"My company is downsizing, and my postion will probably be cut. But Iím afraid to look for a new job."
"I feel so stagnated and bored with this line of work. But Iím afraid to change careers."
"Since our company reorganized, my work is totally different, and I just hate it. I donít know why I had to be reassigned to a new position."
"I have to change how I deal with my coworkers, but I donít know how."
Whether it's a job change, career shift, or a workplace altitude adjustment, the mere thought of change can paralyze even the bravest among us. Change represents a loss of something familiar and an introduction to something new, and the transition is often marked by confusion and uncertainty. It's these elements that make us so resistive to the process. It seems so risky.
Yet it's not really the change that's so risky, it's your fear of it. Fear can prevent you from recognizing or aggressively capitalizing on the opportunities inherent in all changes. And you're not immune from fear just because you may have initiated the change, as opposed to having had it foisted upon you. Both situations can be equally scary. The challenge, then, is to learn to embrace change.
Stuck in the Same Old Job
Many people hate to get up in the morning to go to work. They feel "stuck" in a situation they perceive to offer no options, when it's only their fear of change that's preventing them from recognizing the alternatives. They teeter between the security of sameness and the liberation of change. The should I/shouldn't I struggle can be intense - and emotionally and physically exhausting. The problem is that you can't keep doing the same things and expect different results.
Staying in a job where our attention drifts while we watch the clock and wish we were somewhere else robs us of our energy and sense of satisfaction. Drudgery and stagnation in our work can lead us to become pessimistic about life, our relationships, and even ourselves. Our thoughts can easily be consumed with wondering, "Is this all there is?" leaving us disgruntled and unfulfilled.
Successful people have career goals that are meaningful to them. They know what they want, they recognize their real abilities, they see the resources they have at their disposal, and they understand what their temperament is best suited for. They also know how to shut off their inner critic (and sometimes the outer critics!) who says, "You can't do that."
A Leap of Faith
The key to making a successful career choice is to not let fear control you. Take that leap of faith despite your fears, even though your choice may require you to act against the wishes of those you love or admire. Know that there will be periods of anxiety, that others may feel threatened, and that old fears may be renewed. It is possible to work through these feelings of confusion and pain with those who are supportive of your dreams.
A friend of mine decided to leave her career in commercial real estate after fifteen years. She returned to graduate school at the age of 38 and received her master's degree in a totally unrelated field. Her business associates were incredulous and stupefied by this "senseless" behavior. Their overwhelming reaction was, "After working so hard to climb the corporate ladder, how can you throw away all your success for a foolish whim?" Family and friends were no less bewildered and blunt, "You're crazy to give up a successful career. You're risking all your financial security - how will you support yourself?" Their fears, however, were nothing new. She had already fought - and conquered - all her own internal demons of anxiety and fear.
Accepting the risk to leave the familiar behind (even if it was uncomfortably familiar) and venture into unknown territory requires courage, belief in oneself, and careful planning. It is also important to be surrounded by people who are emotionally supportive of your decision. But your most ardent supporter must be yourself.
My friend had that confidence in herself, and now she has a career that is both professionally challenging and personally fulfilling. While continuing to build her business, she never loses sight of her belief in author Marsha Sinetar's credo: Do what you love; the money will follow. She wakes up each morning looking forward to a new day working at a job she loves. Her outlook has taken on a new enthusiasm and she has more energy in all aspects of her life.
How do I know this person's thoughts and feelings so well? As so often is the case, the "friend" happens to be me.
Friends and strangers alike frequently ask me if I regret changing careers and if the change was worth the risk. Since I've never been happier, I can assure them that the benefits far outweigh any risk involved. I don't doubt at all that I made the right decision; I only wonder why I waited so long to make it happen!