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The 3 Worst Mistakes to Make When Changing Careers

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You’re miserable in your job, you were fed up with your previous job and you’re slowly coming to the conclusion that the industry you chose for yourself as an undergraduate isn’t working out the way you’d hoped.

You’ve decided it’s time to make a career change.

Many people grapple with how to make a successful career change and make a few common, avoidable mistakes. If you’re considering a career change, here are three errors you should watch out for:

1. Keeping your struggles in your head

This is the most common mistake I see as a career coach. It’s made so often I’ve coined a name for it: early dismissal.

Here’s how early dismissal works. You come up with an appealing career idea, like being an architect. You initially feel optimistic and hopeful about your future life designing buildings. You happily imagine all the wonderful aspects of the job.

And then, just as quickly, doubts begin to creep in. You start to wonder if you’re cut out for all that schooling. You recall that your uncle, who worked as an architect, often complained about his job. And you never were great at drawing. With a sigh, you mentally cross off the possibility of going down this career path.

The following week you run through the whole process again with a new profession.

The symptoms of early dismissal are frustration and confusion about your career direction. There’s also a distinct lack of any action in the real world. Everything occurs in your head.

The solution to early dismissal is to get out of your head, talk to people and test out your ideas in the real world. (Click to Tweet!) Give yourself the opportunity to get as clear as possible about what your day-to-day life would be like in the profession you’re considering.

By doing this, you’ll get a more accurate understanding of whether or not you’re on the right track. Plus, by connecting with people in your desired field, you’ll naturally set yourself up for being able to network into a job.

2. Confusing short- and long-term goals

What do you do when you want to leave your job right away and make a bigger career change?

People frequently get confused in this situation. They know they want to make a big career change, but they also know they can’t immediately make the jump to a new field. After all, making a career change can take some time. You might need to go back to school, work at an entry-level position to gain experience or learn the ropes of running your dream business.

When you’re faced with a lengthy timeframe for making a change, you might wonder if you should ditch your bigger dream entirely since it won’t happen right away.

No!

It means you should approach leaving your job and building your new career path as two separate tasks. First, handle the short-term goal of finding a new job you’re qualified for. Then tackle the long-term goal of building toward your career change.

3. Trapping yourself with a negative outlook

Nobody’s positive all the time, but if you find yourself getting Eeyore-ish about your future prospects, it’s time to take note. Your negative thoughts influence your actions. If you’re constantly thinking, “No one will ever hire me,” you might not bother to apply for jobs.

There are two main warning signs that your thoughts are impeding your progress. One, you feel discouraged, stuck or hopeless. Two, you aren’t taking action toward your goals.

Step back and notice what you’re thinking. Write down these thoughts and look at how they’re impacting the way you’re feeling and acting. Doing this will decrease your attachment to unhelpful thought patterns.

Next, try to find a perspective that feels more empowering and motivating. You can change your mindset from “I’m not experienced enough for this job” to “I am capable of learning how to do this job.” Choose a thought that feels better and that you actually believe, and look for evidence of why this new thought is true.

It’s possible to make a career change, but it does take a willingness to try new things, patience and a positive outlook. This may sound like a tall order, but remember that the reward of a new, better-fitting career will be worth it.

Have you gone through a career change? What helped you through it? Leave a comment below!

Alison Elissa Horner is a career coach who specializes in helping people figure out their career direction. She is currently offering a free telecourse called “Creating a Winning Career Plan,” and she also writes free weekly tips on navigating your career that you can sign up for here.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

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  • Fred Casey

    Thank you for giving the information. This tips will help me to take correct decision for my career.
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    • http://www.alisonelissa.com/ Career Coach, alisonelissa.com

      Glad you found it helpful Fred!

  • Ondecision, Inc.

    Fantastic post! The point about getting out of your own head couldn’t be more on the money. “Brain dumping” with the help of a friend, coach, or family member is enormously helpful when you’re trying to process a decision as significant as a career change. It can make all the difference in finding clarity and staying in the mindset of possibility.

    • http://www.alisonelissa.com/ Career Coach, alisonelissa.com

      Thanks Ondecision! The only caveat with the concept of getting out of your head is to make sure you’re focusing on sharing your ideas with supportive people.

      A very pessimistic person will shoot your dreams down faster than you can! Sometimes these people can be the ones closest to us, so choose your counsel purposefully and carefully.

  • Small Writer

    I was very impressed by this subject ..^_^ ”Fitness Tips” —–> http://fitness-code.blogspot.com/2013/09/fitness-tips.html

    • http://www.alisonelissa.com/ Career Coach, alisonelissa.com

      Thanks!

  • nenicu

    A career educative article, a lot of things wrote by the author are very important, i think the article should be read by a lot of people. These is what you should learn in school!
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    • http://www.alisonelissa.com/ Career Coach, alisonelissa.com

      Happy to hear this piece resonated with you!

  • mynewdream

    Hi,

    I feel it is very difficult to make a career change. I’m in this phase now. Even
    though you spend time to learn the things you like and get prepared for the
    role, at times it is difficult to get interview calls. In addition, the gap(career-break),
    which you take while making career change, is considered as a negative factor
    or they will say you don’t have Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science (Sounds
    strange as i have Master’s degree in Mathematics and have 3 years of commercial
    experience). Now if you try to apply for an entry-level position and with gaps,
    they will think, you are not fit for that role. That really makes you to feel
    low. Sometimes, you will not even get the response.

    Your article is really interesting and motivating.

    • http://www.alisonelissa.com/ Career Coach, alisonelissa.com

      It can be tough to make a career change, but it definitely is possible. Hang in there, and remember- network, network, network!

    • Vince

      Sorry, but the problem for you is evident – awful mentality. Quite simply the world reflects back to you exactly what you put out. If you think:

      I’m too old, I’m under-qualified, It’s too difficult etc then that’s exactly what you’ll get back. You have to demonstrate strength and resilience to succeed in life.

      I see this kind of attitude a lot and people who make excuses / blame everything else for not succeeding. Dont fall into that trap.

      There are numerous examples of career changers of all ages who did it successfully, so why cant you?

      Change your beliefs, change your attitude, be patient and the rewards will come.

      I have a friend who never finished school, worked as a mechanic for 10 years before going back to university. At 32, he got onto a lucrative graduate scheme in the UK, having turned down 3 other positions.

      Guess what people said? Too old for a graduate scheme, not the right background, not enough ‘office experience’ etc. Well, he proved them all wrong.

      No excuses for not succeeding.

      • RVH

        Vince, you’re not helping, since your response is *also* negative.

  • http://www.callboxinc.com/ Belinda Summers

    We seemed overtaken by our fear of rejection and negative thoughts that we lose track of our goals. A career change is for you to be better right, to have some latter improvement and not something to ruin you.

    • http://www.alisonelissa.com/ Career Coach, alisonelissa.com

      Good point Belinda- where you put your attention definitely matters.

  • http://www.akirahrobinson.com/ Akirah Robinson

    I’m going thru this now. I quit one of my jobs and will be working PT while focusing on my side hustle (teaching gals how to pursue healthy relationships). I am definitely in that space of viewing each of these endeavors as separate tasks. Lots of fear…lots of doubt. But I’m going to try my ideas out in the real world, as you say. :)

    • http://www.alisonelissa.com/ Career Coach, alisonelissa.com

      Hey Akirah! I stopped by your site- it’s lovely, and your message is so important. Thanks for sharing your 2 cents here. :)

  • Pingback: Career Transition: 3 Big Mistakes To Avoid

  • A. Grey

    Good article…

    • http://www.alisonelissa.com/ Career Coach, alisonelissa.com

      Thanks!

  • http://jobtify.com/ Jobtify

    #2 is definitely a big one. People get too much into their own heads about where they want to transition to and the start of their new career. Having a short-term plan is a great way to ease themselves into the transition, rather than being overwhelmed by the gap between where they want to be and where they really will be.

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  • Joseph Alexander

    Your negative thoughts influence your actions. If you’re constantly thinking,Beanie Hats