Career Change Mindset for Early- to Mid-Career | 6 Tips to Overcome Anxiety

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Career change anxiety

Have you been considering a career change? It is a daunting prospect, but one many people are considering given the current state of the economy. Stepping into a new field is like stepping into the unknown. Not knowing how something will turn out can induce anxiety, which is completely natural, but something you can overcome. In this article, I will give you six tips on how to overcome the anxiety surrounding a career change.

So where does anxiety come from in the first place? It comes from the brain structure that houses emotions, the amygdala. Finding yourself in a new situation can often be accompanied by fear. When we start to feel fearful, a primal fight or flight reaction kicks in. There is also a third component, the ‘freeze’ reaction. Imagine a deer in the middle of the road, that freezes when they see a car coming, unable to move or figure out what to do. Anxiety often arises as part of this freeze reaction.

Overcoming anxiety can be approached in two ways. The first approach is to simply leap into the unknown, run onto that road like the deer, without looking both ways. If you are successful, you can look back and think, “I took that risk, it didn’t hurt me…I can do it again.” You gain the confidence to keep going. However, what happens if you do get hurt?

That’s why I prefer the second approach, using knowledge to conquer fear. We need to switch on the neocortex of our brain, which controls logic and separates us from primates surviving on instinct alone. Through due diligence and understanding the problem we need to solve; we can slowly dismantle the unknown into something tangible and actionable.

Without further ado, here are six tips to help you overcome anxiety while going through a career change:


Tip #1: Career change is the new normal

A career change is now the new normal. In 2020, a study came out from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that estimates that the average person works about 4.2 years at a single job. Futurists like Rohit Talwar predict that 30-80% of all jobs that currently exist will disappear in the next 10-20 years, with emerging technology rendering most current jobs obsolete.  In the future, it is possible for the average worker to have around 20 to 30 jobs throughout their lifetime.    

Simply put, working is no longer about having one career from your teens until retirement. Instead, a person will have a portfolio of jobs, accumulating multiple and varied skills.

Furthermore, disruption from AI, robotics, and globalization is inevitable. I have previously spoken about how automation will replace manual labor, both physically and intellectually. If you are in your 30s, possibly half the jobs you will have in the future haven’t even been created yet! To future-proof yourself, start having a think about roles that have a need for abstract creative thinking.


Tip #2: Changing jobs is a sign of strength

This brings me to tip number two, which goes against the grain of conventional thinking. Changing jobs is actually a sign of strength. Change equals growth- which equals learning. Changing careers shows employers you are adaptable, a quick learner, and capable of solving problems. When employers hire, they don’t only evaluate a candidate’s current skill set. Instead, they are ranking you on 1) your personality, 2) cultural fit, and finally, 3) your experience. Your personality is much more important than your experience because skills can be learned. Possessing the skills already is considered a bonus.


Tip #3: Emphasize skills and ignore titles

A successful career is all about the skills that you acquire along the way that can be applied to different settings. In most cases, one of the main things that you're going to do is problem-solve. Therefore, an important aspect of instituting a career change is to look at the different skills that you consistently tap into during each of the career stops that you make. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Where do you get your sense of flow?
  2. What are the common threads between jobs?
  3. What are the things that you really enjoy across each job?

Once you're able to identify the core skills, then a career change is no longer as intimidating. You have managed to find success in the past, so why not in your new career?

Highlighting your skills rather than past job titles held is important to a career change. In Jeff Goins' “The Art of Work”, he argues that a person should consider their career like an artist’s portfolio, each piece can stand on its own or stand together as a whole.


Image source: Wikipedia

For example, let’s take a look at Picasso's Guernica, one of his most famous works. There are many elements in his painting that are distinct but also work together within a theme and within the greater collection of Picasso’s works.

Ditching job titles and emphasizing your skills will allow you to better enjoy your career journey. If you are currently a marketer, and you have mastered writing advertising copy, this skill can be transferred to other areas of writing. Writing is your primary skill and is sure to be in demand in other fields or industries.


Tip #4: Create networks with meaningful connections

A common mistake when making a career change is to get online and begin throwing your resume at job ads and company hiring websites- hoping one will stick. Unfortunately, approaching a career change this way is unlikely to produce the results you want. Studies have shown that 72 to 85% of jobs are found through word of mouth, employee referrals through internal resume databases, never reaching online platforms. If your only way of pursuing a career change is only through the online application process, you will be competing with 100% of the competition pool for 25% of the jobs.

Instead, creating a network or leveraging the one you have, will likely land you your chosen job. From a hiring manager’s point of view, someone ‘known’ is always a safer bet. So, let your network know your future aspirations- whether it's through LinkedIn, social media, or asking a connection to join you for a coffee. Networking is an essential step to making a career change.


Tip #5: Maybe you don't need a career change

In my line of work, I often see people who are in a job where structurally there is no next step to advance. For example, if you are a specialist in your field and want to stay as a knowledge expert instead of taking on managerial responsibilities, there may not be any opportunities for advancement at your company. This may be a signal it is time to change, or sometimes it may be a toxic boss or work culture.

Instead of a career change, it might be better to acquire the soft skills to deal with your boss. Maybe you're just a nice person, and you need to learn how to say no. If that's the case, check out where I talk about what are some ways to say no, and how to stop being bullied. If you are in a career that is not a good fit for you in terms of personality, maybe it is time to reevaluate. For example, if you are in a sales job, and you are introverted, it's kind of hard, right? You can take a quick and accurate personality test that breaks down the career characteristics for someone with your personality here.

Adding more responsibilities or tasks to your current role that make you satisfied is also an option. It may be a matter of just communicating with your boss or other departments where you can take on different responsibilities. For example, if you're in marketing, and you want to make the switch to HR, reach out to HR and say, “have you got a side project that I can pick up?”  This way you can pick up relevant skills and learn the functional roles. Companies are always looking to retain talent, and if changing your function is what it takes for them to keep you, they may be willing to accommodate your requests.

Essentially what you need to determine is whether it is the job itself, the career prospects, or the industry? Discovering the root cause for your dissatisfaction will help you gain clarity in order to overcome anxious thoughts relating to a career change.


Tip #6: Use a mindset trick

If you want to override fear and anxiety, you can trick your mind into the fight reaction, rather than the flight or freeze.  Close your eyes and visualize, “is success actually what I am afraid of?”

This triggers the pestering thought of a potential missed opportunity, creating intrinsic motivation in the place of anxiety. This simple trick can give you the clarity to act upon a career change, spurring a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe that it will work, and you take action, then the chances of it happening become infinitely greater.  As a result, you will gain more motivation in pursuing a career change.


In conclusion, if you're ready to take a leap, I will suggest downloading my guide to finding your ideal career or check out my free training on how to find your dream career here. Also, you can take a personality test to find out your personality and see whether your current job is a good fit for you.



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