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10 Things You Shouldn’t be Afraid of When Changing Careers

10 Things You Shouldn’t be Afraid of When Changing Careers

It sounds amazing to quit a job you don’t like in order to do something you love – but doing it? That’s another matter entirely.

No one wants to spend years of their life tied to a job they hate, a boss they loathe or to work that makes them fall asleep in their carefully wrapped turkey and cheese sandwiches.

The problem is that the prospect of actually changing careers is a scary one.

But the truth is changing your career is a lot less scary than you thought. Here are 10 things you shouldn’t be afraid of when you’re changing careers.

10 Career Change Fears You Can Let Go Of Today

1. Being a beginner

Most career changers worry about starting their career over at the bottom. Once you’ve climbed the ladder, who wants to start all over? If your skills are highly transferable, then chances are you don’t have to start again.

If they don’t transfer well, don’t let it stop you. Being afraid of being a beginner is largely a fear of failure and a lack of confidence. The world is changing fast. In fact, 65% of kids in grade school today will have jobs that haven’t even been invented yet. And while you’re not in grade school, the truth is we’re all learners. People who stay in their comfort zone may wake up and find their comfort zone doesn’t even exist tomorrow.

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So get out there and do what you want to do with your career, because change is coming anyway.

2. What if I make a mistake?

Like any decision, making a mistake can have consequences. If you’re paralyzed about a career decision because you think that the consequences of getting it wrong are just too huge, there are things you can do.

First, do your very best to eliminate the possibility that you are making a mistake. You can talk to friends or get coaching to help you make the right decision, or start with some career quizzes or insightful questions. Before deciding on a career, consider the careers you aren’t choosing, and make peace with leaving those behind. Talk to people in your new field, or even do an internship.

Then, before you make a leap, minimize the impact of a wrong choice. Do you have a back-up plan? Have you been in recent communication with people in your network that could help you find a new job fast? Have you considered your financial situation?

Chances are, you will make a good decision. If you find that you hate your new career immediately, careful planning will help soften the blow. The off chance that you’ll end up in a bad career situation isn’t a reason that you should stay in a situation that you already know is bad.

3. Making less money

This is probably the biggest concern of all. First off, there’s no guarantee that you’ll make less money in a new career, but if that seems likely for you, there are a few things to consider.

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First, you are weighing money against happiness. While your old job makes you unhappy, so does being broke.You need both money and happiness, so only you can decide where the balance is for you.

If you decide to go for it and make your career change, prepare financially, and recognize that you are prioritizing your happiness. Focus on that rather than on the money.

4. Fear of the unknown

Sometimes just not knowing what’s next is enough to make us think twice about doing anything differently. Our comfort zones are called that for a reason.

At this point though, you might realize that you risk a lot by staying put – probably more than you do by doing something different. The only way forward is coping with the fear of what could happen  by realizing you can handle your worst fears.

5. Fear of failure

What happens if you make your mind up to leave your boring-as-dirt job, figure out what you truly love, go after it, and then find that no one wants to hire you because you have no experience in your new career field?

If you haven’t already gotten experience through an internship or volunteer position, you might find that many employers are able to see beyond your specific job functions. They are willing to hire for who you are and what you can learn more than what you already know.

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There are employers who realize that there are key qualities that can’t be taught and if you have them, you might be the right candidate regardless of your experience.

If you’re worried about getting the job and not being able to do the work, work on your skills and confidence so that you can keep doing the work you love!

6. Upsetting other people

Any time you do something different in your life, other people are going to have something to say about it. It’s your life and you have to live with the consequences, good or bad.

Decide how much influence anyone else has a right to have over your decisions. A friend might not have any, while a spouse might have more. In the end though, only you can decide what makes you happy.

7. Fear that it’s too late

Haven’t you heard? Career change is all the rage now. It’s not too late. You can be successful no matter how old you are, and you can figure out finances, health insurance and other practical matters as well.

You don’t have to sacrifice happiness – and years of your life – waiting to get to a place when making a move feels realistic.

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8. Fear that something is wrong with you

Worried that something is wrong with you because you don’t have this figured out already? Don’t be. It’s never too late to change your career, and even famous, successful people didn’t figure it out until later in life. It doesn’t mean anything bad about you that you aren’t finished growing yet. In fact, it’s a good thing!

9. Fear about handling your life

Your life is stressful and sometimes overwhelming as it is, and the thought of adding a career change on top of all that is daunting. Then when you think about what the career change means – new responsibilities, new people, a new environment, a possible change in income. . . it can be too much to handle.

The truth is, you can handle it.  You just need to take each change by itself and not let all of them gang up on you. When you do that, you’ll find you can deal with the changes and enjoy the reason you’re making the move in the first place.

10. Fear about wasting the education and experience you’ve already invested in

Don’t hang onto an education or experience that isn’t serving your goals anymore, no matter how hard you worked for it, or how much you paid for it.

You may not have to “waste” your education or experience at all. But if your new job doesn’t require the work you’ve already put into those things, you can still move forward. Use a skilled resume writer to help you position yourself better and to highlight the skills that do transfer. Also, use your network to land a job through someone you know rather than coming in cold. Finally let your feelings about putting your past education and experience behind you. Otherwise, you’ll stay tethered to work that you don’t want to be doing just because you’ve already invested there.

Bold Action

Fear is the biggest barrier between you and changing your career to something you love. You can figure out all the “what’s” and the “how’s” that may come up, but until you’re willing to take action on your plan and push through your fear, nothing can happen. Now is the time!

Featured photo credit: Lonely Foggy Road via picjumbo.com

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Jessica Sweet

Career Coach

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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