After years of ignoring that nagging feeling that the career you’ve worked hard to build just isn’t right for you, deciding it’s time for a career change can be incredibly liberating. But with no way of knowing how things will turn out, it’s only natural to have doubts. According to London-based therapist and coach Lisa Wood, there’s no need to beat yourself up. Instead, she says there are just seven things to consider if you’re questioning whether changing careers is the right thing to do.
One: Remember that it’s natural to be fearful
If you’ve decided to leave an established job or change career and are experiencing anxiety about the future, you’re not alone. Research has shown that uncertainty generates more stress than predictable disasters, so give yourself a break. Whatever your decision, the chances are that you’re going to feel nervous. But the good news is that the clearer you can become about why you’re making your next move, the less those nerves will bother you.
Two: Don’t confuse ‘what’ with ‘how’
It’s important to appreciate that there’s a difference between what you want and how you go about achieving it. Thinking about practicalities, like money and location, can cause confusion, so put that aside for a moment. Instead, focus on your motivation for change. The clearer this becomes, the more the practicalities will fall into place and the less nervous you’ll feel. Your first priority is to get crystal clear about what you really want.
Three: Move towards rather than away from something
It’s helpful if you’re motivated by a goal or idea rather than the avoidance of your current situation. If your reason for changing careers is to get away from an unpleasant situation, you’re more likely to focus on problems and close your mind to new opportunities. If this sounds like what you’re doing, take some time to pause, reflect and be open to new possibilities. You may find that what you really want isn’t what you first thought. When your motivation comes from inspiration, the risk will seem less daunting and the opportunities more apparent.
Four: Be true to yourself
In her book, the Top Five Regrets of the Dying, palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware says one of the commonest regrets of the dying is not having the courage to live a life true to themselves. So be brave and be honest with yourself. Is the move you’re planning something you long for? Are you doing it despite what anyone else might think? Don’t forget that the most authentic expression of you might not look like anything else out there or tick all the societal boxes. Nonetheless, being true to yourself is worth your weight in gold… and more.
Five: Align with your purpose
US research has shown that there’s a distinct difference between short-term pleasure and the happiness created by feeling purposeful and fulfilled. Living out your purpose provides a deeper sense of wellbeing. If you’re not sure that the career you want to change to is truly aligned with your purpose, ask yourself if you would go down that path if you won the lottery and didn’t need to work. If the answer is yes, you know you’re on the right track. If it’s a no, start thinking about the ways you really like to spend time – even if it’s something that looks like a hobby – in fact, especially if it looks like a hobby. One of my clients set up a successful company organising children’s parties because that’s what she loved doing most. Another walked away from a lucrative job to set up a business by the sea because she longed for an open horizon. Reading books on psychology and self-help used to be my guilty pleasure. It took time for me to realise that it could have any value. Now it’s a welcome part of my work and of who I am.
Six: Listen to yourself. Trust yourself
For several years I craved the space to do nothing in particular. I resisted because I thought I ought to be productive and wondered whether I was just being a bit lazy. The craving became a calling when my partner was rushed into hospital. The words that flashed through my mind were, ‘live before you die’. I wanted that for both of us. So with little planning, I made space in my life. Giving myself permission to do nothing was scary and that fear went on for months. But gradually I started to feel creative and inspired. And I felt an urge to contribute. The metaphor that comes to mind is of a seed in compost: I needed a rest before I could grow. Sometimes what is calling us doesn’t look the way we think it should.
Seven: Remember to enjoy the now
The pursuit of happiness can make you unhappy according to researchers, so remember to value and appreciate what you have now. Yes I know it’s a cliché. But it’s a cliché for a good reason. If you’ve seen the Richard Curtis film About Time, you’ll know what I mean. A man has the chance to relive moments of his life and realizes how to live well. Whatever is happening in your life right now, take the time to savour it. It won’t stop you enjoying what comes next. And it won’t hold you back from making changes. In fact, it’s more likely to spark unexpected opportunities from people who love being around you. And you’ll create some great memories along the way.
Be sure to live before you die.
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