20 Aug 5 Mistakes To Avoid If You Want A Career Change
1. Overthinking it: Career change like many other decisions in life requires some thought, but overthinking almost always comes in the way of making a career change. Often, people get stuck in analysis-paralysis mode, trying to carefully weigh every consequence of actions related to career change. And more often than not, it’s that familiar monster of resistance which raises its head; resistance to do something which can get you slightly uncomfortable for a short time, before you can overcome it. The resistance shows up as an overwhelming stream of thoughts, all of which scream to be resolved at the same time, and which of course doesn’t happen. End result – you stay where you are and your career dream, remains a dream.
Making a career change requires you to be able to see a little ahead, but then you don’t have to be able to see the whole horizon crystal clear in front of you. In fact, you don’t have to see the whole staircase and where it leads to, just take the first step.
Here is a story which is deeply meaningful to those considering career change, but still unable to get out of analysis-paralysis.
A pilgrim wanted to climb a mountain. He started his journey and it was night by the time he reached a village at the base of the mountain.
An old wise man of the village lent him a lantern so that he could keep going without delay.
The pilgrim exclaimed, “The light that it gives is bright enough for only two steps, is there a more powerful lantern?”
“Don’t worry”, said the old man, “It will do. At every step, it”ll illuminate the next two steps. Take a step at a time, and you will reach your destination.
We have a lantern like this even in times of career change. Taking one or two steps at a time can also materialize your career change – for instance, get out there and volunteer or take up a side project in a work area which you want to move into. It may not immediately turn into the full time role you want, but it’s a start and it will set the ball rolling for other things which will lead you to your career change dream.
2. Beginning from the middle – Have you heard the song ‘Do-Re-Mi’ from the legendary movie ‘The Sound of Music’. The song starts like this
“Let’s start at the very beginning
A very good place to start”
These are a couple of lines which desirous career changers often don’t heed, in terms of starting at the very beginning. What I mean by this is that so often, those who want to make a career change, think that making a new resume and sprucing up their profiles on social media and job boards, preps them for career change. If only this were true.
Career change does not begin with a resume rewrite. In fact, that comes somewhere in the middle and so one of the mistakes to avoid in career change, is to begin from the middle.
Before getting to resumes and job boards, first you need to sit down to reflect about the kind of work you want to do, sense your career dream, look into new places and meet new people. This gets you thinking differently, in a zone of inspiration where new possibilities can emerge about work and the life you want. A good place to start is to think of all the things you used to love to do as a child, but didn’t because of your education, practical concerns about money, position etc. What do you love learning about, reading about voraciously, even if these are unrelated to your current work? These are the sparks of inspiration that can be the beginning of your career change. The resume shall follow.
3. Staying anchored for too long: There is a quote attributed to Brownie Wise, “The ship anchored in the harbor rots faster than the ship crossing the ocean; a still pool of water stagnates more rapidly than a running stream.”
Anchor your ship, but not for too long
Movement is the best way to get unstuck, even out of a career that you don’t like/want anymore. For those considering career change, staying anchored for too long makes it hard to leave the safety of the harbour to heed the adventure of the sea. But not sailing, and staying anchored, while it may seem safe, eventually leads to stagnation. The anchors are often well meaning – friends and family who question why you want to rock the boat, your own sense of financial security and doing what you have been good at for a long time. But remember, that the less you move and the longer you stay anchored, the harder movement does become, even when it becomes necessary. A good way to stay sharp and prepped for career change, is to spend at least 15-20% of your time on new interest projects/meeting new people and testing out ideas for doing something different on a small scale. That way you don’t have to give up the comfort of the harbour and yet when the time comes to sail, your engine is well oiled and ready to go.
4. Being a solo superhero: There is an African saying, “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.”
Career change is not about speed, it is about intentionality and going after your dream, even if it is difficult and challenging. That’s why you need friends and supporters who are with you in this process and who have your back. Your career change support team should consist of friends and buddies with whom you can share a laugh when the going gets tough and also a diverse set of peers, mentors, experts from different areas who help you spot and take advantage of unseen opportunities. And being a part of a group of others who are also career-changers can be your lifeline. They share hopes and fears like you and among yourselves you can widen the access to opportunities and resources for each one of you. You can also hold each other accountable to actions and plans to make your career change vision come true.
5. Trying to predict the future: Finally, remember that you can only take accountability for your own actions towards a career change; you can’t predict the future or how things are exactly going to turn out. If you try to predict every single outcome, you will end up finding yourself exhausted by the contradicting possibilities. For instance, a common reason why mid-senior professionals give for not making a career change is their children’s college education. They try to foresee far ahead where their children might want to study (even as early as when the kids are just in primary school) and then tie themselves into mental knots about the kind of money their college education will require. There are many other such examples of how you may be trying to predict the exact consequences of the future, all the while staying stuck and not making the change you need to.
Kavita, an alumna of IIM Ahmedabad, brings 18 years of experience in Experiential Learning, Coaching, Personal Growth & Change. She teaches Career & Self Development courses at leading IIMs and IITs. Her forte is Career Transition Coaching for mid-senior individuals, helping them find success and fulfilment at work.