of effort. This is industry-dependent to some extent, and it also depends on the change itself, but it’s typically not a walk in the park.
For example, are you trying to become a product manager after having worked as a journalist? Or are you excited about carving out a career in marketing though your background is in education?
Even if you don’t need to go back to school, a job transition and search take time and energy—it’s like having a second full-time job. Using smart strategies like strategic networking, mastering your professional pitch, and investing in a coach can help.
But there’s fear beyond the time and financial commitment. It’s scary to re-define your identity in the professional world, where your job title can impact who you define as your peer group, your promotion potential, your career trajectory, or your reputation.
Thus, we often engineer excuses so that in the end we stay put—even if we’re, frankly, miserable. Once you recognize the fear response as trying to protect you from failing, you can make a decision to just go for it.
You can say to heck with self-doubt thoughts, like “What if I send 100 resumes out and don’t get a single interview?” “What if I suck at this?” or “Yeah right, I’m not just going to contact a hiring manager out of nowhere.”
The only way to grow is to overcome the fear of changing paths. You can acknowledge the critical yet protective internal voice in your head, but decide that you’re not going to let it control your actions.