Career change is never easy. It involves starting over and walking away from a profession you’ve inevitably invested a lot of time into, not to mention having to try and explain your non-traditional career path to those people who favor professionals with traditional, linear career paths.
Over the past few years of coaching clients and speaking with audiences about career change, I’ve noticed some common mistakes that people can make when trying to execute a career change. I’ve fallen into these traps myself, so I know how easy it can be to get derailed by these tendencies.
#1: Waiting for Perfect Instead of Better
During those times in my career when I wasn’t feeling happy about my job, I caught myself wanting to find the “perfect” opportunity that addressed every single one of the issues I had in my role. After all, once you have a job you dislike, the last thing you want to do is to take another role like that.
For example, after arriving in the UK, I initially wanted to find a role at a healthy foods company, trying to align my work with my own personal values. I had grown tired of marketing things like cleaning products that I wasn’t that passionate about. The problem with this attitude is that I ended up turning away from options that could have been “good enough.” And that means burning a lot of time, patience, and energy waiting for the perfect opportunity to come.
I eventually landed in a role far from a healthy foods company–a luxury desserts company. And I took that role because it still ticked a lot of boxes for me–namely allowing me to gain a foothold in London, to transition from household goods into food, and to work on exciting projects I knew would serve me well in my marketing career.
What I learned from this experience is that you should try not to rule out roles that can still move you in the right direction, even if those roles may not fix every single issue you have with your current role. This at least gets you moving forward and moving in the right direction instead of staying stationary in exactly the wrong spot.
#2: Waiting For an “Ah-Ha!” Moment
Whenever I’ve had to make a major decision about where to take my career, I’ve often caught myself waiting for some major epiphany to hit me over the head, suddenly revealing what the right move is.
For example, when I was trying to decide whether to leave my corporate marketing role to launch my own career consultancy, I remember going for long walks in parks nearby, thinking that perhaps I would uncover some sort of illuminating “sign” to point me in the right direction.
However, what I found was that those signs often never come. That moment of epiphany is elusive, and instead, I ended up having to just make the most well-informed decision I could with the information I had, knowing that I might not get things exactly right.
I eventually picked a time that felt right enough to leave my role behind, and just figured out how to make it work no matter what.
What I’ve learned during these career intersections is that moments of epiphany are rare, that big career decisions are ones you have to make even when the path forward isn’t clear cut.
#3: Figuring Everything Out On Your Own
After I dropped out of medical school after only two weeks at the Georgetown School of Medicine, I felt pretty ashamed of myself. So ashamed in fact that I hesitated to reach out to others to help me figure out my next steps. I actually remember isolating myself for several months to try and figure things out on my own so I could reemerge with a master plan in place that I could be proud of.
Unfortunately, trying to figure everything out on my own left me feeling even more lost. Sometimes, during the most confusing moments of change in our careers, it can be incredibly helpful to have a conversation with someone else who’s been there, someone who’s successfully executed a similar change themselves.
I ended up talking with a lot of alumni and mentors in the DC area I had met from former professional experiences who shared anecdotes, lessons learned, and advice that really helped shed just enough light on my situation to help me take some clear steps forward toward my next role.
#4: Giving Up Too Early
Being patient and realistic with my expectations is something I constantly have to remind myself of, especially now that I’m a business owner. After I first launched my podcast Career Relaunch, I was so excited to put my voice out into the world with these career change stories I thought were quite compelling. I expected, or at least hoped, my podcast would gain global traction very quickly.
However, the reality was that very few people listened to Career Relaunch when during the first weeks it launched. Even though I knew that making it as a “top” podcast is extremely difficult, I was still disappointed when I wasn’t getting the audience I had expected right away.
I had to temper my expectations and remind myself that even the most successful people out there first had to put in their 20 Mile March to have their career breakthrough. Persistence pays off.
This mindset actually allowed me to stay persistent until my podcast got a series of breakthroughs when it was featured in Forbes then Glassdoor and Business Insider. But reaching this point took hanging in there just a little bit longer even when I felt like throwing in the towel.
Hang in there
You never know when you’ll have your breakthrough, and you never know what small steps along the way will eventually culminate in the career change you desire. So make those small changes to move yourself in the right direction, act when you feel ready enough, ask for help, and hang in there during those times when you feel like you have nothing left to give. Career change is hard, but with enough patience and persistence, I’m confident you can create the changes you desire for yourself.
Hear more of my thoughts on career change mistakes to avoid
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