First, let me say that I’m a big believer in thinking positively. Seeing yourself succeeding. Believing that there’s always a way — even if not exactly as you first imagined. But that often gets muddled with the idea of negative thinking always being bad. And defining “negative” thinking as anything not immediately seen as positive!
Career change fear is normal. It’s partly about fear of the unknown. And about making mistakes. But also a deeper fear that you won’t be enough, no matter how hard you try. And that dreams are just that — silly fantasies best left unexplored.
More often than not, our fears are the biggest obstacle to change of any kind. And it leaves us afraid to even take that first step. But sometimes just understanding and recognizing the roadblocks can help them seem smaller — and less daunting. It may make it easier to at least put one toe in the water. And then the next.
Often, the simple act of giving yourself the permission to say “let’s try” can set real change in motion. Or at least give yourself a chance to grow and explore new things. And maybe even see what’s behind the next door you never before imagined,
Even if you don’t ever reach your original goal, the act of trying and seeing where that leads is a pretty cool thing. And that alone can help you go further the next time.
So let’s try to understand what’s really going on. And look at some steps you can take to help.
Basic career change fears
This really is about your career goals — and career change. But first a slight detour to one of my favorite films, What About Bob?
It’s a Bill Murray comedy that uses the idea of taking small steps to help create change. In the film, the therapist, Dr. Leo Marvin (played by Richard Dreyfuss), writes a “groundbreaking” book called “Baby Steps”. While the laughs and sweetness of this film are only enhanced by the questionable real-life skills of Dr. Marvin, his book turns out to be a wonderful revelation for us all.
Basically, it tells us not to let the immensity of a situation overwhelm us. Often, just thinking about goals that seem too big stops us in our tracks. But the book suggests we can get past any physical or (often more daunting) mental roadblocks by breaking down what feels BIG into smaller, manageable steps — baby steps.
Using baby steps, Bob manages to experience a lot of new things. (I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it.) And in career goals too, baby steps can play a major role. Maybe even bridging the difference between a life of “I could have” vs a life of “I did it!”
Tackling your career goals the baby step way
Action. Taking real action. It’s the one thing we have control of during tough times. And by moving forward and learning new skills — or whatever else might open up new doors for yourself — you are choosing to let yourself hope.
You are also providing a practical (and hopefully engaging) diversion that will aim your thoughts in a more positive and useful direction. Tough times let our minds wander. And dwell on things like past failures or the vast, oh-so-scary unknown.
Not only wasted effort, but this can lead to reinforcing and adding to the darkest parts. And by giving starring roles to fear and dread, you wind up underplaying all that you still do have and can rely upon.
So why choose learning new skills in tough times?
Sometimes I like to go back and look at posts I’ve written over the years. One of my favorite posts is about something I call job morphing, a way to open up new possibilities. And it’s based on real-life job & career changes I made happen in my own life.
Job morphing is a way of taking a work situation — any work situation — and not just accepting, but instead finding those tiny bits of straw you can spin into something much better … full-blown career gold. In effect, it’s a self-steered path toward job and career change from the inside.
While you might take a quick look at this list (edited down from the original post) and only see random bits of straw, I assure you that making these into habits can bring all kinds of new opportunities into your work life. [Read more…]
Are you looking to career coach yourself? Not a bad idea. While there’s a lot to be gained by working with another person, no reason you can’t get started on your own.
Self-coaching might even make any future coaching relationship easier, as you begin to get to know aspects of you that may be in hiding. And at the very least, you’ll have a fun ride — in a very familiar amusement park.
It’s serious but don’t take it serious
Perhaps even the thought that you can career coach yourself feels too overwhelming. Or just not the right idea for you. But why not at least give it a try? As a very centered and caring Chinese doctor once said to me “It’s serious, but don’t take it serious.”
For those of you as grammatically geeky as I am, yes it should be “seriously”. But that’s exactly the point … loosen up and have fun exploring. This isn’t the time yet to let “I could never do that” be your guiding force. Just let the ideas flow as you open up to new thoughts — and potential new paths!
Your “career coach yourself” plan starts here
Sometimes jobs go badly. And we make mistakes. And we have no idea how to start fresh without making the same mistakes all over again. Add to that the fun extra obstacle of a long gap in employment, and you see some of what Dee is dealing with.
Although her question has so many twists and turns that it would be easy to lose sight of the road, ny answer contains suggestions that might be useful to anyone starting over.
After a long gap and many mistakes Dee writes…
Dear Ronnie Ann,
After working for a local company here in Los Angeles County for over 10 years I was forced out. I was told I made too many mistakes. And that I was possibly a company spy.
This was a shock to me, since I was a loyal company person. Well, the human resources person told me if I could go one year without making a mistake, the company would give me a raise. And promote me into management. But I knew going one year without making mistakes would be impossible. [Read more…]
Promised bonus: A carrot that can disappear
Hi Ronnie Ann. I just came off of the worst job review of my life. And I’m worried it will affect the promised bonus I’m working toward. Funny thing is I have had regular one-on-ones with my manager and everything had seemed to be going well. But that guy recently stepped down as manager.
Anyway, while I agree some of the stuff he wrote was true, I do not believe that he presented to me the information in a timely manner. Waiting six months to tell me that I’m not doing well while each weekly meeting has been fine is a shocker!
So I’m not sure what to do at this point. The guy is no longer my manager, But he still works in my group and is a respected IC. My new manager says I’ve basically got a couple of months to prove myself. And he’s going to help by giving me specific things I need to accomplish. And changes I need to make.
The problem is I’m not sure I want to stay at this point. I’ve been with the company for a little over a year and haven’t really meshed well with anyone. But I don’t want to lose my promised bonus either.
The work is uninspiring (writing code to test more code). But the reason I stay is because we were bought out a few months ago. And I’m going to make an extra year’s salary for the next 3 years I work. (Work 3 years, get an extra year of pay for free due to vesting options.)
While the promised bonus is not a LOT of money, it’s still rather substantial. And I’d kinda like to extract all of the value from this job before I call it quits.
~ Anon Geek
Dear Anon Geek, [Read more…]
Are you afraid to take that promotion you were offered? If so, you are not alone. While most people dream about being offered a promotion, when it actually happens it can feel scary. “What if I don’t have what it takes?”
As things are now, you’re getting praise for your work. And you know you can do the job. But if you move up to a new job with more responsibility and maybe even employees to manage, you’ll have to prove yourself all over again!
Why people are afraid to take a promotion
A reader wrote to tell me about her lost teaching job. I know many of you can relate to what she is feeling, even if you’re not a teacher. Here’s what she wrote and my response:
Hi Ronnie Ann,
I’m so down in the dumps I feel like crying. I am a school teacher who’s pilot program was discontinued over the summer due to budget cuts. Since June when I lost my teaching job, I’ve been applying in a three county-wide area. There haven’t been many jobs, and most of the time I’m not even contacted for an interview.
Of the three interviews I’ve had, I felt things had gone well only to be the one NOT chosen. I have 10 years of experience and have even written over 40 teacher resource books. My references are great, and I’ve also been certified in Gifted and Talented as well as ESOL
I am told that around here it’s not what you know, but who you know – but that’s such an old excuse I don’t know if I believe it.
I’m about ready to quit teaching for good. For 6 months, I’ve been trying to look on the bright side, but that bright side’s a’fadin’ fast! Any words of encouragement?
Susana [Read more…]
I got an email the other day from someone feeling frustrated by their current job. “My boss won’t let me transfer,” they told me.” And I don’t know what to do.”
I connected right away, because the same thing once happened to me. In fact, it was one of the turning points in my career. A time when I let my emotions take over. But oh the lessons I learned!
My “boss won’t let me transfer” story
Perhaps you’re going to graduate soon. Or maybe you’re unhappy in your current career. Odds are someone will tell you that you absolutely need to take a career aptitude test. But how useful are career aptitude tests really? And how much should you rely on them when making career choices?
When I was studying for my career counselor certificate, we covered career aptitude testing. And the topic was presented a bit overly-simplified — and optimistic. As if these professional tests would help open doors to a client’s happy career future. But, I knew from my own experience that this was not always the case.
NOTE: I italicized “professional” because as much as they claim to be scientifically-based (and I have no doubt the attempts are sincere), real people still put them together. And real people take them, with all our many aspects and difficulty fitting into neat boxes.
So I just don’t want any of you to be unduly influenced by the results when you do take them. Best to think of the findings as ideas and possible directions to explore, rather than absolutes.