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Five Ways to Make Starting a
New Career Less Scary

by Leslie Godwin

If you believe most of the current magazines that profile successful entrepreneurs or others with high-profile careers, then you probably think that the best way to change careers is to close your eyes, max out your credit cards, and leap off the cliff. While that makes for a great story, the truth is quite different, and less risky. Most people that have changed careers successfully have done one or more of the following.

Here are five ways to make starting your new career less scary and more rewarding:

1. Planning And Clarity Make The Unknown Known...And Less Scary
What type of career change will meet your needs? Slow down and explore as many options as possible. Marci Taub, co-author of ³Work Smart: 250 Smart Moves Your Boss Already Knows,² notes that it is important to ³clarify whether you need a full career change, a career shift, or an industry or sector change before you leap.²

The more specific your plans, the less scary they are. Find out as much as you can about your prospective career. This could include: the number of working hours typical of that career, any specialized training you'll need, and if there's a lot of burnout in that field. Another reason to plan ahead: the higher the risk of your new venture, the more planning you need to do to increase your chances for success.

2. Talk To Others Who Have Changed Careers Lately
If you are working in a secure job for a large company, you are probably surrounded by others working in secure jobs for a large company. These are not the people who can give you advice about changing careers. Even worse is hanging around with disgruntled types because they support your ideas about leaving. Their unhappiness can be contagious. The fact that they are miserable but not willing to do anything about it but complain confirms that they have nothing to teach you.

On the other hand, if you talk to people who have just made the change to a career that is meaningful and satisfying to them, they have a wealth of information that will be useful and motivating. Find out what their concerns were, and how they've handled them. What would they do differently? What do they recommend for your situation? Talk to enough people that you get an overview of what it takes to make it in a new career.

3. Talk To Others Who Have Long-Since Changed Careers
Temper the enthusiasm and optimism of those who have just made the change, with the wisdom and depth of experience of those who see the big picture. When you talk to people who made a significant career change quite a while ago, you learn what works over the long-run, and what to do when the excitement wears off. Do they still like what they do? What challenges took them by surprise, and how did they respond? How much of their success was due to their own efforts as opposed to being in the right place at the right time? Keep asking different people until you notice patterns of how the process unfolds for most people.

4. Soul-Searching Prevents Making The Same Mistakes In New Career
Don't just use your intellect; use your intuition. To soul-search means to contemplate your situation based on what your SOUL cares about. That might include:

  • your quality of life
  • the meaning behind what you do
  • spending time on what you care about
  • understanding that your life has a deeper purpose than just making a living

Depending on your personality, you may need to do more or less soul-searching. If you tend to act impulsively, and seem to continually end up in similar problematic situations, you need to do MORE. Therapy or career coaching can help you better understand why you want to make a change, and can help you ensure that you arenıt just running from one bad situation to one thatıs even worse.

But if you tend to agonize over every decision, large or small, and would much prefer to think through every detail until the opportunity is no longer available, you may need to do LESS contemplating and more doing.

True insight and curiosity about what makes you tick doesn't lead to endless procrastination. In fact, the better you know yourself, the less likely it is that you'll allow yourself to be tripped up with insecurities or needing to prove yourself to others.

5. Put Your Career In A Larger Context
If you define yourself by your job title, salary level, or other aspect of your career, making a change will feel like changing your identity. However, if you see your place in the universe defined by more than your job, you'll have a sense of simply taking a new step down your unique path.

How can you make your career change less scary? There are lots of ways. These are just a few. I hope they get you started on your ongoing journey. Let that journey include understanding yourself better all the time and making career choices that enhance ALL aspects of your life.

Leslie Godwin, MFCC, is a Career & Life-Transition Coach specializing in helping people put their families, values, and principles first when making career and life choices. Leslie is the author of, "From Burned Out to Fired Up: A Woman's Guide to Rekindling the Passion and Meaning in Work and Life" published by Health Communications. For more information, go to

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