Want to change career but feeling overwhelmed? Experts say take your time

Want To Change Career But Feeling Overwhelmed? Experts Say Take Your Time Want To Change Career But Feeling Overwhelmed? Experts Say Take Your Time
We may be in the midst of a ‘Great Resignation’ but shifting up your career can be stressful. Abi Jackson seeks some advice.
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By Abi Jackson, PA

Perhaps you’ve seen the headlines and noticed it amongst your friends and colleagues – people are quitting their jobs.

While the early pandemic saw devastating losses and contracts cut short, now we’re witnessing what’s been dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’. It’s a trend with many layers, of course, from workers being fed up with unfair conditions and low pay, to folks seeking a healthier work-life balance, or simply realising life really is short and it’s time for something new.

And there’s a lot to celebrate, grabbing the reins and shifting route can be exciting, inspiring, empowering… But it can also be stressful and overwhelming.


If you’ve been thinking about switching things up – whether retraining, setting up as freelance, launching a business or side-stepping into a new field – but the whole thing leaves you lost in a fog of uncertainty and indecision, you are not alone. And good news: those feelings are very normal.


This is big stuff

If it feels big and scary, that’s because it is big and scary. “When thinking about a career change, there are very real practical considerations to take into account, alongside navigating the emotions involved in change,” says coach Laura Bentley, who works with women wanting to change their lives and careers (thatbalancedlifecoaching.com). “This can lead to feelings of fear, doubt and uncertainty, all of which can make career change a stressful prospect – and if you are feeling this way, it helps to first acknowledge those feelings.”

It’s easy to view things like fear and uncertainty as ‘negatives’ – signs of weakness that we must try and fight or deny. Truth is, they’re just part of being human.

Writer, podcaster and coach Jenny Stallard, founder of Freelance Feels, a wellbeing platform for the self-employed (freelancefeels.com), agrees acknowledging these “unavoidable things” can be helpful.

“If you spend your energy trying to fight those things, it can be a waste of time. It’s almost better to say, ‘Well, these things are going to happen’. You are going to worry about money, it is going to feel scary, you are going to worry that it’s all going to fail,” says Stallard. “We can’t just banish these thoughts. It’s so easy to think you need to spend all your time trying to get over imposter syndrome – but no, it’s always going to exist!”


Honour every step of the process

When it comes to the self-help and motivation spheres, we’re thankfully moving into a more evolved space, which allows room for the full range and nuance of being human. It’s not always about ‘just doing it’, being an endless beacon of ‘positivity’ and taking brave, bold leaps.

Of course, there is always an element of risk and perhaps no-one ever feels ‘totally ready’ – this isn’t about amplifying the hurdles and roadblocks. Sometimes, we do need to nudge ourselves over the line and embrace the possibility. But whilst it might seem like other people are making it ‘look easy’ and it’s all about the ‘leap’, there’s often a lot we don’t share and see about the process involved. “Making the leap is one of the steps, and possibly the biggest and most exciting one. But you’re then starting to walk a different path – you’re not just leaping and landing and that’s that. You’re leaping to another step,” says Stallard.

The steps that come before the ‘leap’ are important too, and doing things quickly may not be wise for everyone, especially if you have big financial considerations and aren’t in a position – or don’t want to – compromise your stability. Instead of beating yourself up for these things, consider how they may actually be useful to you.


“[These feelings] are there to protect you from the unknown waters ahead,” says Bentley. “This big decision doesn’t have to be a giant, scary leap and you absolutely can go at your own pace.” She suggests taking “one small step away from the fear and towards the change.” And if you need to, it’s OK to take “some time to switch off from the topic completely for a while”.

Timing is everything

In other words, it’s easy to think overcoming doubts is all a question of mindset (and yep, there are plenty of memes and ‘gurus’ determined to convince us this is the case). But that often undermines the validity of acknowledging we’re really not all in the same boat when it comes to the starting points we’re working with, and doing the groundwork and taking your own sweet time if you need to.

“You don’t have to resign just because everyone else seems to be, and it might be that it’s just not time yet,” says Stallard. And if you aren’t quite ‘there’ or you’re unsure, “you don’t have to announce it to the world and tell every friend and family member”, adds Stallard. “You can keep it quiet for a bit if you’re in two minds.” A bit of accountability and talking to other people who’ve done similar things can be very helpful – but sometimes, being asked for endless updates just brings added pressure (and unsolicited advice you don’t actually need).


And remember, as with all things in life, chances are you won’t be riding a single track towards one clear end goal. One day you might be buzzing with productivity and excitement. The next you might be doubting everything and wondering where your confidence disappeared to. One doesn’t cancel the other out, they’re all just part of the frame – and will be once you’ve taken the leap, too.

“You can stand still for a bit,” says Stallard. “It doesn’t have to be constantly moving forwards. You can sit for a bit, coast a little bit, like you would in any job, potentially. You might think, ‘Oh, I need to learn more about this’, or try some training here. There are lots of different ways to make steps that aren’t just moving forwards.”

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