When seeking a career change, there is a sense of excitement. There’s a thrill in starting something new, but with the unknown often comes thoughts and feelings of doubt, anxiety and fear. Your inner voice (you know, the one that says, “You can’t do it” or, “What will other people think?”) may begin to grow stronger in this new space.
But fear is not always a bad thing, says Dr. Emily Cavell, a licensed clinical psychologist based in Los Angeles. “These feelings are healthy, and to be expected, when trying to make changes. The idea is to allow for the feelings of fear and doubt, while also taking steps to move towards your goals.”
Because of that, my advice to anyone starting a career transition is to find courage. You have permission to be afraid while taking steps to change your career path, but don’t let that fear paralyze you into inaction. Dig deep to find the courage to face your doubts and fears and take baby steps to build your courage “muscle,” and with that will come confidence.
You may have to stretch out of your comfort zone a little bit, but start small. Every little thing you do to take action tempers the doubt and quiets that inner voice, such as:
- Try setting up an informational interview with someone in your network.
- Have a conversation with a new connection in the new industry you are exploring.
- Attend a conference.
- Join a LinkedIn group.
- Document your skills and accomplishments.
- Set aside 15 minutes a day to work on your resume or job search.
It’s also important to recognize that change is a process that doesn’t happen overnight.
“One of the reasons New Year’s resolutions often fail is that people are looking for a quick fix,” Cavell says, “It takes many small steps and incremental decisions for real changes to occur. Those first few steps might need to be taken while you’re still feeling doubtful and concerned about your ability to succeed. But that’s okay! Small victories are ultimately likely to snowball into larger accomplishments. Pace yourself—don’t take on too much all at once out of the gate.”
Every time you complete one of these steps—no matter how large or small—celebrate it. Be mindful of these actions. You are building the courage muscle with each step, and courage breeds the confidence that you can do it.
Sounds easy right? No, I’m not suggesting that change is easy. Self-doubt happens to all of us, even to those you least expect, like this accomplished tech executive.
In addition to finding your own courage, you will need support. Find a trusted mentor or partner to act as a support system and to hold you accountable. One suggestion is to find a professional coach to serve as your support system through the process. You want someone who can already envision the future vision of you in your new career before you can and help steer you in the right direction.
Before you know it, with a little bit of help and a lot of courage, these small changes will add up—allowing you to move closer towards your goals.