I talk to a lot of people who are unhappy or uncertain about their professional futures.
They can smell the layoffs coming. They have reached a glass ceiling. They are no longer as interested in their specialties as they once were. Pay has stagnated. AI is coming. The world is changing.
They tell me they know they need to do something.
They know they need accountability. They know they need help.
They know the longer they wait, the harder it will be to make a change.
And yet, some of them say sheepishly, “I’m not ready.”
I feel a great deal of compassion for them.
It’s hard to make a change.
And when it’s your career—something you’ve deliberately chosen, embedded yourself in, probably have earned a degree in—you can feel like a failure.
It also can feel slogging through mud. The research, the applications, the interviews, the rejections, more interviews, the waiting…
It’s not hard to understand. We all face a challenging piece of road now and again.
But the truth also remains glaringly obvious: If you don’t take a step, you won’t have any chance of arriving at your destination.
Which begs the question: How do we get past this?
Well, first we realize that change represents the unknown.
What if I can’t get hired? What if I fail miserably at the job? What if they don’t like me? What if I run out of money?
We’re hardwired as humans to scan for threats. So, it makes sense that we would be wary of a big change.
Another reason is our lack of confidence.
Maybe we don’t really believe we have the ability to do something new. Maybe we don’t feel competent right now, so how would making a change solve anything?
Maybe we want the conditions for the change to be “perfect.” We will move forward once we reach a certain time of year; once we hear back about a requested raise; once we find time to get that new training. The list is endless.
Are we afraid of making a mistake? That could also be it. How do we know the path before us is the right one? We need more time to analyze it!
And then, there’s guilt.
Someone asked the other day if she should feel guilty about leaving her job. She would leave her co-workers with a heavy workload. She would betray a boss who has been good to her.
I also see what many call a “scarcity mindset.” This is the fear that investing resources in something will take too much away from us. This could literally be money, or it could be time.
But there is hope.
There are ways to push ourselves past these blocks and head toward beneficial transition.
1. Imagine what could be. Picture yourself in the ideal situation doing what makes you happy. Talk to yourself as though you were already working there (“I’ve had a great day today!) Visualizing something as true can help you make it true.
2. Write down your accomplishments. In each job you have solved problems and created systems; implemented programs; increased sales. You surely have done quite a bit to be proud of! Remind yourself what how and see that you have what it takes to achieve even greater success.
3. Think about all the times you were faced with a big decision. Maybe you got married, had a child, bought a house, took a trip abroad for the first time. Did you start a new diet or fitness program? What happened each time? I’m betting you learned something and grew in some significant way. This can be just as good!
4. Realize that you don’t owe your employer any more than showing up to do your job. If you have done that (even going above and beyond on some occasions), then you have fulfilled your contract. A job is not prison; you are allowed to leave. You are allowed to move on in your career. I promise you that your boss has done this. I also guarantee you that if your company wanted to reduce its staff, it would do so without a lot of guilt.
5. Revisit those times when you invested in yourself. It may have been years of schooling. Maybe you joined a gym. Consider the stakes. Remember that every week you stay where you are, at your current salary rate, or without a steady paycheck, you are shorting yourself assets. Severance and unemployment benefits have time limits.
The other that you may overlook: This isn’t a risky investment. It’s an investment in You.
You, who knows how to get things done and is an asset to many who need your skills.
I get it. can be tough to make a change. We get comfortable with what we know. But it often, change is the just thing we need to improve our circumstances and/or emotional state. And let’s face it, change often comes anyway, whether we are ready to embrace it or not!
True freedom comes with realizing that it can be great. It can be a gift.
You are meant for more.
Now go get it.