10 Reasons People Don't Make A Career Change (Even When They Should)
May 7, 2014
If you're like most people reading the blog, your career is one of the most important parts of your life ... and yet you're not as fulfilled by your current role as you'd like to be.
You want to make a change. Maybe you want to tweak your path within your organization. Maybe you want to change companies. Maybe you want to change careers completely.
No matter the shift you want to make, you likely have a list of reasons why you can’t. Today, I want to challenge those reasons. Sure, in every reason there is a nugget of truth — something that needs to be figured out. But those reasons are often not good enough justification to skip making the change altogether.
Here are the 10 most popular reasons why my clients are reluctant to make a career change, and why you should question them.
1. You don’t know what you're passionate about.
This is probably the #1 reason my clients stay put in a job they don’t love. They simply don’t know what else they would do. If this is you, then it’s time to get curious. Most people are not born knowing what they want to do. It takes some real exploration and listening to yourself, noticing patterns about who you are, what you value, and what you enjoy.
It won’t happen overnight, but there is a very real process you can undertake to get to know yourself better. This is one of my favorite things to do with my clients. Just because you don’t know right now doesn’t mean that you can’t know. It just means that you need to figure it out!
2. You don’t want to close doors.
You might worry that by moving to a new job or career, you will close off the very opportunities that you worked hard to cultivate over the past many years. And that may be true, to some extent. But the truth is that the minute you decide to embark on a new path, even though you may be closing doors on the old path, new doors open along the new path.
And THOSE are likely the doors you really want. When I left science, I first obsessed about all of the doors I was closing, like “professor" and "research scientist.” But as soon as I started coaching clients, I saw even more doors open up along my new path that I liked much better. To this day, I still can’t keep up with all of the opportunities that keep flying my way.
3. You worry that you won’t make enough money.
This one usually applies to people making a more radical career change from a higher-paying “golden handcuffs” job to a lesser paying one. Not all jobs are paid the same, and so this is a very real consideration. But before you dismiss a job because it doesn’t make as much money, ask yourself:
Have you done the actual research to know, for sure, what the job makes?
Are there people who make more? How did they do it?
How much money do you need to earn to feel comfortable? What is your “number"?
Are there expenses you could cut back on that mean less to you than having your great job?
What are the opportunities to grow wealth in the long-term?In investigating these questions, you will likely find options you didn’t know existed.
4. You don’t think that there are any jobs out there.
If you are giving your job search 100% all, then that is one thing. But most people who reason that the economy is bad and that there aren’t any jobs out there have not thrown themselves completely into the search. Why would you, if you thought it was futile? The problem is that this is a self-fulfilling cycle: if you don’t give your search your all, you'll be less likely to find a job, and then you'll be even more convinced that it isn’t possible! Hit the eject button from this cycle by stepping up your job search.
5. You don’t think you can do it on your own.
This one especially applies for those of you who are contemplating leaving your company and starting your own company or consultancy. It’s true that entrepreneurship is not for everyone, so you should seriously investigate if starting a company is something you would like to do. But if the answer is “yes," then don’t let the fact that you don’t know how to start a business stop you. There are tons of services out there that can teach you the skills you need.
6. You have done the same job for a long time now, and don’t think you are qualified for anything else.
It’s easy to underestimate your worth, especially if you have been doing the same job for so long that you take your skills for granted. Remember: if someone is paying you for your skills right now, there is likely someone else out there who will, too. Make a list: what are 10 skills you bring to your current job? Then think about all of the other companies out there that could use someone with those skills. Bring the list to friends and ask them. I promise, you will end up surprised by how very marketable you actually are.
7. You think you are too old to make a change… yet you are in your 20s, 30s, or 40s.
Those of you who are beyond those youthful years are probably shaking your head right now. But it’s true: many of my clients in their late 20s, 30s, and 40s think that they are too old to make a career switch. If this is you, then let me just tell you that you have 20-40 years left in your career. That is even longer than you have been in your current career. You have plenty of time to develop a new direction. If you don’t believe me, go talk to someone who is in their 50s... and career change is even possible for them!
8. You worry that changing your career will harm your marriage.
This one is more of a commentary on your marriage than on your career. Of course your career will impact your marriage. One of my clients has a husband who has been struggling to start his own company for six years, and his discouragement and low opinion of himself has taken a toll on their marriage, for sure. But you want a marriage that can support you through whatever you decide, as a team, to take on in life. Instead of designing a career to support your marriage, fix your marriage so it can be a source of support and strength.
9. You feel embarrassed of how you look.
Recently, one of my clients almost decided not to give a TEDx talk because she felt too overweight. After a bit of digging, we found that the truth was that she was actually scared to get up on stage, and so was using her weight as a convenient excuse to not give the talk. Is this you? If you feel like you need to lose another 10-20 pounds before you can interview, consider that you might just be making an excuse. Interviewing is scary, and it doesn’t feel good to be rejected. Don’t use your weight as an excuse not to have to put yourself "out there” and risk that rejection. My client (with a little prodding) decided to do the talk anyway and it was a big success for her career… the same could be true for you.
10. You don’t want people to think less of you.
When I was contemplating leaving science to go into life coaching, I was afraid that my colleagues would think less of me. A client of mine who works on Wall Street is afraid that if she leaves her job to work for a non-for-profit, her colleagues will think she isn’t “hard core.”
It feels great to have people like you and praise your choices, and a bit unsettling when they instead criticize them. I mean, it’s hard enough to make a tough career decision, but then to have to defend in to others? That doesn’t feel great.
But you have to ask yourself: is your mission in life to use your talents in a way that feels best, or is it to please other people? I am guessing it’s the former. Ask the people in your life to support you in your decision, and you will find that most will.
These are some of the most popular reasons not to change careers. What is yours?
In every reason, there is an element of truth. Maybe your new job would require that you have difficult conversations, or maybe it would pay less, or maybe you'd have to learn new skills. But don’t necessarily use those as justifications not to make the change you want. Use them instead as indicators of problems that need to be solved.
You are far more creative and resourceful than you give yourself credit for. If you really lit the fire under your behind to figure out the solutions to these challenges, in many cases you likely could.
The key is to light that fire.
What justification are you going to challenge this week? Write me a note and share.