You’ve been doing what you do for a long time and you are great at it. You’ve experienced success and things are going well. However, you’ve had this feeling for a while that something is off. Maybe you feel like what you are doing isn’t right anymore, like you’ve outgrown it. Is it time for a career change?
You just keep wondering if there’s something more meaningful and fulfilling that you could be doing. Something that could give you a better work-life balance or make you more money.
Then, you start having doubts and set those ideas for a career change aside. After all, you’ve come so far. What you have going on is good. If it’s not broken, why fix it?
But you can only ignore that gut feeling for so long. And a few days later, that feeling returns.
And you start to wonder if you are really ready for a career change, then why you haven’t taken any action yet?
If you are anything like my clients (or me before I switched careers in my 30s and became a coach) you may be wondering why someone as driven as you feels paralyzed and stuck.
In this post, I’ll share what I’ve learned about changing careers as a business coach who has worked with dozens of people who were once in your shoes.
You’ll learn exactly why you haven’t taken any action YET. You’ll learn what the common experiences, fears and limiting beliefs other people go through. And by seeing that your challenges are extremely common, you’ll feel less stuck and more motivated to find the right solutions for you.
As a bonus, I’ll share some thought-provoking questions to help you move one step closer to clarity on what you’d like out of your career and what your next steps should be.
After reading this post, you’ll be able to either put your career change ideas to rest or start taking steps in the right direction.
Career Change Paralysis Reason #1
You’re great at what you’re currently doing.
Most people who hire me to help them with a career change are absolutely fantastic at what they’ve been doing for a living. Their company and co-workers appreciate them and acknowledge them as the experts in their role. Others are owners of 7-figure businesses. Their title is part of their personality and who the world knows them to be.
Therefore, a career change would be really shocking to anyone around them. You may have a hard time even imagining yourself having to explain to everyone you know that you are no longer a product manager but a business consultant for environmental non-profits.
It’s very challenging and counterintuitive to leave something behind that’s already great.
When people know you as a great accountant, lawyer, IT, marketing director or etc., it’s hard to justify a huge life-change.
The tension comes from wondering if there is something more meaningful or that would bring you more fulfilment?
One of the solutions is to start detaching who you are from what you do. Your profession or your title is a big part of your journey and life experience but it doesn’t define you. You may have to spend some time grieving this part of your life and celebrating all the great things that have come from it.
When I was deciding to step away from my role as a Fitness Manager, I had a hard time thinking about leaving something I’ve worked so hard for. I busted my butt for years to be in that role. Also, I was used to being someone who had a team of people who relied on me for help and support. I really enjoyed being able to save the day and help people out.
I realized that I was relying on this role to feel more powerful and in more control. At the time, starting a small business felt like a step down and a less glorious title.
But I just knew with every cell in my body that I couldn’t be a Fitness Manager for much longer. I felt that it was great while it lasted. My coach at the time pointed out that leaving didn’t mean that it wasn’t the right thing or that I was wrong for having pursued this career. It just meant that I’ve learned what I needed and it was time for something different.
Question to ponder: Can I live in peace for the rest of my life not finding out if there is something else out there for me that could bring me more fulfilment?
Career Change Paralysis Reason #2
You are making good (or great) money..
Yep. Most people seeking a career change are mostly satisfied with their income. Therefore, they are finding it harder to justify their desire to be doing something else. I recently spoke to a gentleman who has hit his financial goals for 20 years in a row. He thought that would have been enough but deep down he knew something was still missing.
Being good at what we do and being compensated accordingly doesn’t always bring us the levels of joy and fulfilment we hoped for.
You may be afraid of taking a pay cut, whether it’s small or massive. Often, we assume that if we love what we do or if we start over with something else that would immediately mean we’d make less money.
Instead of fearing that we’d make less money, we can just set a standard for our future role. That standard is a certain financial requirements. And if an opportunity presents itself but it doesn’t meet that criteria, then, it’s not the right opportunity.
Question to ponder: Wouldn’t it be cool if I found a different way to make a living that’s both lucrative and deeply meaningful to me?
Career Change Paralysis Reason #3
You don’t know what your next career or business will be yet.
That’s another very common challenge I see with people who reach out for career change coaching. They are curious about their options and are longing for something different but they don’t know what it is YET.
Because you don’t know what you will be doing next, you assume then you must be wrong to have the desire for a career change.
However, you can think of it as a game of elimination—at least you know all the things you don’t want to be doing. If you’ve been in finance for 20 years and you don’t want to be in finance any more, now you have that data as a starting point.
During one of our first sessions, I ask my clients to make a list of all the things that they know for sure they won’t do. It’s a great first step that helps them start seeing a little more light in the dark.
Not knowing what you’ll do next is not a problem. Figuring it out is just a step in the process.
It’s like a puzzle and you just have to put a few more pieces down before it becomes obvious to you what the next piece is.
Career Change Paralysis Reason #4
You feel guilty to want more than what you already have.
It’s very common for my clients to battle with feelings of guilt. You too may feel like you are being ungrateful for wanting more out of life. Do you feel like there are millions of people who would do anything to be in your shoes?
Those feelings are very normal and speak greatly of your character, not poorly.
However, there is a difference between being greedy and aspiring to reach for your potential.
Is there something inside you that’s nudging you? It maybe pointing you to grow and stretch differently. Maybe it’s trying to say that there might be a great opportunity to live more fully. Or it might be saying that there is a way to serve even better.
Maybe you have a deep feeling that there has to be more out there than this, then why not pursue that dream? If life is truly about the journey and not the destination, then keep going on the journey.
Question to ponder: Could there be an even better use of my talents that would make a bigger difference not only for me but for others?
Bonus: Could my work make a bigger difference because I am paid better, more fulfilled, or just happier?
Career Change Paralysis Reason #5
I’m too young or too old to switch careers or start a business.
I’ve worked with both cases—people who graduated only two years ago. They got a great job right out the gate but hate what they’re doing. And I’ve worked with people who had the same job for 20+ years and they wonder if it’s too late.
I think we’ve all seen the infographics with the ages of different millionaires. They started their business or career at an unorthodox age. We’ve also heard the stories of people getting a “no” dozens of times. Or stories of people being told to give up on their dream but they finally made it—Michael Jordan with basketball and J.K Rowling with Harry Potter.
Therefore, we know that it’s been done. There are people around the world already doing what you want to do. And they are probably doing it with less knowledge or talent or doing something braver at a younger or older age you think it’s normal.
What’s conventionally done is not always the best—and it may just not be your path.
A big part of the journey of a career change is accepting that you’ll have to do something unconventional or big that you didn’t plan to do.
One of the biggest challenges that you’ll have to overcome is your own ideas of what you thought your life was going to be versus what your life is unfolding to be.
You can kick, scream and resist or go with the natural flow.
Sometimes great things come to an end. That end doesn’t mean the great thing wasn’t the right thing at the time. Athletes are great examples. Usually they reach an age at which they have to retire and do something different. That doesn’t mean that their sport’s career wasn’t awesome. It just means that it runs its natural course.
In conclusion, we change, we grow and we evolve. Part of our life journey is to accept the things we didn’t expect. Having a lot of emotions around a career change is normal.
Notice what your emotions are, honor them and determine what you need at this time of your life.
Also, be patient with yourself. Momentum takes time to build up. Everyone has a different threshold that they need to reach before they are ready to take action.
If you have a hard time getting to your threshold—the good news is that you don’t have to do this alone. Reach out to schedule a complimentary consultation and see if coaching is the right tool for you.
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” -Maya Angelou